American Islamic Charities in an Age of Terrorism: The Holy Land Foundation as a Case Study

Lanouar Ben Hafsa


The American government targeting of US-based Islamic charities came as response to the shock of the 9/11 attacks, especially its devastating effects on the self-esteem of the American people and their sense of national pride. Actually, they came as part of the “War on Terrorâ€, a phrase used for the first time by President Bush in his famous September 20, 2001 speech.

But cracking down on US-based Islamic relief groups meant, first and foremost, keeping them under a tight scrutiny in an attempt to thwart the financing of terrorism, after the government discovered that al-Qaeda and other militant groups had abused charities to fund attacks across the globe.

This paper takes the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation as a case study, not only because it was the first of its kind to come under the spotlight of law enforcement officials, but also because it had been the largest Muslim charitable organization before it was shut by the Bush administration in December 2001. More importantly, it explores the controversy over civil rights, especially the unwavering contention opposing advocates of unrestricted governmental powers to preserve national security, to individual liberties champions, more concerned about the consequential erosion of such constitutional rights, and staunchly committed to defend them.

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