Muslim-American groups give Obama mixed reviews
By Michelle Boorstein
President Obama thrilled Muslims around the world one year ago with a speech in Cairo in which he said America seeks "a new beginning" in its relations with the Muslim world, and gave voice to concerns ranging from the status of the Palestinians to law enforcement scrutiny of Muslim charitable giving.
With tomorrow marking the year anniversary of the speech, Muslim-American leaders are taking stock of the administration's efforts and giving it both praise and criticism.
Most of the largest Muslim-American organizations plan to deliver a statement to the White House tomorrow saying they are concerned about rules governing charitable giving, which they feel can unjustly punish unwitting - but well-intentioned - donors and have been used to focus unfairly on Muslim donors. Non-profits serving Muslim communities say this fear of being investigated by the federal government has harmed Muslim American giving.
In the Cairo speech, Obama said "rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation" to give charity. But having reviewed the subject, a senior administration official said today that the problem is that the rules are being misinterpreted and mythologized to be a problem when they are not, that significant assets have not been frozen and people who were unwitting donors to banned groups are not actually being pursued by law enforcement. As of now, the official said, the administration is not working to change any current rules.
The administration declined to let a named official discuss the anniversary.
Among the groups delivering the statement tomorrow are the Islamic Society of North America, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Advocates also praised the administration for a variety of moves, including broadly "setting a new tone," said CAIR government affairs director Corey Saylor. He noted that the White House had defended its Muslim-American appointees - Rashad Hussain, the U.S. representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and Dalia Mogahed, who serves on the President's faith advisory council -- who came under some criticism for allegedly being soft on extremism. He also praised the administration for following through on promises to link Muslim business leaders from around the world with American business leaders.
The administration has stepped up its outreach to the Muslim world, committing staff in embassies to expanding relations with grassroots and religious leaders and beefing up the State Department staff that seeks such outreach.
Michelle Boorstein| June 3, 2010; 4:24 PM ET | Category: God in Government Save & Share:
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