Charitable Practices of Muslim Americans in the Greater Kansas City Area
University of Kansas
Global and International Studies, Center for
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The purpose of this research is to explore the state of post-9/11 Muslim American philanthropy within The Greater Kansas City Area. Since 2001, the U.S. government has expanded its counterterrorism policies to target sources of terrorist funding and in particular the charitable sector. Many Muslim Americans practice the Islamic traditions of zakât (obligatory alms) and ṣadaqah (discretionary charity) as a means of honoring faith, strengthening the community and preserving religious identity. There is a perception, however, that these practices are in direct conflict with U.S. counterterrorism policy. The outcome of the decade long War on Terrorism is telling; to date, The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has shut down seven US-based Islamic charities and frozen over $2.3 billion in charitable assets (TAR, 2012: 2) in the effort to stem terrorist funding. These actions were taken under the auspices of national security, however, they gave a perception that U.S. policies trump Muslim American civil rights and discourage Islamic philanthropy; "The passage of both USA Patriot Acts, the closing of several Muslim charities, and the curbing of civil liberties beginning with the Bush administration and continuing through the Obama administration have caused contributions to Muslim American charities, especially those with an international scope, to decrease by up to 50 percent in the initial years." (Jamal, 2011: 5). The Greater Kansas City Area is no stranger to Islamic culture; according to The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), it has the 98th largest Muslim population out of 133 U.S. metropolitan centers with eighteen active Islamic congregations (thearda.com). The significant Kansas City Muslim population coupled with a recent stigmatization of Islam drives this primary research question: How have post-9/11 U.S. policies impacted Islamic charitable practices of Muslim Americans in the Greater Kansas City Area. This study employs a mixed-method research approach to answering this thesis question. First, it examines 30 years of U.S. policies that culminates in the `securitization' of the nonprofit sector. This research then conducts a comparative analysis of annual budgets from six Muslim and six non-Muslim charities in Kansas City to identify donation patterns since 9/11. Lastly, this study analyzes the results of focus group discussions conducted with fourteen volunteers from the Islamic Center of Johnson County (ICJC), Kansas City, Kansas to identify changes in individual charity over the last 10 years. The results of this research suggest that Kansas City's Islamic charities benefited from Muslim philanthropy in spite of post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism policies. Additionally this research suggests that Muslim Americans in Kansas City continue to practice innovative forms of charity regardless of prevailing concerns of civil-rights infringement. This research on the Kansas City Muslim American minority complements an academic narrative derived from research in other major U.S. metropolitan centers (Najam, Abraham, Howell, Shryock, and Hadaad). Its findings can be used to inform the opinions of local community leaders and serve as a starting point for broader, more comprehensive research on Kansas City's Muslim community.
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