The public’s confidence in charities remains lower than it
was before the Sept. 11 attacks, and people are particularly
suspicious of Islamic charities, jeopardizing the future of such
groups.

Although public confidence in charities overall has fluctuated
up and down since Sept. 11, Islamic charities find themselves
struggling to ensure that they can continue working. Because of the
new government regulations such as the Patriot Act, agencies can be
punished for funding groups that among other things conduct acts of
terror, even if the charity was unaware of the group’s
activities. Charities are also not allowed to accept money from
individuals who may be involved in a terrorist organization.

Leaders of Islamic charities have said such regulations have led
to a drop in public confidence because people are worried they will
be investigated by the FBI for donating to the charities.
“People are very concerned about giving to
organizations,” said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of
the public-policy institute Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Increased public and government scrutiny has brought up the
subject of donor rights and whether these new tactics violate them,
Al-Marayati said.

Fifteen percent of the 1,417 people surveyd in August said they
had a “great deal” of confidence in charities, which is
up from the 13 percent in January, but remains below the rate
before the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a New York Times study.
Before Sept. 11, 25 percent of those surveyed said they had
“a lot” of confidence in charities.

Celena Khatib, director of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations, a nonprofit organization that works to enhance a
understanding of Islam and protect civil liberties, said the group
has seen a drop in private donations and has “vacant
positions at the office, but cannot afford to hire new
personnel” due to the decrease in donations.

“(Donors) are fearful. Our donations have decreased.
People are donating cash, not checks,” Khatib said.

Groups such as MPAC have been trying to work with the government
to find a solution to this situation. Since Sept. 11 heightened the
concern about terror attacks, three Islamic charities have been
shut down in suspicion of giving money to terrorists. MPAC has made
a request to the government that the funds of these charities,
which were frozen, be allocated to other charities with similar
missions. So far, however, this request has not been fulfilled.

Charities are also now taking new measures to follow the
regulations set by the federal government. According to Khatib,
“We are encouraging all organizations to be more transparent
… and try to show they have nothing to hide.”
Charities are beginning to make such efforts, Khatib said.

Soubani said although his group does not conduct background
checks for small donors, it does for larger ones. “We have to
know them for practical reason and legal reasons,” he said.

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