Restore Religious Freedom for Charitable Donors

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

U.S. policies that purport to address terrorism financing are seriously undermining the Constitution's fundamental rights to freedom of religion, freedom of association, and freedom from discrimination.

This past year, I traveled from Michigan to Texas to interview American Muslims about how terrorism finance laws interfere with their rights to practice their religion. American Muslim donors told me how the closure of some of the largest American Muslim charities in the country, widespread law enforcement interviews of Muslim donors about their donations, and surveillance of donations at mosques without suspicion, is creating a climate of fear that prevents them from making charitable donations. Terrorism financing laws leave many innocent Americans unable to fulfill a central tenet of their religion: charitable giving, or Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam and a religious obligation for all observant Muslims.

In a new report released today, the ACLU Human Rights Program documents the chilling effects of terrorism financing policies on American Muslims' practice of their religion through charitable giving. For example, one American Muslim quoted in the report (PDF) told me,

"I'm so scared to give charitably. They might come after me. I think when I'm giving, will they come after me? Will they put me on their hit list? There is a constant worry in the back of my mind. I fear giving more would put me on the hit list, and the government will say there is a linkage between me and the charity…. Because everything is under scrutiny, I am not able to fulfill my religious obligation to give — because I am just afraid. It affects my religious obligation to give. I am not following my faith, I'm not practicing my religion as I should. I'm like a prisoner, I can't practice my religion the way I want to — there's no freedom in that respect."

From Michigan to Texas, American Muslims told me that they are unable to fully practice their faith, and unable to support needy people both at home and overseas for fear that they could be interrogated by the FBI, dragged into court, lose their citizenship, or even prosecuted for donations to entirely legal Muslim charities that are registered with the IRS.

While charitable giving is an important part of all major religions — Christians practice tithing, for instance — terrorism finance laws unfairly and disproportionately target Muslim giving. In recent remarks in Cairo, President Obama recognized that American Muslims face barriers to practicing their religion, noting, "[I]n the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation." The continued intimidation of American Muslim donors tarnishes America's reputation as a beacon of religious freedom.

In his speech in Cairo, President Obama not only acknowledged problems with the current laws, but went further, calling for and committing to change these policies and enhance protections for charitable giving. The ACLU applauds the President's commitment and stands ready to work with him for change. Post-9/11 policies have created a climate of fear that prevents Muslims from practicing their religion, and unless the Obama administration takes action, this legacy of the Bush administration will persist. Religious freedom is a fundamental American value to be protected and honored.

Learn more about this important issue, and watch a video featuring Americans who have been negatively impacted by these unfair laws, at www.aclu.org/muslimcharities.

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Richard Sacca

Why is it, that the ACLU won't allow a child to express his right to Free Speech at an assembly like a Graduation, by asking GOD to bless their fellow students but, every politician, and I praise them for it, ends their speech with "God bless America"?

jannah

Thank you for this report. It's so true. Very legitimate charities wish there was some kind of "government approval" list so that they can tell people they are "OK". They have lobbied for years, but the government has refused. Probably because they can always turn the charity into a "terrorist organization" and prosecute more innocent muslims. I know many people who send their money overseas through shady means because this is the only way they know how to get their money to poor people who need it. Why can't we do this legitimately?

Chris

Fuck Muslims. If you care so much about them, please move to the Middle East and get the fuck out of here. Blow Me.

Paen

Dear bigot please move to another planet if you don't like having people around who aren't ignorat bigots like you.

veteran

I think that it is fine to donate just have these places register with the better buissness and problem solved

tony

it is proven fact many of these so called charities, are nothing more than fronts to provide financing to terrorist organizations. I say who cares about rights, when life is involved. what good are rights if you can't live in peace. i'd rather have less rights and live in peace, than tons of rights and fear getting blown up in planes or trains!!!!

Don

What garbage saying terrorist laws are preventing Muslims from donating.

What do you think we are brain dead?

There are thousands of valid charities that Muslims can donate to, like Doctors Without Boarders, not to mention the Red Cross. And YES you will be hauled off to court and prosecuted if you or any one donates to criminal organizations as Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

Religious rights are NOT unlimited rights; you do not have the right to commit murder in the name of your stupid ignorant Allah god, NOR did to rape children as Mohammad to Aisha at age nine under a sham marriage.

Muslims are the enemy of the USA, or they would not be Muslim. There are hundreds of gods from what to choose from so why choose a baby raping terrorist god.

You want to know what makes a Muslim, it is all their hate, pounded into them by the Koran and Mullahs. Read the Koran--- the biggest hate book ever written were over 60% is nothing but killing, rape, slaughter, cursing, beheadings, amputations, wife beating, child rape, and the torture of non-believers.

Here read for yourself:

http://www.faithfreedom.org/Quran.htm

Don

an american soldier

you do know it was muslims that hijacked the planes on 9/11 right? did you know how they were able to get on that plane? funding of some sort. so you want our government to take steps to prevent future terrorist attacks yet you criticize them for taking steps? that doesnt make much sense. yea it sucks for peaceful muslims, but muslims in general do have a history of violence

Former Marine

First of all you sleep under the blanket of FREEDOM provided by every serviceman and woman in this country.We did not ATTACK a muslim country firt.We are only trying to protect our children and other family members.IF the muslims in the UNITED STATES of AMERICA want to turn in the MURDERERS,then they also may live in peace.

Peggy

Please leave those of us who want to pray alone. If you don't want to just don't. If at a ball game or any type of ceremony where prayer is offered and you don't want to pray don't. Don't bow your head, hum to yourself so you can't here what the majority of us do want to hear. Or better yet just don't go. You know that the odds are prayer will be there so just stay home, watch on tv where you can just turn it off or the sound down. This is called choice and we all have it. We have a choice to have prayer and you have the choise not to listen or watch. You have no right to take my choice away, just because you don't believe. If you want to move to a country where there is not prayer, please go. Take all that follow your thoughts with you. Enjoy your new life with no choices.

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