Religious Freedom at the Core of Civil Liberties

Defending American Muslim zakat money is not simply a Muslim issue but a civil right based on the constitution. The first amendment in the bill of rights about religious freedom and civil rights states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...". It seems odd that some people are choosing to ignore the amendment that is one of the foundations of civil rights in the United States and deny American Muslims the right to fulfill one of the basic pillars of Islam, which is zakat or almsgiving. 

At a major conference sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), American Muslims came together to discuss their right to engage in charitable giving with the treasury department. The Treasury Department's Juan Zarate wanted to ensure the audience that American values and Islamic mandates can coexist and are similar by nature. Zarate stated in his testimony at ISNA that "the act of charity is sacred in Islam, and it is sacred in American culture."

In December 2001, the assets of three major American Muslim relief organizations, Holy Land Foundation, Global Relief Foundation and Benevolence International had their assets frozen on suspicion of financing terrorism. No evidence has been provided to donors of these organizations that they were financing terrorism. In the meantime, American Muslims had been waiting to see their money go somewhere other then the pockets of high priced attorneys defending the case. Two particular Zionist attorneys Nathan Lewin and David J. Strachman have filed lawsuits to seek the frozen zakat money to give to victims of suicide bombing in Israel, the money that was intended to help the poor and destitute, victims of war and famish in the Muslim world. They are seeking the money that American Muslims have intended to give as part of their religious obligation. 

Since American Muslim religious rights have been violated and attempts have been made to disable the system of zakat giving, American Muslim organizations such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) have been working hard to defend their God given right to help the poor and needy.

In an initiative led by Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of MPAC, the Treasury Department agreed to release frozen money to relief work to be used how it was intended. The Holy Land Foundation followed through on the Treasury Department's promise and filed for a license to give $50,000 of their frozen assets to be given to the Palestine Children's fund. This is a landmark in the Muslim charities case because it ensures American Muslims that their money, their religion and their values are not under attack but it is actually terrorism that the U.S. government is looking to combat.

American Muslims need to keep working hard and paying attention to the details of where money goes once it leaves their hands. American and Islamic values can intertwine but, there are special interest organizations and lawyers who choose to corrupt the United States system. Unfortunately at times they do get away with their fair share of unethical activity. God-willing, if the rights steps are taken for American Muslims to get involved with the United States political system to change it for the better, this basic human, civil and religious right will never be threatened again. American Muslims contribute significantly to the richness in culture and diversity in the United States and use the opportunities of freedom and success to help needy and poor in other countries. After all, the opportunity to help people in need has not only become an option in the United States but a responsibility both as Muslims and people who realize that it is important to give back from the success achieved in our country. There is no lawyer, or special interest group that will take away our motivation to exercise one of the most basic civil rights enshrined in our constitution and donate generously.

Nahal Ameri is the Community Relations Coordinator of the Muslim Public Affairs Council

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Older Comments:

Charles Jacks: I agree with your comments BUT whilst we contemplate the future shaping of events and how Islam can fit the mould of Western life, we need to pay URGENT attention to the plight of palestinians who are holed into abyss this very moment. UN Humanitarian reports testify to their hopelessness. Instead what they get is a daily dose of bombradment with IDF telling big lies and never acknowledging their intedned policy of ethnic cleaning by whatever barbaric means and all America can do or say is: "ISrael has the right to defend itself." This Holy Cow can do whatever it wants. how about the Palestinians? Don't they have the right to defend themselves? After all it was those European Jews (and from every other corner) who came enmasse to steal the lands and homes that belonged to the indigenous people. They have every right to defend themselves and if they have no access to international courts, UN force, or any other laws Or any right to bear arms, then how are they expected to defend themselves???

lets ut the crap and call aspade a spade. Ashcroft and his cbal are stealing this zakat money for the zionsit coffers - plain and simple. the IDF even had raided Arab banks in Palestine and emptied the vaults. Justification? Well, they finance terrorists whilst all the time, the real terrorists are the Israelis and the Americans who support them.
No wonder you can bring in the story of recent Saudi bombing. Hello: when people have no access to legal ways of asking the occupiers to leave their lands, they resort to same tactics. Use of terror. That is what this bunch will achieve; when the US/Britain?Australia warns its citizens to leave Saudi, the place will collapse and bingo OBL has achieved part of his aim.

But read here:

This is one subject that really gets up my goat. How come Ashcroft and co. confiscate/freeze Islamic charity funds because of his war on terror when such funds are destined for the poor and needy? The problem is that Zionist-Ashcroft and Co. decide that such funds go to support Palestinian families and thus such families breed terrorists. No one asks that such families deserve support. Today Palestinians families verge on annihilation because of Islraei and American policies. So, who cares for the plight of thousands made homeless after US-made bulldozers demolish their homes? Who cares for their starved children? No water, no sanitation, terrorised by bombs fired at them at dawn from US-made helicopters.

Zakat is the only source of such families income. Does Ashcroft have an ounce of Christ's compassion, for just calling himself a Christian? Or is his a pure Zionist animal with no compassion for a people who have every right to defend themselves against foreign aggression?

After all American have the right to drop bombs on people they suspect to be aggressors of 911, in far away lands, let alone if they are invaded in their own homes. So, we only ask for the same rights to be given to Palestinians.

Such is the plight of our Zakat. Perhaps the writer may be aware that Middle East Muslims will stop paying Zakat to US Islamic charities for we know they will end up in the coffers of the Zionists - that is called theiving.

Woe onto America for they have stolen the food from the mouths of poor babes and given it to the already wealthy. God's wrath is sure to follow. Ashcroft should read his Bible and see what happened to those who stole from the poor and gave it to the rich!

Someone shud tell Lewin and Strachman to give holocaust billions embezzled by bully tactics from Swiss banks to the Palestinian parents who have lost their children thro IDF snipers. But Zionists love money, even if it is stolen from the poor.

Mr Charles Jacks what on earth are you talking about? Is it related to this article?!
Relating to the article, nobody can prevent the occurance of an evil deed by promoting one. There is money in the world in the most unusual places. Terrorists are going to find it one way or another, they don't need to break the American charity boxes for that. Does not a delinquent teenager find his way to cigarets, booze, sex, money and dope?! With all the policing his parents do, with all the protective laws in place? This is how things are, you can't do nothing about it. You can arrest the teenager if you caught him, but stopping him? Never. We could say that it has something to do with education, personal conviction and parental upbringing. You did a mistake there, you will have a delinquent teenager. Terrorists have their own agenda, unless that is addressed, I don't know how the problem could be contained? Teenagers eventually grow up, do terrorists too, or the childish leaders of powerful governments? Stopping charity would hurt the good rather than prevent the evil. Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam, it is a very delicate issue to mess with.

The people mentioned in the story are all too real. I grew up around them, as has many Americans in rural and smaller cities. Their ignorance has been cultivated by foreign powers and they have no concept of even the most basic Christian ideals. The ideals they have been taught are those of another religion. (And I am not talking about classical Judaism here but the twisted version created for themselves by those abandoned to ignorance.)

Read the sermon on the mount and you will find four and a half of the pillars of Islam. (Mohamad wasn't born yet so don't expect to find the "Mohammad is a prophet of God" part. Islam is a revival of religion as taught by Jesus and unless Muslims challenge the Christians to revive their religion with respect to what Jesus taught, it and eventually Islam will fall.

Give a man a fish and he eats for the day, teach a man to fish and he feeds his family. Muslims must teach the Christians how to become fishers of men. Even those that are already caught in a net of violence.

As I said before the second Gulf war I say before the third. Plow up your yard and plant stuff you can eat.

There is a saying among those with a violent streak: Know your enemies. But of those that love their neighbor as themselves, it isn't easy if you don't know your friends. So it comes down to know everybody.

Read this: and reflect how the language is eerily similar between the statements about Muslim fundamentalists and this group. Note how the clash of civilizations is between two groups almost identical except in name and orientation (at each others throats).

A wise man once said "do not ask to take the nit from your neighbors eye till you have taken the log from your own". I don't expect those that have been rejected from the spiritual path for violent tendencies to engage in self correction but to abandon them to their own violent tendencies puts the whole world at risk. As population size increases the number of people with such tendencies increases as well and eventually there are sufficient numbers to form a self serving group. Such groups reinforce their latent tendencies and so it is no longer safe for spiritual groups to just abandon them to their fate. They must be guided away from their errors by those with wisdom or we shall all perish.

If American Muslims can not contribute to charitable organizations and expect that it won't be diverted to terrorist organizations overseas (like the Israeli government) then they should exercise their charity locally. It is, after all, the co-opting of the US command, control, communication and intelligence communities by forces loyal to violence that has lead the world to the position it is in. Stick you fingers in as many holes in the proverbial dike as you wish, until you expend energy dealing with the agent of erosion of American Values you are essentially wasting your efforts and eventually the dike will break in on you.