Senate committee investigates Muslim charities

Posted 1:53pm January 26

by Vanessa Maltin
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Following over two years of investigations by federal agencies into ties with terrorist organizations, the Senate Finance Committee has asked the Internal Revenue Service to turn over confidential tax and financial records as well as donor lists for several tax-exempt Muslim charities and foundations including the Muslim Student Association, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the Muslim Arab Youth Association.

Spurred by suspicion of ties to Al Qaeda, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), and other groups designated as terrorist organizations, the committee’s request includes turning over leadership lists, financial records, applications for tax-exempt status, audit materials and the results of criminal investigations. In addition, the United States has already frozen over $136 million in assets that are allegedly linked to Al Qaeda or other terrorists groups.

“Many of these groups not only enjoy tax-exempt status, but their reputations as charities and foundations often allows them to escape scrutiny, making it easier to hide and move their funds to other groups and individuals who threaten our national security,” said Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking minority member, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in a letter to the IRS.

“We have a responsibility to carry out oversight to ensure charities, foundations and other groups are abiding by the laws and regulations, to examine their source of funds, and to ensure government agencies, including the IRS, are policing them and enforcing the law efficiently and effectively.”

The letter also states that in some cases the named groups are merely shell companies that move funds from one charity to the next to hide their trail.

“These groups also receive donations from foreign sources including countries that the government has identified as having a significant problem with terrorism,” Grassley and Baucus said in their letter to the IRS.

But the committee’s probing has led leaders of Muslim charities and organizations to complain that the government is unfairly using policy initiatives since September 11, 2001 to single out Muslim groups.

“It is really sad that the U.S. Government is acting this way,” said Rafeeq Jabar, President of the Islamic Association for Palestine. “The government knows we have always complied with the IRS and now they are taking their suspicions one step too far.”

The Muslim organizations also fear that the government requiring them to turn over donor lists will scare loyal donors from contributing in the future, out of concern that they too will be investigated as terrorists.

“It is basic human nature for people to get shivering chills in their spine if they feel they are being looked at,” Jabar said. “The government wants to run all Muslim charities out of business-it is an inhumane and unjust moment in American history.”

Other charities named by the committee include the Muslim World League, the International Islamic Relief Organization, Islamic Association of Palestine, Islamic Foundation of America, Islamic Assembly of North America, Help the Needy, Kind Hearts, Al Haramain, Rabita Trust, and Human Appeal International.

The letter, directed to IRS Commissioner Mark Everson requests that all documents be turned over no later than February 20, 2004.

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