Islamic Charitable Organizations – Term Paper

Overall, the experience of reputation damage has fuelled frustration among large, international Islamic charities involved in massive humanitarian aid in many countries. Frustrations about those charities alleged to have abused their mandate to collaborate with terrorist groups (Levitt, 2003). For this reason, some Islamic charity groups feel that they have been targeted unfairly by counterterrorism laws and the war on terror. Indeed, some of them are subject to massive scrutiny by law enforcement agencies, and are held in the highest suspicion than secular and other religious based humanitarian organizations (Laqueur 2002, p. 4-7). The perceived disproportionate targeting has extended to financial institutions and now Islamic charities risk being blacklisted by banks even in the slightest suspicion of collaboration with proscribed groups (Borchgrevinck 2007).

Anti terrorism legislation

Another impact of the counterterrorism laws on the Islamic charities is in terms of risk exposure. By their very nature, Islamic charities engaged in the provision of humanitarian aid in conflict zones (especially where terrorist groups are active) are exposed to greater risks of abuse and exploitation by organizations and individuals engaged in terrorism. This risk of exposure relates to a number of factors, the most important of which is the engagement with outlawed groups (Sorel 2003, p. 378; CASE Collective, 2006 p. 448). In major conflicts zones such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, many charity groups work in areas where outlawed terrorist groups control large territories and key supply routes. In such areas controlled by terrorist groups, civilians are always in dire need of humanitarian aid and emergency relief (Mackintosh & Duplat, 2013).As a result, charities are forced to engage with the terrorist groups in order to deliver the much needed humanitarians aid. The engagement does not necessarily involve delivery of aid alongside the terrorist groups. Rather, it involves making essential communications with the terrorist groups so as to be allowed access to the populations groups and obtain guarantee of the safety of the charity staff (Monson, 2001, p. 208).

Engagements with terrorist groups and the risk of working in areas prone to unpredictable violence increase the exposure of Islamic charities to harm by the terrorist groups. Death, injury, kidnapping, confiscation of relief are some of the risks suffered by Islamic charities working in conflict zones (Gonzalez 2013, p. 312). Sometimes, the charities are taxed by the terrorists in order to be allowed to delivered aid. Although this taxation cannot be justified in any way, it has to be paid by the charity groups lest they be denied an opportunity to work in the areas controlled by the terrorists. This brings into fore secondary risks of exposure in accordance with the existing counter-terrorism measures (Sims 2004, p. 35; Latheef, 2006, p. 85).

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American muslim charities

A report by Aziz(2011) indicates that American and European based Islamic charities working in the Middle East have high levels of risk exposure due to several factors. First, their predominant use of local staff rather than international staff, as well as Islamic values and proficiency in local languages enables them to penetrate deep into conflict zones and access needy populations (Saleh 2010, p. 229). However, the charities tend to be suspected more that their staff is likely to be compromised by the terrorist because of common cultural values such as language and religion. This is always the case especially during periods of heightened public discourses of terrorism and armed conflict (Desta and Cockayne, 2012; Zelina 2014, p. 34-37).

Another factor contributing to the particularly higher risk exposure for Islamic charities operating in conflict zones relates to the difficulty of balancing the concept of zakat with the requirement for professional standards (Beranek 2010, p. 152). Islamic charities and humanitarian organizations were established with focus on local communities and remain strongly dependent on these communities for support. For some reasons, these communities can be conservative and refuse to accept changes in the manner in which charities are collected and distributed to the needy (Challand, 2011). Some carse against the legalization of the operations of charities, unable to understand that this is a necessary procedure to ensure compliance with the law. For example, some individual donors may find it difficult to accept that zakat can be channeled to large international NGOs that may not use it in accordance with the Islamic laws. For example, aid organizations may use the zakat to pay rent for charity staff or pay for logistics and administration costs (Pantuliano, Mackintosh, Elhawary & Metcalf, 2011, p. 12). These uses essential for the operations of charities but do not conform to the prescribed uses of zakat as explained in the Quran, for this reason, many individual donors prefer giving zakat to small, community based charity groups which are more likely to give it directly to the needy (Arnold, 2015).

Fight against terrorism impact

Another factor that causes high risk exposure is that some Islamic charities or individual trustees working with them have links to individuals that have voiced strongly political or controversial views, or that individuals with extremist views have worked with the charities (Morris, 2014). Although such relationships may not have any impact on the ability of the Islamic charities to discharge their mandates, they cause suspicion, which leads to increased surveillance by the authorities fighting terrorism. As the American Civil Liberties Union (2009) explains, lack of understanding regarding the responsibilities and roles of trustees have contributed greatly to these challenge. Some Islamic charities feel that they are under intense pressure from the local communities to appoint local individuals as trustees. Even when the concerned individuals may not be the best to hold such positions, the charities will not object due to lack of alternative options (Brimmer 2006, p. 29).

In conclusion, although the  war on terror and associated laws have heavily on the ability of Islamic charities  to conduct their operations freely, states and international impacted organizations have strategic interest in fighting terrorism. Most importantly, states fear that overseas charitable aid can be abused by being used to support terrorist causes. For these reason, most countries have maintained intense surveillance and monitoring of the activities of charities. Although not many Islamic charities have been accused of collaborating with terrorist, maintaining a proactive stance against such behaviors is the best strategy in the global fight against terrorism.


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