Understanding Islamic Charities

Since 9/11, intelligence agencies, independent commissions, and private-sector analyses have repeatedly asserted that terrorist organizations rely heavily on funding from Islamic charities. This alleged support for acts of violence and terrorism in the Islamic charitable sector—and a seeming toleration of such activities—raises serious questions. Is a significant portion of this charitable sector a front for terrorist activities? Or is a small minority tainting the good deeds of the majority? How do legitimate charities relate to their illegitimate peers, if at all, and how can one distinguish between the two? How do organizations that have both bona fide charitable operations and armed wings blend their charity with acts of violence? How much are the charitable and social service arms of such blended organizations intended as recruitment mechanisms for a fundamentally violent set of goals?

In general, Western understanding of Islamic charities remains limited. This volume, therefore, seeks to answer some of the more important questions related to philanthropy in the Muslim world. How do these charities operate? How are they funded? And how, in some cases, are they involved in terrorist activities? The authors explore the variety of roles that Muslim philanthropies play in different countries, their interactions with national and international institutions, and the boundaries and connections between their philanthropic roles and their political impacts.

Jon B. Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program

Karin von Hippel, Jonathan Benthall, Natalia Filipiak, A. Nizar Hamzeh, Andre Le Sage, Haim Malka, John Ratcliffe, James Shaw-Hamilton, Julianne Smith

Karin von Hippel