ADC, AAI Seek Guidance on Charities from Treasury Department
ADC and the Arab American Institute (AAI) have written to Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill requesting guidance on the issue of Arab American and Islamic charities in light of the upcoming Ramadan and Christmas holidays.
Arab-American and Muslim leaders have been in touch with government and national security officials for some time in order to facilitate safe and lawful charitable giving by members of the community. Government officials have been responsive to these concerns. ADC President Ziad Asali said “at our recent meeting with President Bush, this issue was brought to his attention. We are glad to see that he has initiated a process of dialogue which should lead to clear guidance for the community in the near future.”
ADC President Ziad Asali and AAI Chair George Salem wrote today to Secretary O’Neill that, “one of the effects of the actions taken by the Administration in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001 has been a chilling effect on charitable contributions to Arab-American and Islamic charities.” They urged that, “at minimum, it would be helpful if guidelines could be provided for legitimate charities, so that they can advise their supporters to contribute with confidence,” and that “action now to clarify the Government’s position is critical so that Arab American Muslims and Christians can fulfill their religious obligations of zakat and tithing (giving alms) in a timely manner.” ADC and AAI look forward to hearing from the government on this important matter in the near future.
Full Text of Letter from ADC & AAI to Treasury Secretary:
November 4, 2002
The Honorable Paul H. O’Neill
Secretary of the Treasury
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
Re: Arab-American Charities
Dear Secretary O’Neill:
We write in our capacities as Chairman of the Arab American Institute (AAI) and President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). On behalf of the Arab-American community, we offer our assistance with a problem which we describe below, and solicit guidance from the United States government with respect thereto.
One of the effects of the actions taken by the Administration in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001 has been a chilling effect on charitable contributions to Arab-American and Islamic charities. These charities are all qualified under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributors are worried that their gifts will somehow result in questions of their charitable motives, or worse, an investigation into whether they are somehow attempting to fund terrorist activities.
The commencement soon of the Holy Month of Ramadan and the Christmas Holiday season are the period when most of these charities receive the bulk of their contributions. Guidance from the U.S. government as soon as possible would be helpful.
As we have discussed with the President, as well as with several enforcement officials from the Department of the Treasury, there is a serious need for clarity from the Treasury Department regarding these charities. At minimum, it would be helpful if guidelines could be provided for legitimate charities, so that they can advise their supporters to contribute with confidence. The humanitarian assistance provided by these entities is a critical source of aid. In addition, action now to clarify the Government’s position is critical so that Arab American Muslims and Christians can fulfill their religious obligations of zakat and tithing in a timely manner.
We look forward to continuing our productive dialogue.
Ziad J. Asali, President, ADC
George R. Salem, Chairman, AAI