American Muslims Afraid of Giving Cash to Charities
By Khalid Hasan

Washington, DC: American Muslims are afraid of making cash contributions to Islamic charities for fear that US intelligence and security agencies might haul them up as financial backers of terrorism.
Instead, they have been sending packages of medicines and other goods to leading Islamic charities, assuming that they are contributing to relief efforts in the Middle East. However, it not only burdens the charities, to whom such gifts are sent, with shipping and delivery costs at the US end but once the goods land at the intended place, there are fresh difficulties involving storage, transport and delivery. All charities prefer cash donations but since 9/11, American Muslims are wary of making cash contributions, as many of them had their fingers burnt when government agents came chasing after them following 9/11, subjecting them to intensive questioning.
A report in the Washington Post on Wednesday describes in some detail the dilemma facing Islamic charities and American Muslims who want to contribute to assist Palestinian and Lebanese people. “Obviously, it makes more sense for us to get financial contributions. Obviously, this is the most inefficient way to do humanitarian aid,” Mohammed Alomari, a spokesman for the charity, Life for Relief and Development in Southfield, Michigan, told the newspaper. “The problem, according to relief groups, is that many people who are inclined to write checks for emergency aid and reconstruction in Lebanon are afraid of ending up in some government database of suspected supporters of terrorism. Arab American leaders say this is one of the unintended consequences of the US government’s crackdown on charities run by Muslims. Though aimed at cutting off illicit funding for terrorist groups, the crackdown has complicated legitimate humanitarian relief efforts in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank,” says the report.
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told the Post, “Dozens of people have approached me. They want to help, they want to send money to buy medicine, and they’re afraid of the government reaction to their contribution. Some do it anyway. They can’t sit idly. But they worry that one day they’ll hear a knock on the door.”
James J Zogby, president of a Washington-based advocacy group, said there is “a chill factor” on giving money to charities operating in Arab countries. “In the context of the National Security Agency (NSA) monitoring everything under the sun, people are afraid,” he said, referring to the NSA’s monitoring of international phone calls and e-mails. He added that he has repeatedly urged US officials to publish a list of legitimate charities, to no avail. (Courtesy Daily Times)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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