June 10, 2009 | NPR

Will a Key Anti-Terror Tool Fall Victim to Obama’s Muslim Outreach?

On the same day Barack Hussein Obama enthralled an Egyptian audience with his airbrushed version of Islam and its historic interactions with the United States (complete with adoption of CAIR's grossly inflated account of America's Muslim population), Attorney General Eric Holder echoed the president, committing the Justice Department (DOJ) to a major role in this “new beginning between the United States and the Muslim community.” A “top priority,” Holder promised, would be what he called “a return to robust civil rights enforcement and outreach in defending religious freedoms and other fundamental rights of all of our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the housing market, in our schools and in the voting booth.”

Holder's gall is sadly hilarious – and I'm not even talking about his absurd suggestion that the Justice Department (or for that matter, the whole U.S. government) has not been twisting itself in knots, for years, in cloying displays of solicitude toward Muslims: the Civil Division's “Initiative to Combat Post-9/11 Discriminatory Backlash” (which backlash failed to materialize); the annual FBI braying about its “outreach” and aggressive investigations of “hate crimes” against Muslims (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here); the careful listing of some of the FBI's “Arab-American Outreach Partners”; FBI Director Bob Mueller's appearance at the American Muslim Council's annual convention even as the AMC persisted in supporting terrorists; the FBI's attempts to provide awards and special access to Muslims with dubious ties (see here); the DOJ's bragging about vandalism prosecutions when the victims were Muslims (here and here – with the FBI chiming in here); the government's publication of a CAIR press release on a Department of Homeland Security website in order to brag that our investigative agencies were being compelled to endure Islamic sensitivity training (see here); and so on.

I refer instead to the attorney general's indignant reference to rights of “our fellow citizens . . . in the voting booth.” It came only days after he and his fellow DOJ political appointees quietly vanquished enforcement efforts by career prosecutors against jackbooted thugs from the New Black Panther Party. These Obama supporters, in patent violation of the civil-rights laws, intimidated McCain supporters (especially white ones) who attempted to vote in Philadelphia on Election Day. And under Holder's guidance, the Civil Rights Division has just vitiated efforts to crack down on voter fraud in Missouri and Georgia, ensuring that many of “our fellow citizens” will see their franchise nullified by the votes of ineligible and often illegal aliens.

“There are those who will continue to want to divide by fear,” intoned the attorney general – so anxious to slay his imaginary dragons while cowering before the real thing (“You're about to be ruled by the black man, cracker,” said one Panther). But Holder wants to assure you – for the umpty-umpth time – that he refuses to be put to a “false choice” that pits “our national security against our civil liberties.” No siree, we're going “to protect our people while we also protect our principles.”

I wonder. There was so much jaw-slacking stuff in Obama's Cairo stemwinder that this fleeting bombshell dropped unnoticed: Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Zakat is the obligation of giving alms. It occupies a central place in Islam (one of the religion's five “pillars”), just as it does in religious traditions more familiar to the West – you know, the charitable giving that Obama wants to saddle with less favorable tax treatment.

Do we really have “rules on charitable giving” that, as the president claims, make it especially difficult for Muslims – as opposed to others – to give? No. What we have are federal laws against material support for terrorism. These were enacted by Congress in 1996. They have been the bedrock of the DOJ's anti-terrorism enforcement ever since.

The purpose of these laws is obvious, as has been the stepped-up effort to use them since 9/11. If we are going to prevent terrorist strikes from happening, rather than content ourselves with prosecuting any surviving terrorists after our fellow citizens have been murdered and maimed, we have to identify cells and choke off their resources before attacks can be planned and executed. Thus, a donor who gives to an organization, including an ostensible charity, that he knows to have been formally designated as a terrorist entity under U.S. law, or that he knows facilitates terrorist activity, is liable.

That shouldn't be a problem, should it? The law does not target Muslim charities or organizations, and, indeed, several non-Islamic entities have been prosecuted.

Yet the inconvenient fact is that numerous Islamic charities have proved to be fronts for terrorist activity, at least in part. These include the Holy Land Foundation (whose top operatives were recently convicted for underwriting Hamas in a prosecution that exposed CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator) and the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, one of the world's largest Muslim charities, headquartered in Saudi Arabia (which hosted the president for private talks last week). So material-support statutes have become a sore subject for Muslims because the vast majority of terrorism – including virtually all anti-American terrorism – is carried out by Muslims.

In our politically correct, increasingly “progressive” times, of course, there can be equal protection of the laws only if those laws produce equal outcomes for disparate grievance groups. Thus, if our material-support laws are causing a problem for Muslims in particular, it couldn't possibly be that this is due to a peculiar nexus between Islam and terrorism. It must be that our laws themselves are flawed. Evidently, regardless of their vital role in keeping us safe from domestic terror attacks for the last eight years, those laws must now be kneaded into something acceptable to the Islamic activists that DOJ is so determined to “partner” with.

There's a problem, though. It's not just that we know, based on experience, that zakat often tends to find its way to jihadists. The inconvenient fact is that it is supposed to find its way to jihadists. As explained at the Center for Security Policy's new website, Shariah Finance Watch, under the Islamic legal code, recipients of zakat alms-giving include “those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster [i.e., 'volunteers for jihad without remuneration'].” Such jihadists must be “given enough to suffice them for the operation, even if affluent” – including “weapons, mounts, clothing, and expenses,” as well as support for the families they have left behind.

Last I checked, we're still operating under U.S. law, not sharia. U.S. law already provides a legal process by which an organization that contends that it has been erroneously designated as a terror facilitator can challenge that designation. Moreover, the material-support statutes already carve out humanitarian exceptions that permit donations of medical care and religious items. And no one can be convicted of providing material support absent proof that he knew he was giving to a terrorist organization or knew his contributions were abetting terrorist activities.

What more, exactly, are Obama and Holder planning to do to eliminate this particular “false choice” between our security and “our” values?

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