Kenwah Dabajah is in a quandary: How can she fulfill a central tenet of her faith, Islam, without putting herself in legal jeopardy?
"I was just thinking, I have this money, to whom or to what am I going to give, this year?" said Dabajah, as she considered how to give zakat, a donation required of Muslims, especially during Ramadan.
Dabajah usually gives to al-Mabarrat, a popular local charity, but federal investigators raided its office this summer for reasons that remain untold.
"It is difficult because you want to be a good Muslim and at the same time you do not want to do anything against your country," Dabajah said.
Recent heightened scrutiny of Islamic charities by federal officials is running headlong into the determination of Muslims to donate to causes that serve the neediest and to abide by their holy book, the Quran. As fears intensify, community leaders have called on the government to create guidelines for safe contributions.
As for establishing charities that clearly do not benefit terrorists, many Muslims say they believe they have -- but the periodic raids have made donors leery.
Two long-established organizations -- Al-Mabarrat and Life for Relief & Development -- were targets of federal raids in the past year. Until then, many Muslims had considered them highly reliable, and because neither charity is banned by the federal government, contributing to either of them remains legal.
Nonetheless, many Muslims say they fear donating to them. . .
Muslim leaders say orphans are of particular concern in Islam. So, when local federal officials assert, as they did when they publicized the raid on Life for Relief & Development, that contributing to orphans is often a euphemism for supporting terrorists, Muslims say a significant portion of their spiritual practices, especially during Ramadan, was jeopardized.
"When assisting orphans in the region of the Middle East, Muslims will undoubtedly be aiding people who are related, somehow, to organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan. "It is a fundamental problem: If someone has died defending their families or their land how can we not provide relief for their children? Even if a parent performed a terrorist act, are the sins of the parents visited on the sons and daughters?" (MORE)