American Muslim Philanthropy after 9/11

  • Kambiz GhaneaBassiri Reed College


Following 9/11, American Muslim philanthropy has generally been framed in terms of national security and civil liberties.  In practice, however, American Muslims’ charitable giving has neither posed a threat to national security nor has the government’s closing of some of the largest Muslim relief organizations after 9/11 had the chilling effect that many predicted it would have had on American Muslims’ religious obligation of giving to charity.  This article argues that the American Muslim philanthropy post-9/11 belies enduring presuppositions about Islam’s rigidity and religion’s interiority, which resulted in widespread misapprehensions about the nature of Muslim philanthropy in America after 9/11.  American Muslim philanthropy post-9/11 highlights the polyvalence and fluidity of the public practice of Islam.  In the fluid space of practice, American Muslims have brought together Islamic vocabularies of charity and American legal and sociopolitical norms regarding philanthropy to forge new relations across groups of varying social, religious, political, cultural, and economic backgrounds.

Author Biography

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Reed College
Professor of Religion and Humanities


A Muslim at the RNC. (2016, July 19). The Islamic Monthly. Retrieved from
Ameri, N. (2004). Right to Zakat. Islamic Horizons, (July/August), p. 24.

Bafaquih, A. A. (2006). Zakat violated. Islamic Horizons, (May/June), pp. 28–29.

Bassiouni, M. C. (2008). Legal abuse fails. Islamic Horizons, (January/February), p. 32.

Bonner, M., Ener, M., & Singer, A. (Eds.). (2003). Poverty and charity in Middle Eastern contexts. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Brooks, D. (2016, June 17). Religion’s wicked neighbor. The New York Times, p. A29.

Bureau of Public Affairs Department of State. (2001, September 24). President freezes terrorists’ assets. Retrieved from rls/rm/ 2001/ 5041.htm

Burr, M., & Collins, R. O. (2006). Alms for jihad: Charity and terrorism in the Islamic world. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Council on American-Islamic Relations. (2015). Why CAIR qualifies for Zakat. Retrieved from

Council on Foundations. (2003). Comments on U.S. Department of the Treasury anti-terrorist financing guidelines: Voluntary best practices for U.S.-based charities.

Curtis, E. (2013). The study of American Muslims: A history. In J. Hammer, & O. Safi (Eds.), The Cambridge companion to American Islam (pp. 15–27). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Day, K. (2001, November 7). U.S. Islamic cash outlets investigated: ‘Hawalas’ suspected in terror funding. The Washington Times, p. A1.

Delevett, P. (2003, September 20). Promoting study of Islam: Stanford plans program, professorship, thanks to huge gift from alumna. San Jose Mercury News, 1A.

Diouf, S. A. (1999). Sadaqa among African Muslims enslaved in the Americas. Journal of Islamic Studies, 10(1), pp. 22–32.

Eliade, M. (1959). The sacred and the profane. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World.

Fauzia, A. (2013). Faith and state: A history of Islamic philanthropy in Indonesia. Leiden, NL: Brill.

Fitzgerald, T. (2003). The ideology of religious studies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Fox, J., & Akbaba, Y. (2015). Securitization of Islam and religious discrimination: Religious minorities in Western democracies, 1990–2008. Comparative European Politics, 13(2), pp. 175–197.

Frantz, D. (2001, October 3). A nation challenged: The financing; ancient secret system moves money globally. The New York Times, p. B5.

GhaneaBassiri, K. (2010). A history of Islam in America: From the New World to the new world order. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

al-Ghazali, A. H. (1405 AH/1982 CE). Asrar al-zakat. A. A. Muhammad, (Ed.) Beirut: Manshurat al-Maktabat al-‘Asriyya.

Girth, J., & Miller, J. (2001, November 5). A nation challenged: Money trail; U.S. makes inroads in isolating funds of terror groups. The New York Times, p. A1.

Granger, M. (Ed.). (1972). Drums and shadows: Survival studies among the Georgia coastal Negroes. New York, NY: Anchor Books—Doubleday. (Original work published 1940)

Hartman, M. (2011, September 9). Muslim charitable giving shifted to domestic causes after 9/11. Retrieved from

Islamic Horizons. (2005a, September). A special supplement: Hurricane Katrina, a national disaster: Muslim Americans rally to help fellow citizens.

Islamic Horizons. (2005b, November). A special supplement: A gigantic challenge: Muslim Americans rush to help South Asian earthquake victims.

James, W. (2002). The Varieties of religious experience: A study of human nature. New York, NY: The Modern Library. (Original work published 1902)

Jost, P. M., & Sandhu, H. S. (2000). The Hawala alternative remittance system and its role in money laundering. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in cooperation with INTERPOL/FOPAC, n.d. Retrieved from

Khan, M. (2006). Eyewitness to pain. Islamic Horizons, (January/February), 23.

Luanay, R. (1992). Beyond the stream: Islam and society in a West African town. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Mandaville, P. (2013). Islam and exceptionalism in American political discourse. PS: Political Science and Politics, 46(2), 235–239.

Al-Marayati, S. (2004, October 21). Outside view: Picking on U.S. Muslims. United Press International. Retrieved from

McCutcheon, R. T. (1997). Manufacturing religion: The discourse on sui generis religion. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

McKinnon, J., Chorney, J., & Carnig, J. (2001, November 8). Feds target “dangerous” Hawalas: Local immigrants stress necessity of transfers. San Mateo County Times, front page.

Moyers, R. (2002). A shocking silence on Muslim charities. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 15(1).

Obama, B. (2009, June 2). On a new beginning. Remarks at Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt. Retrieved from

Otto, R. (2010). The idea of the holy: An inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the divine and its relation to the rational (Das Heilige) (J. W. Harvey, Trans.). Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing. (Original Work Published 1917)

Payton, R. L., & Moody, M. P. (2008). Understanding philanthropy: Its meaning and mission. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Reuters. (2004, June 2). U.S. Treasury names Islamic finance methods adviser.

Sabra, A. (2000). Poverty and charity in medieval Islam: Mamluk Egypt, 1250–1517 (Cambridge studies in Islamic civilization). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Saih, J. E. (2008, July 31). Interview by ACLU. Blocking faith, freezing charity: Chilling Muslim charitable giving in the “War on Terrorism Financing,” p. 89.

Shaw, R. (1995). Feminist anthropology and the gendering of religious studies. In R. McCutcheon (Ed.), The insider/outsider problem in the study of religion: A reader (pp. 104–113). New York, NY: Continuum.

Siddiqui, S. (2013). Myth vs. reality: Muslim American philanthropy since 9/11. In T. Davis (Ed.), Religion in philanthropic organizations: Family, friend, foe? (pp. 203–214). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Siddiqui, S. (2010). Giving in the way of God: Muslim philanthropy in the United States. In D. Smith (Ed.), Religious giving: For love of God (pp. 28–48). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Singer, A. (2008). Charity in Islamic societies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Skerry, P. (2006, August 14). The American exception: Homegrown terrorism in the U.S. Time.

Smith, J. Z. (1987). To take place: Toward theory in ritual. Chicago, IL:
The University of Chicago Press.

Smith, W. C. (1957). Islam in modern history. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Turner, J. (2009). Blocking faith, freezing charity: Chilling Muslim charitable giving in the “War on Terrorism Financing.” New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union.

U.S. Department of Treasury. (2002, November). Anti-terrorist financing guidelines: Voluntary best practices for U.S.-based charities.

Wasserstrom, S. M. (1999). Religion after religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Williams, G. (2004, October 28). Charities and foundations issue antiterrorism principles. The Chronicle of Philanthropy.