Flood effects in Pakistan
from Nanaimo News, part of Canada.com network

A word that comes up in connection with charity in Muslim countries, ‘Islamist’, says a lot about the source of the report rather than the facts. During the news reports out of Pakistan, while floods are sweeping away land, crops, and tens of thousands of people, I cringe when I hear reports that we in the U.S. are worried about delivery of aid by those ‘Islamist’ groups. Islamic charities carry out one of the main tenets of the Muslim religion, which requires charity.

All of the factions of the religion, from the most West-oriented to the al Qaeda loyalists, carry out charitable works. Often, the West uses the very arms of Muslim groups that it condemns, because that work that it does has access closest to the needy.

When I attended several sessions of the hearings in Dallas Federal Court that ended in conviction of charitable organizers with Richardson, TX’s, Holy Land Foundation, I became well acquainted with U.S.A.I.D. activities which used Hamas to distribute assistance in Palestine. Nonetheless, Holy Land Foundation charitable organizers were convicted of aiding terrorism because they distributed aid through those same charities.

Forgive me if I quote myself from a post at cabdrollery, where I blogged for several years, in November of 2008 when that conviction occurred.

While I could definitely see that Hamas was shown resolutely not to accept Israeli occupation, I never saw any reason shown by prosecution that charitable operations in the U.S. conducted by Holy Land Foundation were a concern of the U.S. Department of Justice. That the Muslim religion demands charity and that zakat committees are the instrument of delivery appeared to be proven: that U.N., worldwide, and U.S. charitable efforts have and do deliver assistance through those means was proven as well.

Without going back over details minutely, I must say I saw no concern with justice in the courtroom that I observed; rather the efforts were concerned with making a connection between charity in the Middle East and terrorists.

The zakat committees that distribute aid have members from all the different factions of the Muslim religion. Right and left work together for the common good, intertwined. During the Holy Land Foundation trial, a witness used by the Justice Department swerved from his usually detrimental testimony, and stated that in order to do real good for the people, donations were sent to Hamas – and that giving the donations to the U.S. approved Palestinian Authority assured that they would be devoted to enriching the elite.

The right wing has generally driven charity from its interpretation of religion. In the Middle East, radical wingnuts are sure that any charity is assistance of terrorism. The attempt to eliminate distribution of needed assistance by local organizations – that are continually involved in aid to the communities – only interferes with the assistance we ought to be giving freely.

In such conditions, the U.S. will have a really hard time showing Muslim nations that it intends them no harm. While we fight against any assistance of terrorism, we mount a crusade against charity itself. The U.S. does itself only disservice by continuing to define Muslim charity as evil.

We need to enhance our own charitable work instead of driving it out, of our religion here, and abroad.