U.S. Muslims in quandary over charities

/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.S. government rejected a request Monday from Muslim groups to draw up a list of Islamic charities to which they could donate without being suspected of terrorist ties.

Muslim groups said they fear giving to a charity that might make them look suspicious to the FBI. The holy month of Ramadan begins this week, and Muslims are required to give to the poor during that period.

“If the government knows there are charities that are misleading the American Muslim community, it’s their obligation to help protect these innocent Americans,” said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer for the New Jersey-based American Muslim Union.

The request was rejected by the Justice Department, which called it impossible to fulfill.

“Our role is to prosecute violations of criminal law,” said spokesman Bryan Sierra. “We’re not in a position to put out lists of any kind, particularly of any organizations that are good or bad.”

Since December 2001, numerous Islamic charities in the United States have been raided or shut down by federal investigators, including the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation; two suburban Chicago-area charities, Global Relief Foundation and Benevolence International; and the Sudan-based Islamic American Relief Agency, which has a chapter in Missouri.

None of the raids has led to terrorism-related criminal convictions.

Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union, was disappointed by the Justice Department’s response.

“We are trying to do the right thing, and we asked for a little help,” he said. “At least we tried.”