DEARBORN — As the month of Ramadan approaches and the time for almsgiving begins, BRIDGES and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will make an effort to alleviate concerns about charities in the Arab American community by holding a community forum on charitable giving. The gathering will attempt to provide community members with a better understanding of the rules and regulations associated with charitable contributions.
|U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy
The forum, entitled “Steps you need to consider before making a contribution to a charitable organization,” will feature U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy as well as guest speaker Michael Rosen, a policy advisor with the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of Treasury.
With Ramadan only a few weeks away, local Muslims may feel apprehensive about donating money to charities, especially in light of recent events in the community. Almsgiving is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Ramadan is the time when Muslims are obligated to donate to those who are in need. The recent raids of the local charities Al-Mabarrat and Goodwill Charitable Organization, by federal officials have caused widespread concern for people who donate regularly, and left many wondering how they can continue to fulfill this fundamental part of their religion.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Michigan Regional Director Imad Hamad, who helped organize the meeting, has dealt with these concerns directly through his work and has seen the general feelings of trepidation increase significantly over the past few years.
“Charity work continuingly has been one of the toughest challenges facing the Arab and Muslim communities, especially after the national tragedy of September 11,” said Hamad. “Due to the changing political climate and different sets of regulations and policies, this issue continues to be unclear and subject to debate. Although the government has certain guidelines and designations that are issued periodically, history has shown that following these regulations does not completely shield a person. This is where the need for constructive dialogue comes in.”
Hamad noted that the purpose of the meeting is to create a clearer understanding of charitable contributions and allow community members to voice their issues of concern in what he hopes will be a candid discussion.
“This gathering serves as a great opportunity for the community to engage in active discussion in order to reach the understading we all seek,” he stated. “The recent raids in the community showed the need for this discourse, especially as we approach Ramadan. It is essential for people to learn the laws and regulations pertaining to this important issue.”
The fact that many charities that have been operating for years suddenly become subject to terror-related allegations is cause for the community to worry about where they donate their money. This undoubtedly causes uncertainty and confusion amongst Muslims in the community. Hamad stresses that people should not feel compelled to stop contributing to those less fortunate, as it is a guaranteed right to do so.
“This is a sensitive challenge that calls for open dialogue,” continued Hamad. “We need to recognize that charity giving is not only a pillar of Islam, but a basic constitutional right. It is not only a Muslim value, it is a true American value.”
The community forum will take place on Tuesday, September 4, at 6:30 pm, at the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn. For more information on the event, please contact the ADC Michigan Regional Office at 313.581.1201.
Major American Muslim charitable organizations raided or closed since September 11, 2001
July 2007, FBI agents raided Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization at 7415 Schaefer Rd. in Dearborn. Simultaneously they raided and closed the Goodwill Charitable Organization Inc. also known as (Martyrs Foundation) at 13112 W. Warren Ave. in Dearborn Michigan.
September 2006, a few days before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan federal agents raided the headquarter of Life for Relief and Development (LIFE), a major American Muslim humanitarian relief organization based in Southfield, Michigan . LIFE was one of the very few American organizations licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department to do humanitarian relief in Iraq during the embargo period.
October 2004, during the holy month of Ramadan, FBI agents raided Islamic American Relief Agency – IARA in Missouri.
December 2001, federal agents raided two major Islamic charitable organizations, days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan. They raided the offices of Global Relief Foundation (GRF) and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), effectively shutting down these major Islamic charitable outlets in the United States.
December 2001, federal agents raided and froze the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) Headquartered in Richardson, Texas, the organization has offices in California, Illinois, and New Jersey. On Tuesday, December 4th, all of these offices were closed and searched by federal agents.