5 ways to fight zakat for jihadAugust 6, 2012
Zakat, the Muslim wealth tax and pillar of Islam from which profits can funneled to the mujahideen, has been used repeatedly to fund jihadist operations across the world including the 9/11 terror attacks and the Iraq insurgency. Despite zakat’s bone-chilling track record, it is extremely unlikely if not impossible to impose an outright ban the practice.
That doesn’t mean we can afford to shrug our shoulders and do nothing to counter the violent, jihadist stream of zakat to terrorism. We certainly should not, as Pres. Obama said in Cairo, promote zakat-giving by American Muslims.
Here are five models that could be used individually, but preferably in tandem to achieve the best results, to limit the ability of zakat solicitors and donors to use the funds for militant purposes:
5. The NYPD surveillance model. The New York Police Department’s surveillance program has been criticized by the Leftist media and Muslim “rights” agitators. But the NYPD approach offers one of the few hands-on, common sense methods of determining which mosques and charities knowingly undertake to fund terrorism overseas and at home. Embedding undercover mosque crawlers is not a violation of civil liberties or the freedom to worship—it is a sensible measure based on experience. The NYPD model could be employed by major metropolitan police departments in places such as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Dearborn.
4. Improved state regulatory oversight. In the U.S., charities are regulated at the state level, as they should be. The federal government does not have the enumerated constitutional authority or the wisdom to regulate philanthropy. But state governments and their top charitable regulators—usually either the state’s secretary of state or attorney general—can and must exercise their authority to oversee nonprofit entities. The state elected officials should improve their provision of searchable, online records of charities’ registration and renewal documents, and should require the disclosure of information about the president and boards of the charities, etc. Citizens should be aware of the important role that these statewide elected officials play in shining the sunlight, particularly on small Islamic charities that lack transparency. Nationwide crackdowns on disreputable charities such as the “Operation False Charity” initiative should be replicated against Muslim organizations that purport to solicit donations for charity, but actually use them for Wahhabi and jihadi endeavors.
3. The Canadian model. The Canadian Revenue Agency has done a commendable job of carefully examining the charitable credentials of Islamic entities. CRA has recently revoked the tax-exempt status of several of Canada’s most dubious Islamic charities including WAMY, the World Islamic Call Society, and IRFAN. The IRS should take a page from Canada’s book and immediately strip IFANCA of its 501(c)3 status, for example.
2. Sanctions model. The authority to designate foreign charities as terrorist entities has been used somewhat appropriately by successive leaders at the State and Treasury Departments, but there are glaring examples of foreign philanthropic foundations that have not been designated due to diplomatic sensitivities. The Saudi-based International Islamic Relief Organization has never been designated although its branches in the Philippines and Indonesia have been recognized by the U.S. as Al Qaeda affiliates. The Muslim World League and the World Association of Muslim Youth are two other examples of “humanitarian” religious agencies that provide significant Saudi financial support for terrorism. The U.S. has designated the Union of Good as a terrorist network, but it has not identified the member organizations of UoG (although Israel has). We’re never going to confront the problem of Saudi terror funding through zakat unless we’re willing to name and shame the biggest Saudi perpetrators.
1. The Bush/HLF model. The successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for funding Hamas offers an aggressive law enforcement model that would require a renewed federal commitment. Raids, seizures, and closures of suspect organizations and charities can take place under the executive order authorities of the President or ordinary criminal warrants. The worst Islamic charities should be prosecuted under the material support provisions of the the Patriot Act. We have to put the leaders of the worst offending Islamic charities into orange jumpsuits to set the example for other Muslims who wish to do the same.
Sadly, the Obama administration has tended to pursue a far more limited “settlement model,” in which the Department of Justice enters settlements and U.S. attorney agree to plea deals with jihadists’ attorneys. Yes, some go-getter U.S. attorneys have continued to prosecute individual terror financiers and even a Hezbollah funding network. But the big picture strategy of investigating, closing, and prosecuting major Islamic charities has been totally abandoned by the Obama administration.