Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2006, pages 64-65

Muslim-American Activism

Senate Committee Clears American Muslim Groups

THE SENATE Finance Committee absolved the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and more than 24 other Muslim organizations of any association with or funding of terrorist organizations. After Committee Chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) called in December 2003 for an IRS investigation of all tax records of Muslim organizations, think tanks, and Muslim charities, the organizations underwent an intense scrutiny for nearly two years. “The committee has closed the inquiry with no plans to issue a report, forward any findings to law enforcement agents, or hold hearings on this matter.“ Senator Grassley said Nov. 24, when he announced the results of the investigation, “We did not find anything alarming.”

The committee’s conclusions were not a surprise, according to ISNA Secretary-General Sayyid Muhammad Sayeed. “Our accounts have always been transparent and open,” he told the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. “We are vigilant at making sure that all organizations that belong to ISNA are aware of the laws that govern our 501(3)(c) status. We knew that this investigation would exonerate us from any wrongdoing.”

The ongoing investigation was widely reported in the United States and abroad, casting doubt and suspicion on all Islamic groups operating in the U.S. According to Indiana Star reporter Robert King, in its original letter to the IRS seeking the records, the Finance Committee had declared, “Muslim groups have used their reputations as charities and foundations to escape scrutiny. Often these groups are nothing more than shell companies.”

In the opinion of Howard University’s Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, “The Senate investigation was a witch-hunt looking for connections between Islamic organizations and terrorists abroad.” He told the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, that “our organizations are still recovering from the shadow that this investigation has cast on all Muslim groups and their members.”

Imam Johari described Senator Grassley and the Finance Committee’s allegations as hurtful. “Their justification for this inquiry is unfounded,” he said. “We have lost precious time. They froze our assets, damaged our reputation and kept us out of any meaningful dialogue and active participation with this administration, at a time when sound American Muslim participation was needed.”

Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), agreed. The Senate Finance Committee had gone on a “fishing expedition,” he said, that did nothing but reinforce the idea that Muslims are guilty until proven innocent when it comes to terrorism accusations.

Imam Johari hopes the Senate committee findings will make it more possible for American Muslim organizations to become active on the national level and clear the way for the administration to bring American Muslims and their organizations into future foreign policy and security discussions. “We are a vital link to meaningful lasting solutions,” Imam Johari pointed out, “and we cannot continue to be overlooked and marginalized.”

Mai Abdul Rahman

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