The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Erich Ferrari


A balance between anti-terror legislation and civil liberties must be struck. The United States’ “financial war on terror,” following the attacks on September 11, 2001, has had negative consequences for global philanthropy. Charities supplying aid to Muslims in the Middle East and Central Asia have been affected the most, thwarting the acceptance of aid where it is needed. Legislation like the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) has allowed the government to freeze the assets of certain Islamic charities that allegedly aid and abet terrorism. Under this Act, the President has the power to regulate international economic dealing. Subsequent amendments came with the passing of Executive Order 13,224 and the USA PATRIOT Act, which provided the President with an expansion of powers used in dealing with terror threats. The IEEPA violates Muslims’ First Amendment right of religious freedom by interfering with “zakat,” or almsgiving, which is regarded as the third pillar of Islam. Zakat creates an obligation for Muslims to donate two and one-half percent of their annual income to charity. The IEEPA can be seen as unduly burdening this obligation of Islamic faith. To further the argument, this “financial war on terror” perpetuates Americans’ negative views of Muslims and individuals with Middle Eastern backgrounds. The charities, the innocent donors, and the would-be recipients living under horrendous conditions, are the ones that suffer. Terrorism needs to be fought, and terrorists must be brought to justice, but the government must ensure that protected populations are not alienated and oppressed by the process.

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