Uncharitable by Andrew C. McCarthy
April 23, 2011 4:00 A.M.
‘In the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation,” President Obama claimed during his 2009 Cairo speech. “That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”
This statement contained two falsehoods. One, as I’ve previously detailed, was obvious: There are, in fact, no American laws or rules that make it harder for Muslims to give to charity. What we have are laws against material support of terrorism — against using devices like charitable fronts to channel money to jihadists. Those laws are not directed at Muslims. They apply to everyone but are applied most often to Muslims, because Muslims carry out most anti-American terrorism.
The other falsehood was more subtle: the president’s suggestion that the religious obligation of zakat — one of the “five pillars of Islam” — is the equivalent of “charitable giving.” It is not. Zakat is every Muslim’s obligation to contribute to the fortification of the ummah, the notional worldwide Islamic nation. And that very much includes the funding of violent jihad against non-Muslims.
When an earthquake devastated Haiti last year, the West, led as always by the Great Satan, instantly opened its heart and pocketbook. Within days, as the Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Claudia Rosett reported, the U.S. government had pledged $90 million in public funds, 44 percent of the total anted up by governments worldwide. That was just a fraction of the true American contribution. Despite a deep recession and widespread unemployment, private citizens contributed tens of millions of dollars to the relief efforts. In addition, our armed forces mobilized to provide food, medical treatment, and other humanitarian aid. Untold additional millions in American aid backed relief efforts by the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the World Bank. The economic downturn was global, but still European, Canadian, Japanese, and South American governments and citizens also donated millions.
What of the world’s Muslims? Over the same period of time, they accounted for a whopping 0.1 percent of the total donations committed by governments — basically, a rounding error for a Saudi sheikh’s weekend in Vegas. Drawing a telling contrast, Ms. Rosett noted that the House of Saud’s annual contribution to ICRC operations in 2008 came to a grand total of $216,460 — less than a penny per Saudi, though quite generous compared with the $50,000 kicked in by Iran, whose population is three times larger. By contrast, the United States gave $237.8 million.
How could it be that the oil-drenched realm of zakat – of what we are to believe is obligatory benevolence — lags so embarrassingly behind Dar al-Greed? Very simple: Zakat is not “charity” as we understand that term.
Muslims are taught that charity means Muslims aiding Muslims, for the purpose of fortifying and extending the ummah until all the world is Islam’s domain. “Of their wealth, take alms,” instructs Allah in the Koran (9:103), “that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them.” Thus, zakat may be given only to Muslims.
Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law (Umdat al-Salik) was compiled by the renowned Muslim jurisprudent Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri in the 14th century. It is the most authoritative source on the subject of sharia (Islamic law), having been certified by al-Azhar University in Cairo — the font of Sunni learning — as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community.” In fact, when an English edition of Reliance (now available through Amazon.com) was published in 1994, it won gushing praise from the government of Saudi Arabia (where sharia is the only law), as well as the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, all of which incorporate sharia in their legal systems. Reliance is quite blunt on the matter: “It is not permissible to give zakat to a non-Muslim.”