For $500 a year, you could sponsor a needy orphan in Lebanon through the Dearborn office of the Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization.

And many metro Detroiters did — through fund-raisers in mosques and boxes at Dearborn restaurants that read “Orphan’s happiness depends on your donation.”

Even some politicians gave money, including U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat. His chief of staff said Wednesday that the congressman cut a check of about $100 to the group during a Ramadan dinner in October 2004.

And so the raid of Al-Mabarrat has unnerved many in metro Detroit’s Muslim communities, some of whom met Wednesday to discuss how to deal with it.

Al-Mabarrat and another Shi’ite Muslim group, Goodwill Charitable Organization, were raided by the FBI and other federal agencies Tuesday, the same day the U.S. Treasury Department declared Goodwill Charitable to be a front for Hizballah and froze its assets.

But the Treasury Department did not name Al-Mabarrat as a terrorist group, leaving many Muslims confused about the government’s actions. Al-Mabarrat is still allowed to operate, though agents hauled away its documents and computers, making it difficult to function, Muslim leaders said.

“This is a clean, lawful group with the utmost integrity,” said Tarek Baydoun of Dearborn, who has helped raise money for it. “They’re not going to find anything.”

Al-Mabarrat officials have decided not to comment on the case for now because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, said Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Walid said the group would like to have its computers and documents back.

“If they’re not being closed, they should be allowed to operate at full capacity,” Walid said.


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