Charity Solidarit’ Alsacienne closed in France on the grounds that it discriminates by serving pork soup under the guise of helping the poor has shifted its charitable activities to German. The pork soup handout campaign of the racially discriminating association was stopped by the Strasbourg governorship. Members of the charity have continued to serve the soup in Kehl, a German city on the French border. Muslim and Jewish groups in France responded harshly to the soup service and the attitude of the German local authorities.
News Report, Jehangir Khattak NEW YORK – The American Muslim community is expected to raise more funds for the victims of earthquake that struck Pakistan, Kashmir and Afghanistan on Oct. 8, than the $50 million dollars in aid pledged so far by the United States government. More than a dozen national Muslim organizations and groups have already raised $20 million in relief aid for the earthquake victims in Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. During interviews with the Muslims Weekly, managers of these Islamic and Pakistani relief groups and community organizations sounded upbeat while claiming an overwhelming response to the huge disaster of unimaginable proportions in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir that has killed 54,197 people as of Oct. 26. As the donations of money, food, medical supplies and other needed goods continue to be made by individuals and mosques around the country, the long-term contribution from this minority group is expected to climb beyond the initial $50 million aid package offered by the U.S. government. Some Muslims are fearful of donating money to Islamic organizations which the U.S. government could investigate for terrorist connections so have contributed large sums to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mercy international and many American and United Kingdom groups. If those sums are included in the total donations, then the Muslims community’s pledges might already exceed the government’s aid package. After 9/11 American Muslims and Muslim charity organizations in the U.S. came under extreme government scrutiny and a number of leading charity organizations were closed. Such actions spurred fear among American Muslims that the government may charge unknowing donors for “funding terrorism,” according to the Council on American Islamic Relations in a research titled, “American Muslims: One Year after 9-11.” Some non-Muslim aid organizations have complained in recent days that donations for the earthquake disaster have been lower than expected, blaming the low charity in the U.S. on “donor fatigue” following relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami last year. But reports from Muslim organizations do not express concern. “We have received a very positive and encouraging response from the Pakistani community and the larger Muslim and non-Muslim community,” Salar Rizivi of the Islamic Relief, which has pledged $10 million dollars aid for the quake victims, told Muslims Weekly over telephone from Burbank, California. He said the Islamic Relief had so far allocated a total of $4 million for the relief effort. “We are receiving constant feedback from our field offices in Pakistan and are sending the relief items accordingly,” Rizvi said. Islamic Relief sent a plain load of tents, blankets, hygiene and first aid kits to Pakistan from Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 17. It intends to send more relief goods in the coming days. Last year Islamic Relief-USA raised around $14 million from predominantly Muslim donors for projects in South America, Iraq, Palestinian refugee camps, Egypt, Chechnya, Pakistan and China, etc. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief that had initially pledged a million dollar relief effort has now revised its pledge. “ICNA Relief is planning to raise $10 million for short and long-term Adopt the Village Rehabilitation Works,” the organization said in a statement. ICNA Relief is sending medicines worth $1.2 million (one of the most expensive consignments to leave for Relief from USA) to the region. “Besides this consignment, we have so far dispatched medicines worth $200,000 to the disaster hit regions in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir,” said Irfan Khursheed, Director ICNA Relief. The Pakistani community organizations, Islamic Centers and mosques across the country are also receiving overwhelming response from the community. The holy month of Ramadan is one reason for the surge in donations during which Muslims give Zakat (alm) to the poor and the needy. The over a dozen Muslim organizations that have announced the $20 million donation have joined hands under the umbrella of a permanent body called the American Muslim Taskforce for Disaster Relief (AMTFDR). It sent a letter to President George W. Bush, calling for forming an ad-hoc committee to offer coordinated relief to the quake victims, according to the U.S. Department of State’s information bureau. “The AMTFDR pledge effort is a cooperative attempt by the American Muslim community to provide relief in the most efficient and most abundant manner possible for the brothers and sisters of humanity that have suffered as the result of the significant earthquake in South Asia,” Ahmed Younis, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told a press conference while announcing the donation in Washington.
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.