The ACLU, Stirring It Up Again In Texas And Elsewhere

Muslims in Texas and around the United States aren't being allowed to practice one of the key tenets of their religion -- namely charitable giving -- because of our country's terrorism-finance laws, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In its 164-report "Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity," the ACLU is almost certain to once again boil the blood of right-wing talk show hosts here and around the country.

The report blames the Bush administration and its anti-terrorism efforts in the financial sector with, in essence, shutting down several Muslim charities in the United States, "including the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in the United States," said Jennifer Turner, a researcher with the ACLU Human Rights Program and author of the report.

It includes this bit on Texas:

The ACLU also received reports that many HLF donors in Texas and elsewhere were questioned by law enforcement about their donations, but the ACLU has not been able to determine the number of donors interviewed nor the precise time period when these interviews occurred.297 One Texan donor told the ACLU, "Some people who have donated large amounts of money, people who gave with credit cards or checks bearing their name, have been investigated by the FBI. They have been questioned, and in some cases threatened with having their passports confiscated or denied." According to the executive director of a Muslim charity in Texas, "Our donors are concerned because all the HLF donors are being harassed when they come back into the country, and some of the big donors to HLF were harassed by the FBI.

The report says federal law enforcement agents intimidate Muslim American donors by asking a lot of questions about their donations and what goes on with giving at mosques. And the result, according to Turner, is:

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.

"Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity" is available online at: www.aclu.org/muslimcharities.

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