- In a December 2008 article, this writer explained that
the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was
the largest American Muslim charity until the Bush administration bogusly
declared it an enemy of the state and shut it down.
- On December 4, 2001, the Treasury Department declared
HLF a terrorist group, froze its assets, and falsely claimed they were
being used to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas. HLF's appeal was denied.
- It provided vital relief to Palestinian refugees in Occupied
Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan as well as aid for the needy in Bosnia, Albania,
Chechnya, Turkey, America, and elsewhere.
- Its activities included:
- -- financial aid to needy and impoverished families;
- -- a sponsorship program for orphaned children;
- -- numerous social services;
- -- educational ones;
- -- medical and other emergency work; and
- -- community development, including helping Palestinians
rebuild homes that Israel maliciously destroyed.
- HLF described its work as follows. "We gave:
- -- books, not bombs;
- -- bread, not bullets;
- -- smiles, not scars;
- -- toys, not tanks;
- -- liberty, not poverty;
- -- hope, not despair;
- -- love, not hate; (and)
- -- life, not death.
- Yet a July 27, 2004 press release accompanying a Department
of Justice (DOJ) indictment headlined: "HOLY LAND FOUNDATION, LEADERS,
ACCUSED OF PROVIDING MATERIAL SUPPORT TO HAMAS TERRORIST ORGANIZATION."
- Hamas IS NOT a terrorist organization. It's the democratically
elected Palestinian government that's been maliciously maligned, targeted,
sanctioned, isolated, boycotted, attacked, and held under a devastating
Gaza siege since mid-2007.
- Five HLF leaders were arrested, indicted, tried, and
on November 24, 2008 convicted on 108 counts, including supporting a terrorist
organization, money laundering, and tax fraud - all bogus charges. On May
27, 2009, sentences ranged from 15 - 65 years for the two main principles,
Ghassan Elashi and Shukri Abu Baker. Their crime - being Muslims at the
wrong time in America and providing charity to the most needy.
- An ACLU Report on Targeting Muslim Charities
- In June 2009, the ACLU published a report titled, "Blocking
Faith, Freezing Charity: Chilling Muslim Charitable Giving in the 'War
on Terrorism Financing' "
- It explained that:
- "The government's actions have created a climate
of fear that chills American Muslims' free and full exercise of their religion
through charitable giving, or Zakat, one of the 'five pillars' of Islam
and a religious obligation for all observant Muslims." Since 9/11,
fulfilling it in America is a crime.
- On September 24, 2001, George Bush announced the following:
- "I have signed an Executive Order (EO 13224) that
immediately freezes United States financial assets of and prohibits United
States' transactions with 27 different entities. They include terrorist
organizations, individual terrorist leaders, a corporation that serves
as a front for terrorism and several nonprofit organizations."
- In early December, the administration seized the assets
of the nation's three largest Muslim charities and shut them down - the
Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), Global Relief Foundation
(GRF), and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). Earlier, HLF principles
repeatedly asked government officials for help in complying with the law,
but were rebuffed.
- To date, the Treasury Department has closed six Muslim
charities by designating them terrorist organizations or claiming they
provided material support to terrorism. A seventh charity was also closed
for being "under investigation." In addition, six others were
raided and and have been gravely harmed by the publicity and intrusive
surveillance. Two of them have since closed. In total since 9/11, nine
Muslims charities have been shuttered on bogus charges in Texas, Michigan,
Missouri, Illinois, Oregon, Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York.
- According to the ACLU:
- "Today, the Treasury Department has virtually unchecked
power to designate groups as terrorist organizations. Terrorism financing
laws are overly broad and lack procedural safeguards that would protect
American charities against government mistake(s) and abuse."
- Yet independent counterterrorism policy and court case
studies show troublesome flaws in the evidence the Treasury Department
uses. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) one, found no accountability
for Treasury designations and asset blocking. Treasury officials even acknowledged
- "some of the evidentiary foundations for the early
designations were quite weak (and) might (have) result(ed) in a high level
of false designations."
- Yet the damage was done, forcing innocent victims into
federal prisons. The Bush administration hailed its successes, and effectively
"create(d) a general climate in which law-abiding American Muslims
fear making charitable donations in accordance with their religious beliefs."
- In interviewing Muslim donors, the ACLU:
- "documented a pervasive fear that they may be arrested,
prosecuted, targeted for law enforcement interviews, subpoenaed, deported,
or denied citizenship or a green card because of (legal) charitable donations"
they feel obligated to give. Today it's impossible, and nothing under Obama
- The ACLU conducted 120 total interviews, including 115
with prominent Muslims and others directly affected. It found that:
- "US terrorism financing policies and practices (have)
undermin(ed) American Muslims' protected constitutional liberties and violat(ed)
their fundamental human rights to freedom of religion, freedom of association,
and freedom from discrimination."
- Terrorism Financing Laws Impose Guilt by Association
and Punish Legitimate Humanitarian Aid
- These laws cover the following:
- -- alleged schemes letting the government administratively
designate organizations as terrorist and shut them down - with or without
criminal wrongdoing charges; and
- -- criminally prosecuting targets on terrorist charges
or for providing material support to a terrorist organization.
- In both cases, guilt by association is imposed and fundamental
due process safeguards are lacking. As a result, Muslim organizations and
individuals "are unfairly targeted in violation (of their rights under
the) First and Fifth Amendment rights and international law."
- America's counterterrorism laws are seriously flawed.
- "effectively impose guilt by association and do
not provide guidance about what is and is not prohibited. (They) punish
wholly innocent assistance to arbitrarily blacklisted individuals and organizations,
undermine legitimate humanitarian efforts, and can be used to prosecute
innocent donors who intend to support only lawful activity through (legitimate)
religious practice, humanitarian aid, speech, or association."
- The material support statute contains no exemption for
humanitarian giving, so providing food, medicines and other vital relief
to the wrong recipients can run innocent Muslims afoul of the law with
no intent whatever to violate it. The statute provisions are so broad that
even the ICRC and other agencies like it can be prosecuted.
- Charities Denied Due Process Under the Terrorism Financing
- It lets the Treasury Department seize assets "pending
investigation" without charges or shutter organizations on the basis
of secret evidence unavailable to defense attorneys on grounds of national
security, so there's no way to contest it or obtain meaningful judicial
- Following prosecutions, independent reviews have shown
that evidence used to target Muslim charities have included "rank
hearsay inadmissible in court, news articles that do not even mention the
charity in question, or intelligence that has been inaccurately and prejudicially
- Independent reviews in the UK, Canada, Sweden, and Luxembourg
cleared some targeted organizations. As a result, government officials
and courts in these countries chastened US authorities for failing to show
proof in cases under review - to no avail.
- Discriminatory Counterterrorism Law Enforcement against
- Of the nine charities shuttered, three so far faced criminal
prosecution, only one of which was convicted, HLF. These practices alienated
US Muslims, undermined America's standing in the Muslim world, and contributed
to charges that this country baselessly targets Muslims and Islam.
- Besides the nine charities closed, at least six others
were declared "under investigation" or raided. So far, they haven't
been charged or had their assets seized, but have suffered measurably as
as result. Two of them have closed, Help the Needy in New York and Care
International in Massachusetts.
- In one case, prosecutors named some of the country's
largest, mainstream Muslim organizations as unindicted co-conspirators.
Even though no crime was charged, they got no chance to defend themselves
or reputations - in clear violation of their constitutional right to presumption
- Intimidation of Muslim Donors
- Many of them said FBI agents came to their workplaces
and homes for interrogations about their charitable giving. They also complained
that when returning from abroad, Customs and Border Protection agents subjected
them to detailed questioning about their legal contributions. Further,
they were subpoenaed to testify in more than one charity-related grand
jury investigation, contributing more to a climate of fear.
- Community members were also asked to be informants at
their mosques to monitor donations there. Those refusing risk being suspected
of something to hide.
- The Impact on Religious Freedom
- For observant Muslims, charitable donations are a religious
obligation, yet doing it in today's climate risks guilt by association
charges or worse. The ACLU documented a pervasive fear of intimidating
surveillance, potential arrests, subpoenas to testify in a criminal case
against other Muslims, deportation, and being denied their constitutional
- The Chilling Effect on Association with Muslim Community
and Religious Organizations
- Mosques are central in the lives of observant Muslims.
Besides places to pray, they serve as hubs for various religious and cultural
practices, including schools, charitable giving, and youth centers. Yet
in today's climate of fear, ongoing under Obama, Muslims are inhibited
from freely practicing their religion, associations, charitable giving,
and cultural beliefs.
- Collateral Consequences Undermine Countertorrism Efforts
- America's war on Islam fomented enough fear to broadly
alienate Muslims, drive charitable giving underground, and fostered a profound
distrust of government and law enforcement authorities. Rightfully, they
believe fighting terrorism is a war against them.
- Since 9/11, the Bush and Obama administrations have violated
US and international laws that enshrine freedom of religion, expression,
association, and from discrimination. America is a signatory to numerous
laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Violating them is anathema, yet it's done repeatedly, especially against
Muslims and Islam.
- The ACLU wants it stopped and recommends policy changes
to the President, Treasury Department, Justice Department, FBI, State Department,
Congress, and against proposals to create a "white list" of approved
charities. Some include:
- -- repealing Executive Order (EO) 13224 - "Blocking
Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons Who Commit, Threaten
to Commit, or Support Terrorism;"
- -- a new EO requiring watch list name verification by
credible evidence of terrorist ties and quarterly reviews to keep current;
- -- setting time limits on frozen funds, after which beneficiaries
must receive them;
- -- prohibiting racial profiling;
- -- ending public raids on charities under investigation
and intimidating Muslims;
- -- ceasing intrusive investigations without substantive
cause to conduct them;
- -- assuring the rule of law is scrupulously followed
at all times; and
- -- avoid "white lists" of approved charities
that could be biased in favor of some at the expense of others, based on
religion, political affiliation, or other factors.
- The ACLU also says that current laws:
- "prohibiting material support for terrorism are
in desperate need of re-evaluation and reform. (They) punish wholly innocent
assistance to arbitrarily blacklisted individuals and organizations, undermine
legitimate humanitarian efforts, and can be used to prosecute innocent
donors who intend to support only lawful activity through religious practice,
humanitarian aid, speech, or association."
- Federal Prosecutors Seize Four US Mosques and a Fifth
Ave. Office Tower
- On November 12, the AP headlined, "US Moves to Seize
4 Mosques and Skyscraper Tied to Iran," saying, but not proving, they're
"owned by a nonprofit Muslim organization long suspected of being
secretly controlled by the Iranian government."
- In its ongoing war against Islam and hostility toward
Iran, federal prosecutors filed a civil complaint in federal court against
the Alavi Foundation seeking forfeiture of more than $500 million in assets
that include bank accounts, Islamic center schools and mosques in New York
City, Maryland, California and Houston, over 100 acres in Virginia, and
a 36-story New York office tower.
- On November 12, a Justice Department (DOJ) press release
headlined, "Manhattan US Attorney Files Civil Action Seeking Forfeiture
of Alavi Foundation's Interest in Fifth Avenue Office Tower Controlled
by Iran." It continued saying:
- "The Building is owned by 650 Fifth Avenue Company,
a partnership between the Alavi Foundation and Assa Corporation."
An earlier December 2008 complaint was filed. Today's amended it seeking
forfeiture of Assa's interest in the building.
- "The amended Complaint alleges that the Alavi Foundation
has been providing numerous services to the Iranian Government and transferring
funds from 650 Fifth Avenue Company to Bank Melli, a bank wholly owned
and controlled by (Iran)."
- The property forfeitures mentioned above were also listed
"as the proceeds of violations of the International Emergency Economic
Powers Act (IEEPA)....together with Executive Orders (12957, 12959, 13059,
12938, and 13382, Treasury) regulations, and as property involved in and
the proceeds of money laundering offenses."
- Alavi was charged with managing the building for Iran
and running a charitable organization for its government. Assa was accused
of "providing numerous services to Bank Melli in contravention of
IEEPA and the Iranian Transactions Regulations promulgated thereunder...."
- For 36 years, the Alavi Foundation has been an independent
charitable organization promoting better understanding of Islamic culture
"by financially supporting charitable and philanthropic causes through
educational, religious, and cultural programs."
- Its eight core programs include:
- -- "grants to colleges and universities;
- -- donations to Persian schools;
- -- donations and loans to Islamic organizations;
- -- free distribution of Islamic books;
- -- donations for disaster relief funds;
- -- support of the arts;
- -- scholarly research; (and)
- -- student loans."
- It's no accident that the Obama administration renewed
Iranian sanctions on the same day Alavi was targeted, just days after the
Fort Hood tragedy, and two weeks after Iran rejected a proposal to hand
over up to 80% of its low-enriched uranium in return for a promise for
120 km of highly-enriched fissionable material more than a year later.
- Iran's Press TV reported the announcement as follows:
- "The seizure of the places of worship is seen as
a blow to the very first amendment to the United States Constitution in
which freedom of worship is enshrined and guaranteed as an inalienable
right of all its citizens. On (November 12), US President, Barack Obama,
renewed Washington's economic sanctions against Iran for another year despite
talks of trying to seek a 'new beginning' with the Islamic Republic....Iran
has been under US sanction since the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the
country US-backed monarch, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi."
- On November 15, AP headlined that "Iran Condemns
US Mosque Seizure" calling the act "disgraceful." Parliament
Speaker Ali Larijani said it showed Obama is the same as George Bush. He
- "Extension of sanctions and restrictions against
Iran for another year by the American president and the blocking the accounts
and assets of the Alavi Foundation in America is a real disgrace."
- In a later radio broadcast he added:
- "After a year of empty speeches and slogans, the
behavior and conduct of this president in practice is no better than the
actions of his predecessor. The recent actions of this country (America),
presenting unimportant and irrational proposals in the nuclear issue which
they have called just and fair, all indicate that the alleged change was
nothing but a deceitful symbol aimed at deceiving naive politicians."
- John Winter, Alavi lawyer, said he'll contest the seizure
and expects to prevail because it's blatantly illegal. He explained that
the foundation has been cooperating with the government's investigation
for nearly a year and added:
- "Obviously the foundation is disappointed that the
government has decided to bring this action." Doing so will further
alienate Muslims globally and fuel more anti-American sentiment.
- On November 13, Houston Chronicle writers Moises Mendoza,
Mary Flood and Lindsay Wise headlined, "Muslims decry move to seize
Houston mosque," referring to the Islamic Education Center (IEC) of
Houston where the city's Shia Muslims worship and send their children to
an Islamic school.
- Board chairman Faheem Kazimi said IEC leases the building
from the Alavi Foundation, but has no other connection. "The Islamic
Education Center is a nonprofit independent organization, not affiliated
with any other (one)." John Floyd, IEC's lawyer, said he spoke to
New York prosecutors who apologized for the timing so close to the Fort
Hood tragedy. He added that:
- "The government said they are not interested in
any of the leaseholders or tenants and they see the (IEC) as another lease
- Nonetheless, distraught worshippers milled around the
Center on November 12 avoiding reporters and guarding the gated entrance.
Others were concerned about a community backlash and possibility they'll
lose their mosque and school. And according to Hussein Abdi who's worshipped
at IEC for two decades:
- "It makes me furious. We're under attack" for
- IEC's web site says the following:
- It "serves the community as a center for the Friday
congregation, Islamic celebrations, community programs, and above all -
a center for imparting knowledge about Islam and promoting Islamic values.
(It tries) to inform and educate non-Muslims and Muslims about Islam, and
to provide information about Islam on varying levels of inquiry...."
It preaches love, not hate, and is has no connection to terrorism.
- Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Muslim civil liberties
and advocacy group, Council on American Islamic Relation (CAIR), told Democracy
Now's Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales that seizing four mosques and other
US properties has First Amendment and religious freedom implications. With
special concern got the mosques he said:
- "And whenever you're having the government seize
houses of worship, whether it's mosques or churches or synagogues, I think
that has a chilling effect on the First Amendment freedom of religion,
and I think it'll send a very negative message to the Muslim world....I'm
already seeing (online) headlines in Muslim media around the world, in
the Arab world (saying): "US Government Seizes Mosques in America."
- He expressed concern about US headlines like a Sacramento,
CA one saying: "Local Mosque Tied to Terror." It has about 50
families that "have nothing to do with terrorism....they just go to
the mosque (to) pray."
- We've also "seen charity after charity shut down,
the assets seized. You know, there's really not a lot left in terms of
institutions for charitable giving in the United States, given the eight
years of the Bush administration. And, you know, quite frankly, we haven't
seen a great improvement under the Obama administration."
- After Fort Hood, Muslims have felt a backlash nationwide.
"We had the police at our headquarters last night taking a report
about death threats we've received." They've been many other reports
about intimidation, Muslims called terrorists, and a "lot of hate
emails, a lot of threats around the country," and anti-Muslim rhetoric
on right-wing talk radio, what's been ongoing since 9/11.
- 9/11 Suspects to Get New York Civil Court Trial with
No Prospect for Due Process or Judicial Fairness
- On November 13, Reuters reported that:
- "The accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks
and four co-conspirators will be sent to New York for trial in a court
near the site of the World Trade Centre. (Civil liberties) advocates hailed
the decision....but Republicans lashed out, arguing that bringing them
to US soil could make New York a magnet for new attacks and that the men
deserved military trials." Senator John McCain condemned the decision
saying they're "war criminals, who committed acts of war against our
citizens and those of dozens of other nations."
- Some New Yorkers were also "angry at the prospect
of the men coming to a city traumatized by the hijacked-plane attacks eight
years ago, but others voiced relief that justice may soon be done."
They'll arrive in January, be held at a federal detention facility, and
be tried on confessions obtained under torture that the Supreme Court ruled
constitutionally inadmissible in Brown v. Mississippi (February 1936),