Area Muslim and Arab-Americans had a spirited exchange over charitable giving Tuesday night with two representatives of the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.
The meeting in Dearborn was organized by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Muslim leaders to address questions and concerns in the lead-up to Ramadan, a Muslim holy month of fasting and charitable giving, which begins at dusk Sept. 12.
In the last year, the FBI and other federal agencies have raided three Detroit-area Muslim charities: Life for Relief and Development, Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization and Goodwill Charitable Organization Inc.
Nobody from any of the charities has been charged with a crime, and only the Goodwill Charitable Organization -- which has no connection with Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit -- has been designated a terrorist front by the Treasury Department.
Audience members unsuccessfully sought absolute assurances they could not be prosecuted for giving to a charity that is legal today but could be deemed a terrorist front tomorrow. . .
Linda Mansour of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said most donors are average citizens who want their money to go for food and medicine but now fear prosecution.
Michael Rosen, a policy adviser with the Treasury Department, said the government wants to establish a safe and approved means of providing humanitarian aid but has not done so yet. Until then, "donors do have to do their due diligence," he said.
Though the meeting at Henry Ford Centennial Library was useful, "I don't think (it) is going to put the Muslim community's anxieties at rest," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan.