Blog of Rights

Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity

By Joel Engardio, ACLU at 5:45pm

The Sunday collection plate is as American as religion itself. Americans are religious and generous when it comes to charitable giving. They often go together. There’s Catholic Charities and Mormons famously tithe a percentage of their income. Muslims are also big givers. One of the “five pillars” of Islam is zakat, which is a form of tithing. It is the religious duty of Muslims to help others by giving to charity. But Muslims in the U.S. are having a difficult time freely practicing this vital part of their faith. This short video, “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity” explains why:

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Anti-terrorism laws that purport to keep funds from being illegally funneled to terrorist groups actually target wholly innocent Muslim donors. While these policies are important to keep Americans safe, they are broadly applied and innocent people are prosecuted with little evidence. The result is that legitimate Muslim charities, like a women’s shelter in New York City featured in the video, are hurt because people are scared to donate. U.S. Muslims fear a knock on the door from the FBI when they write a check to a legal American charity registered with the IRS. While the charities themselves suffer, individual Muslims give up a fundamental religious tenet because of the fear. The result is a blow to all Americans who value religious freedom and the importance of charitable giving.

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