The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Terrorism Finance Laws Undermine American Muslims' Religious Freedom, Says ACLU

New Comprehensive Report Details Effects Of Flawed Policies On Muslim Charitable Giving


terrorism finance laws and policies unfairly prevent Muslim Americans
from practicing their religion through charitable giving, create a
climate of fear and distrust in law enforcement and undermine America's
diplomatic efforts in Muslim countries, according to an American Civil
Liberties Union report out today. The 164 page report, "Blocking Faith,
Freezing Charity," is the first comprehensive report that documents the
serious effects of Bush administration terrorism finance laws on Muslim
communities across the nation.

"Without notice and through the use
of secret evidence and opaque procedures, the Treasury Department has
effectively closed down seven U.S.-based Muslim charities, including
several of the nation's largest Muslim charities," said Jennifer
Turner, a researcher with the ACLU Human Rights Program and author of
the report. "While terrorism financing laws are meant to make us safer,
policies that give the appearance of a war on Islam only serve to
undermine America's diplomatic efforts just as President Obama reaches
out to the Muslim world. These counter-productive practices alienate
American Muslims who are key allies and chill legitimate humanitarian
aid in parts of the world where charities' good works could be most
effective in winning hearts and minds."

According to the report, terrorism
finance laws expanded after 9/11 grant the Treasury Department
virtually unchecked power to designate groups as terrorist
organizations and lack procedural safeguards that would protect
American charities against government mistake and abuse. These laws
authorize executive branch officials to target charities on the basis
of secret evidence and without notice, charges, opportunity to respond,
or meaningful judicial review. The laws also permit the Treasury
Department to seize all of a charity's assets "pending investigation,"
pursuant only to a blocking order signed by a mid-level Treasury
Department official.

According to the report, for which
the ACLU conducted 120 interviews with Muslim community leaders and
donors in several states, federal law enforcement agents are engaging
in practices that intimidate Muslim American donors, such as widespread
interviews about their donations and surveillance of donations at
mosques. Those interviewed say the government's actions have a chilling
effect on Muslim charitable giving, or Zakat, one of the five pillars
of Islam and a religious obligation for all observant Muslims.

"Widespread intimidation of Muslim
donors and the arbitrary blacklisting of charitable organizations
trample on Muslims' free exercise of religion through charitable giving
and tarnish America's reputation as a beacon of religious freedom,"
said Turner. "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."

In his speech from Cairo on June 4,
President Obama raised the issue of terrorism finance laws that have an
adverse effect on Muslim giving. The ACLU report makes comprehensive
recommendations to the Obama administration and Congress that are
necessary to ensure terrorism financing policies are consistent with
American values of due process and religious freedom and in line with
U.S. human rights commitments.

"Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity" and a new video featuring people who have been affected by the laws are available online at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666