Newsday - October 25, 2004
4 Muslims give $50K to Jersey City Medical Center
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Four Muslim businessmen donated $50,000 to Jersey City Medical Center on Monday to fulfill their religious obligation to give to charity during the holy month of Ramadan.
Mohamed Choukeir, Nasser Saber and Khaled El-Shamma, who together own 20 Dunkin' Donuts stores in New Jersey, and Ahmed Shedeed, director of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, made the donation.
Saber said the group acted in part to try and reverse negative stereotypes about Muslims in America.
"We are Americans, just like you guys," he said. "We love our country, America, and our flag and our city. We want to keep our country safe for our children and to protect our flag."
Muslims have expressed worries this Ramadan about donating money to Islamic charities because of high-profile raids by federal officials who claimed the groups might have been funding terrorism.
NPR Radio Oct. 26, 2004
MPAC speaks out for charities
Another Muslim charity has its assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury; the group's operators are accused of supporting terrorists. The move was made near the start of Ramadan, when Muslims are required by their religion to give to charity. NPR's Greg Allen reports.
MELISSA BLOCK, host: This month, the Treasury Department froze the assets of the Islamic African Relief Agency. The charity is based in Sudan; its American office is in Columbia, Missouri. More than 25 Muslim charities have been shut down since 2001. This latest action came just a day before the start of Ramadan. And as NPR's Greg Allen reports, the timing is just one of the things troubling American Muslims.
GREG ALLEN reporting: In a recent statement, Treasury Secretary John Snow encouraged American Muslims to continue giving to charities, but to educate themselves about the groups to which they donate to make sure the funds aren't being used to support terrorism. Muslims point out that IARA wasn't on any Treasury watch lists before its assets were frozen last week, and that officials have repeatedly refused to compile a list of charities they can safely give to. Salam al-Marayati, head of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, says he gives Treasury officials credit for an ongoing dialogue with Muslim leaders on the issue.
SALAM AL-MARAYATI (Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council): I think at the end of the day, the question is: Do people feel more comfortable in giving to these charities and not worry about being put on some watch list, or having a cloud of suspicion over them? And I think the answer's no.
ALLEN: Along with a chilling effect on giving, al-Marayati says another still unresolved concern is what happens to a charity's assets after they're frozen. The assets of two charities have been eaten up by administrative and legal fees in the three years since they were frozen. Muslim groups have been working, so far unsuccessfully, to have the assets of a third group transferred to an approved charity before they're also depleted by fees and legal claims.
Treasury Assistant Secretary Juan Zarate says he understands the frustration of American Muslims, but says it should be directed not at government officials but at terrorist groups. Greg Allen, NPR News.
Washington Times – Oct. 20, 2004
Picking on US Muslims
By Salam Al-Marayati
Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, is also the month of giving in the Islamic faith causing charitable activities to peak at this blessed time. To ensure the First Amendment right of American Muslims to offer charity, a New Jersey-based organization, the American Muslim Union, has asked the U.S. government for a list of charities that have been cleared as avenues for donation. This request came to offer American Muslims opportunities that are transparently legitimate, so that they can give without fear of negative legal repercussions. The answer from the government -- you are on your own.
Three years ago, I made the same request in testimony at a congressional hearing under the auspices of the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Sen. Arlen Specter, Rep-Penn. There was no response. Sen. Charles Grassley, Rep.-Iowa however, later issued a press release advising that he would seize the IRS records of 25 Muslim organizations and conduct his own investigation. Call this a fishing expedition, a witch-hunt, anything, but you cannot call it effective counter-terrorism policy.
Our work with the Treasury Department has led to the same end -- no help in clearing the names of law-abiding American citizens who have the impulse to assist orphans, widows, and the indigent in the Muslim world. Yet, every US official who travels to the region returns and tells us the same thing -- the people throughout the Muslim world need humanitarian assistance now more than ever. Helping them in the name of America will help reduce the propensity for recruitment into terrorist organizations.
Franklin Graham can establish eight missionaries in Iraq, but an American Muslim physician in Syracuse was arrested for sending funds without the proper paperwork, and his indictment was spun as a win in the war on terror. We continue to see the wheels come off as the US government attempts to prosecute these cases and most are reduced to fraud or immigration violations. A crime is a crime, and anyone who violates the law should suffer the consequences, but an arrest over tax fraud should not be paraded by US officials as a conclusive element to the war on terror.
Salam Al-Marayati is the Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.-
Council on Foundations
Charities and foundations issue antiterrorism principles
By Grant Williams
A group of nonprofit organizations has developed principles that it hopes the federal government will promote to help prevent charities and foundations from unwittingly providing money or services to terrorists.
The coalition of more than two dozen organizations -- including the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, and InterAction -- drafted a paper, called "Principles of International Charity," at the request of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which two years ago issued a controversial set of voluntary guidelines with the same goal.
The 11-page paper describes the history of nongovernmental organizations that support charitable work outside U.S. borders and lists eight "fundamental principles" of accountability that have guided such work.
The principles "underlie the diversity of due-diligence procedures that have proven effective in minimizing the risk of diversion of charitable assets," says the paper's preamble. "Because organizations rightly adopt practices suited to the demands of their charitable activities and expertise, due diligence differs somewhat from organization to organization," the paper says.
In 2002, the Treasury Department released procedures -- called "Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S.-Based Charities" -- that drew criticism from charities and foundations.
The government's procedures asked U.S. nonprofit organizations working abroad to collect and report additional information about grant recipients, such as identifying the financial institutions at which foreign grantees maintain accounts.
Many nonprofit organizations said the procedures -- especially if they became hard-and-fast requirements -- would discourage their work overseas, place aid workers in life-threatening situations, and put a chill on their partnerships with indigenous aid groups (The Chronicle, August 7, 2003).
In the wake of the criticism, the Treasury Department in April asked nonprofit organizations to propose alternatives that the government could consider adopting (The Chronicle, May 27).