Wednesday, January 14, 2004

In the Name of Allah: the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

..: MAS Freedom Foundation* :..

<< JANUARY 14, 2004 UPDATE >>



Broad investigation seen as "witch hunt"

(MASNET & News Agencies) - The Senate asked tax officials to provide confidential tax and financial information on more than 20 Islamic charities in the United States for suspected ties between tax-exempt organizations and terrorist groups, it was reported.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be asked to provide information on the groups, including a list of their top officials, their financial records, and donor lists, relating to Muslim charities and foundations, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Reuters news agency.

The request is a rare and unusually broad use of the committee's power to obtain private records held by the government, The Washington Post reported.

While the Senate Finance Committee is authorized to request private financial records from the IRS, it rarely invokes that power, the paper said.

IRS officials say they expect to comply with the request because it falls within the panel's statutory authority, according to the Post.

As part of an expanding probe, investigators are particularly interested in some 20 U.S. organizations that enjoy tax-exempt status and whom senators sponsoring a request for the information suspect of having ties to the al-Qaeda network or Hamas.

"Government officials, investigations by federal agencies and the Congress and other reports have identified the crucial role that charities and foundations play in terror financing," Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and the panel's senior Democrat, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, wrote in a Dec. 22 letter to the IRS.

"We have a responsibility to carry out oversight to ensure charities, foundations and other groups are abiding by the laws and regulations, to examine their source of funds, and to ensure government agencies, including the IRS, are policing them and enforcing the law efficiently and effectively."

Among the groups that could face Senate scrutiny are the Holy Land Foundation - the largest Muslim charity in the United States - the SAAR Foundation and its affiliated entities, a defunct network of organizations based in Northern Virginia; Global Relief, whose founder was deported to Lebanon; the Muslim Student Association; the Islamic Society of North America; the Muslim World League; the World Assembly of Muslim Youth; and the Islamic Circle of North America, the daily said.

As part of the battle against terrorist financing, the United States has frozen nearly $137 million in funds suspected of belonging to terrorist groups.

Muslim leaders and attorneys for charities say the government's investigation has tarnished their reputations and chilled financial support for groups that provide humanitarian support for the Middle East and elsewhere, reports Reuters.

Roger C. Simmons, a Frederick, MD, lawyer who represents the Illinois-based Global Relief Foundation, whose assets have been frozen by the government, said to the Post: "This kind of blanket request would further chill the tendency for American Muslims to give money.

As far as the organizations themselves, I'm not sure what else they can do to them that they haven't already done."

Committee staffers said the investigation is based not on ethnicity or religious affiliation but rather on concerns that the groups may have ties to terrorists or their supporters. "This is not a fishing expedition targeting Muslims," one Senate aide said. "All the groups we're looking at are suspected of having some connections to terrorism or of doing propaganda for terrorists. We're not presuming anybody's guilty."

"We want to look into where all their money comes from," one committee aide said. "Is it from foreign embassies? Does money come from obscure individuals in the Persian Gulf? We're the only ones that can look at

List of targeted organizations and Charities:

SAAR Foundation and its affiliates
Global Relief Foundation
Benevolence International Foundation
Muslim Arab Youth Association
Muslim Student Association
Islamic Association for Palestine
Holy Land Foundation for Releif and Development
Muslim World League
International Islamic Relief Organization
Al Haramain Foundation
Alavi Foundation
Institute of Islamic and Arabic Science in America
Islamic Assembly of North America
Help the Needy
Islamic Circle of North America
Islamic Foundation of America
United Association for Studies and Research
Solidarity International
Kind Hearts
Islamic American Relieaf Agency (or Islamic African Relief Agency)
Islamic Society of North America
World Assembly of Muslim Youth
Rabita Trust
Human Appeal International


Calls for community to rally around leader

(Cleveland, OH) -- The Cleveland chapter of the Muslim American Society (MAS) is standing with Imam Fawaz Damra, the leader of the Islamic Center of Greater Cleveland, after his indictment yesterday on federal charges. The Imam has pleaded not guilty, and he was released from custody after putting his house up for bond.

MAS-Cleveland is calling on the Muslims of the greater Cleveland area to unite behind Imam Damra, a man who has dedicated his life to serving the ummah, and a decade serving the spiritual needs of Muslims in Northeast Ohio.

After years of investigation, federal prosecutors have uncovered no criminal activity by Imam Damra. The indictment alleges that on his application for citizenship, Damra made a technical violation by failing to list organizations he was allegedly associated with. That was 10 years ago, in 1994.

Lawyers and community leaders are very confident that the Imam will be vindicated, and they see this indictment as a desperate attempt by the government to show something for all of the time and resources that
were invested in investigating Imam Damra, instead of going after real criminals and terrorists.

The fact that he was released on bond the same day of his arrest is also an indication of the weakness of the government's case, compared to other cases across the country where Muslims have been accused of similar crimes and have been held in jail without bond because of the government's claims of terrorist associations or activities.

We ask that you keep Imam Damra and his family in your prayers.

* The Freedom Foundation is the public affairs arm of the Muslim
American Society (MAS), a national grassroots religious, social, and
educational organization. Learn more at

MAS Freedom Foundation
1050 17th Street NW #600
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 496-1288
Fax: (202) 463-0686

Note by webmaintainer: An increasingly alarming state of grave concern.

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