2.3 The effects of 9/11 2001 attack in the USA on the global regulatory frameworks on Islamic charities in the Middle East and across the globe
Although terrorism has been the most prominent international issue since the end of the Second World War, agreements on counterterrorism took a new turn after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA. Since then, several conventions have been passed to give guidelines on the most effective ways of dealing with terrorism (Christison 2004, p. 32).Because terrorism is generally defined in opposition with a state regime, existing counter-terrorism conventions require states to implement appropriate measures to proactively monitor and suppress terrorist activities within their borders. These measures include refraining from providing any form of support to organizations and individuals suspected of associating with terrorism, enhanced border and financial controls, cooperation on international judicial processes, and denial of asylum to terrorists (The Humanitarian Forum 2011, p. 2).
As has been highlighted in the previous sections, some terrorist groups use resources from Islamic charities to finance their operations. Moreover, some charities exist solely to collect funds and channel them to terrorist groups (Wilson 2006, p. 29). These, together with the manner in which support for terrorism has been defined in the war against terrorism, has caused some of the counterterrorism legislations to have a major impact on Islamic charities. This has been particularly the case after 9/11, with the impact becoming more severe throughout the entire humanitarian sector (Tim & Daniel 2011, p. 24).
Research shows that measures and laws aimed at combating terrorism have affected Islamic charities in five key areas. The first and most important area of impact relates to funding levels. According to the Graduate Institute of International Studies (2005, p. 87-89), Islamic charities have been affected most because of the suspicion that they aid terrorist groups. This has seen many of their donors become afraid of the potential consequences of donating funds to the charities (Joanna & Adele 2003, p. 29). For example, Islamic charities which ran sponsorship programs for orphaned children in the Gaza Strip using donations from Islamic charities were forced to support their operations following stringent laws about transfer of funds to the strip. Most of the Gaza based aid organizations were received aid directly Islamic charities based in the United States and other western countries. But when the Western countries made it difficult for these charities to send money abroad, the aid organizations had to scale down their operations (Teresa 2005, p. 12).
The disruptive impact has not been restricted to Islamic charities alone. Charity donors who had in the past given out aid to support waqfs and other Islamic development institutions have significantly lowered their level of support, often without necessarily taking into account the impact (Eva et al, 2015). In fact, most donors of aid to Islamic charities require proof that the aid will not be used to support terrorist activities and that no benefit will go to outlawed groups. When donors consider these issues to be inadequately addressed, funding has always been reduced or stopped. Examples include licenses not being renewed for charitable organizations (The Graduate Institute of International Studies 2005, p. 87-89).
The inability of some charities to provide convincing assurance against the possibility of channeling aid funds to terrorist groups has been particularly important for organizations operating in the Middle East and North Africa, a region largely under the influence of many terrorist groups (Hilman 2012, p. 29). For example, the Al Shabaab group of Somalia has been designated a terrorist organization by the US. Accordingly, the organization has been put under sanctions meaning that it is difficult for it to receive donor funds from Islamic charities. That has been the case even if the organization were to use the funds for some legitimate charitable causes (Mats 2005, p. 5; Kate & Patrick, 2013, p. 34).
The second area of impact is the administration of Islamic charities and partner organizations and agencies. Counter-terrorism laws have imposed restrictions on the efficiency and timeliness of funds transfer involving Islamic charities. As the greatest burden introduced by anti-terrorism legislations, administration has severely affected the ability of aid organizations to operate in high risk areas (Andre 2004, p. 25; Tim, n.d). Specifically, delays in the transfer of funds and other resources to Islamic charities and beneficiaries of their aid have become a norm since 9/11. This has been felt by even those aid organizations that are in compliance with the ant-terrorism laws. In most cases, Islamic charities encounter tremendous challenges in transferring any money received from donors, including legitimate multilateral donors in western countries. For most of these charities, bank transactions are often monitored and frequently stopped without justification. In other cases, transactions take too long to be finalized, thereby crippling operations for charities engaged in giving humanitarian aid (John, Douglas & Serena n.d).
While some Islamic charities have implemented impressive measures to minimize chances of aid being diverted to organizations engaged in outlawed activities, hefty financial resources and substantial staff time are being devoted to apply for exemptions and ensuring compliance. Law-enforcing agencies and regulatory bodies require a lot of information to vet Islamic charities to ensure that they are complying with the law (Engström 2015, p. 1-5). Also, the charitable organizations’ partners also require to be vetted as well as their staff. All these stringent requirements impose significant administrative burdens on the operations of Islamic charities (Baum & Philip 2008, p.23; Chomsky 1997, p. 41). Although Islamic charities consider restrictions to be important to some extent, there is a general feeling that some of these restrictions are too cumbersome and only serve the purpose of preventing delivery of aid to needy communities and individuals. In some countries such as Somalia, the difficult of complying with applicable counter-terrorism laws led some Islamic charities to limit their operations in areas controlled by suspected terrorist organizations (Ackerman 2001, p. 32).
Third, the war on terrorism has significantly resulted in harming relations between Islamic charities and local communities. In the United States and several other countries, Islamic charities are required to report personal information about recipients of their aid, a requirement that is often seen as accusatory and invasive by the local communities. The concerned charity groups also fear that the process lacks transparency and clarity (The Humanitarian Forum 2011, p. 12-19). In compliance with counter-terrorism laws, aid donors have inserted specific clauses in their funding contracts with require charitable organizations to disclose personal information related to their recipients. These requirements undermine the neutrality of legitimate Islamic aid organizations and make acceptance by local communities hard to achieve. In some cases, complying with counterterrorism laws makes donor partners to be seen by local partners as supporting the political views of the countries that enact the laws. This is particularly the case with the countries’ conception of terrorism and which groups deserve assistance (Wilson 2006, p. 19).
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