News Day - October 18, 2004
U.S. rejects Muslims' plea for 'approved' charities
By WAYNE PARRY
NEWARK, N.J. -- The federal government rejected a plea Monday by Muslim groups that wanted a list of pre-approved Islamic charities to which they could donate without being suspected of helping fund terrorism.
Federal scrutiny has many Muslims in the United States wary of giving to Islamic charities because of raids on high-profile organizations by federal officials who claimed the groups might have been funding terrorism. The request and rejection Monday came in the opening week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period when Islam requires giving to the poor.
A coalition of Muslim groups held a news conference outside the federal building in Newark, calling on officials to publicly identify which charities are considered suspect, and which can safely receive donations.
Members of the groups said many Muslims fear that giving to a charity that is in good standing now might bring a knock at the door from the FBI years later if that charity subsequently runs afoul of the law.
"We want our government to provide the answers today, not five years later so we don't have to go into this building and adjudicate this," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer for the Paterson-based American Muslim Union, pointing to the federal building behind him. "If the government knows there are charities that are misleading the American Muslim community, it's their obligation to help protect these innocent Americans."
The plea was rejected by the U.S. Justice Department, which called it impossible to fulfill. "Our role is to prosecute violations of criminal law," said spokesman Bryan Sierra. "We're not in a position to put out lists of any kind, particularly of any organizations that are good or bad."
Since December 2001, four major Islamic charities in the U.S. have been raided or shut down by federal investigators: The Holy Land Foundation, which was based in Dallas and had a chapter in Paterson; two suburban Chicago-area charities, Global Relief Foundation and Benevolence International, which had a Newark chapter; and the Sudan-based Islamic American Relief Agency, which has a chapter in Columbia, Mo.
None of the raids has led to terrorism-related criminal convictions, and the Sept. 11 commission said the seizures raise concerns about civil liberties.
"Given the chilling impact that the government's crackdown on Muslim charities has had, a blanket stereotyping of Muslim charities as having ties to terrorism interferes with our right to express our beliefs," said Aisha Mohammed of the Human Rights Education and Law Project in Newark.
Aref Assaf, president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's New Jersey chapter, said American Muslims and the government share an interest in keeping funds away from terrorists.
"You will find very few Muslims who knowingly want their charitable donations to be spent on other than good deeds for the poor and needy," he said. "Unfortunately, we are putting the burden of proof on individual Muslims." …
Dawn Pakistan – Oct. 20, 2004
US blacklists 27 Muslim charities
By Dawn Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Oct 19 2004: US Treasury Secretary John Snow on Tuesday issued a list of 27 charities, many of them based in Pakistan, and told Muslims they cannot give fitra or zakat to these organizations.
Offering his greetings for Ramazan, Mr Snow acknowledged that during the month, when many Muslims were moved to give to those in need, but cautioned that some charities could be conduits for terrorist financing.
"Sadly, some have preyed on the charitable spirit of Americans and our friends worldwide by using charities as a conduit to finance terrorist activity. Those who have corrupted the goodwill of donors do not represent the mainstream values of people of good faith, including Muslims," he said.
"When you open your hearts to charity during Ramazan, we encourage you to educate yourself on the activities of the charities to which you donate, to help ensure that your generosity is not exploited for nefarious purposes," he added.
Mr Snow, who began his greetings with 'As Salaam-o-Alaikum', acknowledged that zakat was one of the five pillars of Islam all of which "enrich our lives by strengthening the bonds of family, community and country".
Through Zakat, he said, Muslims had helped countless people around the world with their charity and kindness. "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam, which is a religion of peace," said Mr Snow while quoting President Bush.
The US Treasury Department, he said, was working to stop the flow of terrorist funds that infiltrate charities by identifying and designating those that finance Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
He then issued a list of charitable organizations that have been designated by the US government as supporters of terrorism.
These included: Makhtab Al Khidamat/Al Kifah (formerly US-based); Al Rashid Trust (Pakistan); Wafa Humanitarian Organization (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE); Rabita Trust (Pakistan); The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (US); Ummah Tamer-i-Nau (Pakistan); Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (Kuwait, Afghanistan and Pakistan); Afghan Support Committee (Pakistan); Aid Organization of the Ulema (Pakistan); Global Relief Foundation (US); Benevolence International Foundation (US); Benevolence International Fund (Canada); Bosanska Idealna Futura (Bosnia); Lajnat Al Daawa Al Islamiyya (Kuwait); Stichting Benevolence International Nederland (the Netherlands); Al Aqsa Foundation (US, Europe, Pakistan, Yemen, South Africa); Commit de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (France); Association de Secours Palestinien (Switzerland); Interpal (UK); Palestinian Association in Austria (Austria); Sanibil Association for Relief and Development (Lebanon); Al Akhtar Trust (Pakistan); Al Harmain Foundation (Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Somalia, and Tanzania); Islamic African Relief Agency (Global network); Taibah International (Bosnia); Al-Harmain & Al Masjed Al Aqsa Charity Foundation (Bosnia) and Al Furqan (Bosnia).