Taking The Taint Out Of GivingIslamic Charities Are Trying To Win Back Donors Spooked By Fears Of Fed Scrutiny

Last January the board of Dallas charity KinderUSA made an unusual request to its 6,800 donors: Please don’t send gifts. The Islamic charity, which delivers food and aid to children in war zones, had just received a federal grand jury subpoena asking its officials to turn over all meeting minutes, tax returns, and other documents. It feared that the government could freeze its assets or seize its list of donors at any moment. After four months with no word from the FBI about whether KinderUSA was being investigated, the board resumed fund-raising. But board chair Dr. Laila Al-Marayati worries for her donors, who want to support charity but fear being caught up in a terrorism investigation. “Charities are in the position of being guilty until proven innocent,” she says. “Our donors are afraid. They don’t know what to do.” (The FBI would not confirm or deny an ongoing KinderUSA investigation when contacted by BusinessWeek.) Donors and charities alike have reason to be on guard. Since September 11 federal authorities have frozen the assets of five Islamic charities in the U.S., including three of the largest, for alleged links to terrorist groups — in effect, shutting the groups down. The U.S. Treasury Dept., which is charged with cutting off monetary support for terrorists, has frozen the assets of 41 aid organizations globally for alleged connections to terrorism. This spotlight on the Muslim charitable sector may well be warranted in the name of national security. September 11 forced an awakening to the reality that “Al Qaeda, Hamas, and like-minded terrorist groups have abused charities to support hate-filled agendas,” according to a speech by Juan Carlos Zarate, who was recently appointed deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism after a stint monitoring terrorism financing at the Treasury. Nevertheless, as the U.S. marks the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, none of the investigations has been resolved. The charities’ assets remain frozen. Meanwhile, these inquiries resonate powerfully across the Islamic charity sector, shifting the direction of millions of dollars as donors fret that giving to organized Islamic charities could lead them into a legal morass. Muslim Americans are now looking for methods beyond traditional charitable giving to fulfill Zakat, a pillar of Islam, which requires Muslims to give 2.5% of their income to the poor. More Muslim Americans are deciding to bypass charities entirely in favor of giving directly to those in need. Consider Mark Mohammadi, who started a Middle Eastern restaurant in Dallas. Out of fear that he’ll unwittingly contribute to a group that is linked to terrorist activity, he’s decided to stop giving money to charities. To fulfill his charitable obligation, he serves about 30 meals monthly to homeless people. Says Mohammadi: “After 9/11, I don’t trust anyone.” Ahmed Syed, a Pakistani immigrant and a retired quality control manager for the Defense Dept.. (HON ), takes a different approach. “My family abroad donates on my behalf to causes in Pakistan, like hospitals and general education,” says the Walnut Creek (Calif.), resident. To bring donors back, charities are employing new measures to prove that their work is legitimate. KinderUSA has gained a reputation among Islamic charities for good governance and transparency and posts audited financials on its Web site. But such measures did little to prevent a formal inquiry, and Al-Marayati remains frustrated by how little she knows about the inquiry’s status. Such situations have led Muslim-American leaders from more than 20 Islamic charities to unite to find a solution. Last March they launched an umbrella organization called The National Council of American Muslim Nonprofits that will offer a seal of approval to charities that meet their criteria, which are still being developed. The council is working closely with the Treasury Dept. to ensure rigorous standards that will offer some protection to donors and charities. UNDUE BURDEN But some say the council, with its rigorous application process, could put an undue burden on charities without offering them much in return — such as the assurance that if they meet all the standards they won’t be pulled into a probe. Treasury Dept. spokesperson Molly Millerwise says the seal won’t shield charities from the possibility of investigation. “Donors want a vetted list of charities. We can’t provide that,” she says. “Who is to say if charities engage in terrorism-related activities after they’re put on the list?” Tiny nonprofits also may find it costly to comply with the reporting required by the council, which will likely address issues such as transparency, audit triggers, and board makeup. Karen Keyworth directs the Islamic Schools’ League, which represents the U.S.’s 215 Islamic schools. She worries that the financial strain of meeting tough transparency measures might force schools, many of which have minuscule budgets, to cut operations. Still, Keyworth says that efforts such as the council’s are needed to persuade donors to keep giving. Unfortunately for Muslim Americans anxious to see the legitimate groups that serve their communities thrive, greatly increased scrutiny — and the bureaucratic hoops that come with it — may be the new order in a post-September 11 world.

Deputy Sworn in Wearing Hijab

Deputy Salima Abdeslam Aisa, from Coalition by Melilla (CpM), today took possession of her position in the plenary session of the Assembly of Melilla adorned with the hijab. She is the first Muslim to sit in a Spanish parliament with the traditional Islamic clothes. The new deputy swore to the Constitution before the president of the Assembly and the Independent City, Juan Jose Imbroda, and the members of the Assembly applauded her arrival.

Muslim Legislator Makes Appeal: Islamic Commission Must Be More Democratic

The only Muslim in the legislature, Mohammed Chaib of the socialist group, said that the Islamic Commission must be restructured to be more democratic. He said that the commission was formed for the realities of the community from fifteen to twenty years ago and was not current to today’s Muslims.

Rotterdam Revokes Minaret Exception

The municipality of Rotterdam will revoke the exception which allowed minarets to be built up to 30 to 40 meters high. It was determined by the Burghers that this was not an imposition on religious freedom and that religious buildings did not deserve a special waiver. {(continued below in Dutch)} De gemeente Rotterdam wil af van de uitzondering in bestemmingsplannen dat kerktorens en minaretten tot 30 of 40 meter hoog gebouwd kunnen worden. Dit staat in een raadsvoorstel van wethouder Pastors (Fysieke Infrastructuur). Burgemeester en wethouders vinden een afwijkende behandeling van religieuze gebouwen niet nodig, omdat deze geen groter maatschappelijk belang vertegenwoordigen dan andere gebouwen. Pastors heeft zijn voorstel met de betrokken maatschappelijke organisaties besproken, aldus de gemeente. Het voorstel van de wethouder is een vervolg op de eerdere nota Ruimtelijk Moskeebeleid 2004. Omdat onvoldoende politieke steun voor deze nota bestond, besloot het college de nota terug te trekken. Na de in dit voorjaar gehouden serie debatten over islam en integratie heeft het college besloten het ruimtelijk beleid ten aanzien van religieuze gebouwen opnieuw tegen het licht te houden. Dit heeft niet geleid tot een nieuwe nota, maar volgens B & W tot de essentie, namelijk de uitzonderingspositie voor kerktorens en minaretten.

Muslims Sue, Alleging Discrimination

Families in Anaheim apartments say they are victims of religious and housing bias. Manager calls it just a landlord-tenant dispute. By David Reyes, Times Staff Writer Seven Muslim families filed a lawsuit Friday alleging religious and housing discrimination at an Anaheim apartment complex. The suit alleges that the owner and the manager of Chaumont Villas refused to make repairs to apartments, don’t allow Muslim children to play in public areas and have harassed Muslim families because of their faith. The suit was announced at a news conference in front of the complex at 1600 W. Broadway, attended by several tenants and representatives of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The suit was filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of Tawfiq M. Mousa, Mustafa A. Suleiman, Waleed M. Abdullah, Jamal Almasri, Mohammed Wali Hakami, Abdullah T. Assaf and Issam H. Wahby. Listed as defendants were property management firm Swami International, businessman Ram K. Mittal, and corporations DKM Investments and RKM Investments. “This is nothing more than a landlord-tenant dispute,” said Pat Mitchell, a vice president for Swami, located in Rolling Hills Estates. Mousa said he, his wife and three children had lived three years in their $1,450-a-month, 3-bedroom unit with no problems until a new manager arrived at the complex a year ago. “Since then, there’s been a pattern of harassment against Muslims renting here,” said Mousa, 43, an engineer. Manager Bridgett Phillips yelled at Muslim children and chased them from common areas, and frequently referred to Muslim tenants with profanity, the suit alleges. Phillips, named as a defendant, could not be reached for comment. In June, the dispute escalated when Mousa circulated a petition seeking a new manager and asking for repairs to units, including fixing rusted plumbing and peeling paint. It was signed by two dozen Muslim and non-Muslim tenants at the 61-unit complex. “That’s when I was handed a 60-day eviction notice,” he said. But Mitchell said Mousa was evicted for causing friction between Muslim tenants and the apartment manager and said Mousa followed Phillips around the complex snapping her picture. “He has been harassing the manager and not allowing her to do her job,” Mitchell said. “We can’t have somebody creating a hostile environment.” Although Southern California is home to an estimated 500,000 Muslims, it’s a population that doesn’t file many housing complaints, said Connie Der Torossian, a spokeswoman for the Fair Housing Council of Orange County. “It’s a hard population to reach and similar to some of the ethnic minorities like Vietnamese,” Der Torossian said. “They’re afraid to make complaints out of fear of retaliation.” According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 27 cases of religious discrimination were filed statewide in the year ending Sept. 1. Of those, five were brought by Muslims. Of the seven families that are plaintiffs in the suit, two have moved out of Chaumont Villas after they sought larger apartments there but were told none were available, said their attorney, Federico C. Sayre. The apartments were then rented to non-Muslims, the suit alleges.

£5M To Steer Young Muslims From Extremism

Michael Settle A PACKAGE of measures to steer young Muslims away from extremism and to get them to integrate better into mainstream British society was put forward by community leaders yesterday in response to the July 7 London bombings. Seven working groups set up by Charles Clarke, the home secretary, in the wake of the terrorist attacks recommended: A national advisory council of imams and mosques to teach English to imams, encourage more UK-born Muslims to become Islamic clerics so as to reduce the reliance on foreign-based ones and to advise mosques on how to prevent them being used by extremists; A national forum against extremism and Islamaphobia to provide a regular discussion point for Muslims to talk about issues as they affect their local communities, with access to government to “share outcomes and understandings”; and A nationwide road show of influential, populist religious scholars to explain the true meaning of Islam and condemn extremism. The home secretary praised the “constructive” work of the groups and said he broadly supported their proposals, announcing the government would spent _5m over the next 18 months to pursue them. “The initial take we have on the recommendations is overwhelmingly positive,” stressed Mr Clarke. Lord Ahmed, convener of the mosques and imams group, said of the proposed national advisory council: “For the first time we’ve had a debate in the Muslim community and in the mosques with the imams. They know we can’t continue to deliver sermons in Arabic and you can’t exclude youths and women from mosque committees.” The Labour peer added: “We can’t have illiterate people on mosque committees or people with criminal records on mosque committees, or anywhere near the mosques.” Lord Ahmed said that of the estimated 2000 imams in Britain, about 1700 were educated and trained abroad. Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, described the ideas as “sensible . . . and well-intended”. But he added: “While helping create better community relations and understanding between Muslims and the wider community, one feature of these proposals is that public money should be spent on schemes promoting Islam. “We are concerned that this could cause resentment in other faith groups and be wholly counter-productive if it is distinct from other multi-faith initiatives.”

Establish Body To Train Imams: UK Muslim Leaders

British Muslim leaders called on the government to establish a national body to oversee mosques and imams as part of efforts to combat extremism following the July bombings in London. Working groups advising the government said that the proposed National Advisory Council of Imams and Mosques could recommend ways for mosques to prevent extremism, train Imams and encourage British-born Muslims to become clerics. Lord Ahmed, a Labour Party member of the House of Lords who headed one of the groups on Thursday, said that 1,700 of the estimated 2,000 Imams in Britain were educated and trained abroad. “As British Muslims we need to be prepared to modernise the way we operate, encouraging integration and helping our children to feel proud to be British,” he said. “I and my colleagues believe that the establishment of this Advisory Council is an important step towards this goal.” European governments seeking to counter the spread of extremism within some mosques are concerned that sermons are often not conducted in the country’s predominant language and that many clerics come from abroad rather than from local Muslim communities. The Dutch government earlier this year revoked the residency permits of three Imams whom it accused of preaching hate. In France, where a third of the 1,200 Imams do not speak French, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently called for better oversight of mosques in order to root out radicals.

Jury Awards $2.45 Million To Man Cleared Of Terrorism Link; Egyptian-Born Doctor Target Of 9/11 Probe

By Torsten Ove An Egyptian-born radiologist initially suspected of having terrorist ties in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 and later cleared was awarded $2.45 million yesterday by a federal jury that decided his right to privacy was violated. Dr. Basem Moustafa Hussein, 40, won the award from his former landlord in Neshannock Township outside New Castle, where he was living in 2001. The jury said his building manager at The Meadows Apartments, Sherri Lynn Wilson, was liable along with her company for violating his privacy when she walked into his unit on Sept. 11 and saw, among other items, a compact disc jacket that showed a jetliner flying through two buildings next to a fireball. Wilson called state police, leading to a federal investigation that ended a few days later when the FBI concluded Hussein had nothing to do with terrorism. The disc jacket turned out to be part of a flight simulator computer game, as was a flight manual Wilson saw next to it. Hussein filed suit later that year, saying he had endured repeated questioning from agents, lost his job in New Mexico, was evicted from his apartment and had his name mentioned as a potential terrorist in news reports. He said Egyptian police also ransacked his parent’s apartment in Egypt at the request of U.S. authorities and caused $200,000 in damage. Hussein named Wilson and her employer, Universal Development Management Inc., of Girard, Ohio, as defendants, along with UDE of Mitchell Road Ltd., of Girard, a limited partnership that owns the building. The jury actually ruled against Hussein on three of his four civil rights claims, saying the defendants did not trespass and did not discriminate against him because of his race. Hussein had said Wilson targeted him because he’s Arabic. But the jury did say she invaded his privacy. He won $850,000 in compensatory damages and another $1.6 million in punitive damages for “malice or reckless indifference” to his rights. Hussein, who travels the country as a contract radiologist, was on his way to a new job in Nashville, Tenn., yesterday and couldn’t be reached. His lawyer, Craig Fishman, said Hussein didn’t want to talk to the news media. Eric Hall, an Allentown-based lawyer for the defendants, didn’t return a call yesterday. For a while, the incident completely disrupted Hussein’s life. On Sept. 11, Hussein was reading X-rays at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M., where he had started work Sept. 4. After the search in Neshannock, FBI agents in New Mexico began questioning him. He took a leave of absence from his job but said he was fired Sept. 13. That same day, he said, the apartment building management served notice that his lease was being terminated because his conduct “constitutes a health and safety risk to the apartment complex and other tenants.” That night, an FBI agent in New Mexico exonerated him in the investigation. He was later subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, but on Sept. 26 he met with federal prosecutors here to answer questions without having to testify. The U.S. attorney’s office said he was not a suspect. Hussein had said previously he was singled out because he appeared to be the ideal suspect. He has Arab roots, he’s Muslim and he’s a single doctor without social ties to his neighbors. It didn’t help that he has an affinity for aviation. Hussein moved from Egypt to Canada with his family when he was 6 years old. Although he’s a Canadian citizen, he has been a permanent resident of the United States since the 1980s and had been living in Neshannock for about two years when the terrorist attacks occurred.

Denmark: Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen pleased to hear Muslim leaders condemn terrorism

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was pleased Tuesday to hear Muslim leaders condemning terrorism clearly, at the end of a meeting with 22 Imams and representatives of Muslim associations. This meeting at the residence of Mr. Rasmussen in Marienborg was convened to discuss the means of preventing extremism following the terrorist attacks from last July 7th in London. It falls under a series of dialogues initiated by the chief of the social democrat government preceding Rasmussen after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 in the United States. {(continued in French)} Le Premier ministre danois Anders Fogh Rasmussen s’est f_licit_ mardi de voir des responsables de la communaut_ musulmane condamner clairement et sans _quivoque le terrorisme, _ l’issue d’une r_union avec 22 imams et repr_sentants d’associations musulmanes. Cette r_union, _ la r_sidence de M. Rasmussen (lib_ral) _ Marienborg, a _t_ convoqu_e pour discuter des moyens de pr_venir l’extr_misme dans la population musulmane _ la suite des attentats terroristes du 7 juillet dernier _ Londres qui ont fait 56 morts. Elle s’inscrit dans une s_rie de dialogues initi_e par le chef du gouvernement social-d_mocrate pr_c_dent Poul Nyrup Rasmussen apr_s les attentats terroristes du 11 septembre 2001 aux Etats-Unis. “C’_tait une r_union positive o_ les participants autour de la table ont pris vigoureusement, clairement et sans _quivoque leurs distances vis_-vis de toutes les formes de terrorisme” a d_clar_ le Premier ministre sur la cha_ne nationale TV2. Il a jug_ _galement “constructif” que les imams ayant particip_ _ cette r_union aient affirm_ qu’ils avaient une responsabilit_ pour assurer que les jeunes d’origine immigr_e ne soient pas attir_s par des groupes fanatiques et extr_mistes”. M. Rasmussen a estim_ par ailleurs “essentiel de ne pas g_n_raliser, dans le d_bat public, et de consid_rer l’islam en tant que religion comme un probl_me et les musulmans comme des terroristes potentiels”. Rappelant que c’est “uniquement une minorit_ de groupes fanatiques qui commet les actes terroristes”, il a soulign_ que “la plupart des musulmans veulent vivre pacifiquement et contribuer positivement _ la soci_t_ dans laquelle ils vivent”. Trois parlementaires danois d’origine musulmane, les seuls d_put_s invit_s, ont boycott_ cependant cette r_union. Kamal Qureshi du parti socialiste du Peuple (opposition) a d_clar_ _ l’AFP que le Premier ministre danois, “contrairement _ d’autres responsables europ_ens comme (son homologue britannique) Tony Blair, m_le religion et politique et invite uniquement les musulmans pour parler de terrorisme, mettant ainsi _ l’index un groupe d_termin_ de la population”. Il s’est d_clar_ “_tonn_ qu’on l’invite non en tant que d_put_, mais en tant que musulman, et qu’on n’ait pas convoqu_ _galement des repr_sentants de mouvements d’extr_me droite, comme le responsable de Radio Holger qui avait appel_ _ chasser les musulmans d’Europe, et au besoin d’exterminer les radicaux”.

Most British Muslims back the government’s plans to deport radical Islamist “hate preachers”

Most British Muslims back the government’s plans to deport radical Islamist “hate preachers” it says could inspire bombers like those who attacked London in July, a poll published on Sunday showed. The ICM poll found that 65 percent of Muslims backed the new government measures and 27 percent opposed them. Ninety percent said they would immediately tell police if they suspected someone was planning or had carried out a terrorist attack. Just over two thirds of those questioned said Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims bore “a lot” of responsibility for rooting out Islamist extremists, 19 percent said they bore “a little” responsibility and nine percent said they bore none. ICM interviewed 500 Muslims by telephone between Sept. 1 and 7 for the poll, published in the News Of The World newspaper. Home Secretary Charles Clarke has published a list of “unacceptable behaviours” which would prompt immediate action — either deportation or a ban on entry. Last month, Britain said it was detaining 10 people, including the alleged spiritual leader of Al Qaeda in Europe, Jordanian national Abu Qatada, and would deport them. It has also barred hardline Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, who left for Lebanon last month, from returning to Britain. Civil liberties campaigners say they are worried Britain will deport people to countries where they might be tortured. The government responds that it is seeking agreements with other governments — like one it struck recently with Jordan — to guarantee the safety of deportees.