Muslims and Wachovia Bank: Once bitten, twice as angry

Muslims and Wachovia Bank: Once bitten, twice as angry May 8, 2006
Darling, I promise I won’t do it again

It’s not news that since September 11th, Muslim charities in the US have been under scrutiny. There have been repeated attempts to investigate, shut down, or inhibit the activities of virtually every non-profit group with an Islamic connection, although few have been charged with any sort of crime. The pattern of activity has been constant and predictable: accuse and/or shut down first, punish if possible before an investigation (if any) can start, and in the chance that an inquiry is held and the charity is absolved of any wrongdoing, don’t bother to pick up the pieces – even though Muslim groups have tried repeatedly to prove their transparency. And this pattern that federal authorities set is usually followed by the private sector, which is given quite a bit of leeway in their treatment of Muslim customers. The most notable culprits have been airlines and banks, which sometimes find it easier to not do business with Muslim customers rather than take the (very slim) chance of being caught in a terrorist plot. The latest such instance of pre-emptive customer ejection came when Wachovia Bank, the fourth largest bank in the US, closed the account of a Muslim charity in northern Virginia. Lest one think that Muslim charities all have some sort of connection to the Muslim world and thus could unwittingly be a conduit for terrorist funds, the organization in question, the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help (FAITH), was founded in 1999 exclusively in the area of addressing domestic violence in America “regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender.” “It’s just really irritating,” said Margaret Farchtchi, treasurer of the group. “We’ve made extra efforts across the board as a Muslim organization to maintain transparency.” Muslim groups stepped up pressure on Wachovia to review the account closure (the bank says it will now do just that), and several Muslim organizations in the area with accounts at the bank are considering moving their accounts in advance of any pre-emptive action. Attempts by Muslim organizations to create a mutually-agreeable framework for fundraising and allocation of money (between the groups, the US Treasury Department, and banking institutions) has so far been fruitless. Which means that the law still allows for the seizure or blockage of funds of any organization with very little, if any, due process – the model, apparently, being used by banks such as Wachovia.

Shahed Amanullah is editor-in-chief of

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