Detroit Free Press - June 15, 2005
Muslims must step up safeguards with charities,
U.S. official says
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
DETROIT - For many Muslims, donating money to charities is an essential part of their faith. But in recent years, some Muslims have stopped donating, out of fear their money will be frozen or tied to terrorism. What to do?
On Wednesday, the senior official with the U.S. Treasury Department who deals with charity financing of terrorism, told about 30 local Arab-American and Muslim leaders they must play an active role in regulating themselves to make sure they're not supporting terror.
"You all - the American Muslim community - have the most power to make a difference in safeguarding" Islamic charities from helping terrorism groups, said Chip Poncy, senior adviser in the Treasury Department's Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crime.
Poncy said Muslims in America should be "demanding the kind of transparency" that allows them to thwart terror financing.
His visit to Dearborn, Mich., was part of an effort by the Treasury Department to encourage a dialogue with Muslims in America.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Treasury Department has used its powers, some strengthened by the Patriot Act, to freeze assets and label groups as supporting terrorism.
But Muslim and Arab leaders who attended the meeting at the University of Michigan were skeptical of the government's efforts, saying they sometimes unfairly target their communities.
In recent years, the Treasury Department has frozen the assets of three major Muslim charities, including the Global Relief Foundation. Global Relief was raided in December 2001; its officials were never charged with a crime.
More than 30 charities worldwide have been designated as having links to terrorism.
Some of these designations are politically motivated, said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who co-chaired the meeting along with Stephen Murphy, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District.
Another point of contention at the meeting was politics.
Poncy cited the Middle Eastern groups of Hamas and Hezbollah as examples of organizations that used charities to legitimize their terrorist operations.
But some audience members said the groups are a threat to Israel, not to the United States. "Politics drives the designation," said Hassan Newash, a retired auto engineer from Grosse Pointe, Mich….