Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Forum with Department of Treasury regarding charities

Relating to my quote in today's Detroit Free Press, I raised the question of the possibility that any Muslim charity that operates in Gaza or Southern Lebanon could be raided on the grounds that it is in "collusion" with Hamas or Hizbullah for giving aid in areas that are controlled by them.

Although we have designated them as terrorist groups, the reality is that Hamas is the government in Gaza and Hizbullah, not the Lebanese Army, controls Southern Lebanon.

Official: Muslims should be careful with donations
September 5, 2007



A senior counterterrorism official in the U.S. Treasury Department told a crowd of Muslims in Dearborn they should be careful about which charities they donate to, suggesting they give money to groups the U.S. government works with.

"If you were buying a car, or buying a house, of course you would try to find out who you were dealing with," said Michael Rosen, a policy adviser with the Treasury's Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, on Tuesday night. "And in essence, when you're making a charitable donation, that's exactly what you're trying to do. "

"You're trying to figure out, to whom am I giving? Who are these people? How did they run their business?"

Rosen's discussion was part of what has become an annual public forum with local Muslims and federal law enforcement officials around the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month when many Muslims donate money to charities.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the United States cracked down on some Islamic charities, concerned they were funnelling money toward violent groups in the Muslim world. Over the past year, three Muslim charities have been raided in metro Detroit.

Held inside a Dearborn library, the discussion was testy at times, with some Muslims expressing frustration at the government crackdown. With Ramadan starting next week, some called for the government to make clear what charities are legitimate and which ones are off-limits.

"What is declared legal today could be declared illegal tomorrow," said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who cohosted the forum along with First Assistant U.S. Attorney in Detroit Terrence Berg. "Have some sort of regulator."...

Others expressed concern that the U.S. government is making it impossible to help Muslims in certain areas that are controlled by groups that are labeled as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government.

"Hizballah and Hamas, although we designate them as terrorist organizations, they're considered legitimate governments of the people," said Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "You can't operate or do any type of business in Gaza without having contact with Hamas. You can't do any business in southern Lebanon, realistically, without having some type of contact ... with Hizballah."

Rosen said there are ways to help people in those areas without dealing with terrorist groups.(MORE)

Feds discuss charity

Attorney's Office meets with Muslims to clarify donation policy.

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- Area Muslim and Arab-Americans had a spirited exchange over charitable giving Tuesday night with two representatives of the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

The meeting in Dearborn was organized by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Muslim leaders to address questions and concerns in the lead-up to Ramadan, a Muslim holy month of fasting and charitable giving, which begins at dusk Sept. 12.

In the last year, the FBI and other federal agencies have raided three Detroit-area Muslim charities: Life for Relief and Development, Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization and Goodwill Charitable Organization Inc.

Nobody from any of the charities has been charged with a crime, and only the Goodwill Charitable Organization -- which has no connection with Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit -- has been designated a terrorist front by the Treasury Department.

Audience members unsuccessfully sought absolute assurances they could not be prosecuted for giving to a charity that is legal today but could be deemed a terrorist front tomorrow...

Though the meeting at Henry Ford Centennial Library was useful, "I don't think (it) is going to put the Muslim community's anxieties at rest," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan.(MORE)

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