Fourth, the war on terrorism has affected Islamic charities in terms of transparency. According to John, Douglas and Serena (n.d, p. 1-7), the apparent lack of clarity on the implications of donor policies and legislations has led to decreased accountability and transparency in the way in which Islamic charities are monitored and regulated. This is more so in cases where the charity organizations have to operate in situations that require frequent interactions with designated groups or individuals (Berry, 1990, p. 95-96). For instance, for aid organizations based in Gaza, documentation is rarely done during cluster meetings to avoid suspicion of engagement with proscribed terrorist organizations. In that case, it is common for donors to give policy advice and other material communications on non-headed papers. This makes it difficult to track the communications and in case of suspicion, no one will be held responsible (Weisman 2005, p. 34).
Funding terrorism sources and methods
As the war against terrorism gets strengthened through various policy legislations, donations to Islamic charities have become less transparent as donors and charities turn to less regulated and unorthodoxy means to avoid contravening counter-terrorism laws. Some donors prefer giving cash donations because these are hard to track (Juliet & Gregory 2011, p. 23). The down side of the cash strategy is that there is a limit on the amount of cash that can be carried and transferred especially across the border. For example, during Pakistan’s deadly floods of 2010, restrictions about banking affected transfer of monetary aid from Islamic charities in Europe and Americas to Pakistan. This forced donors to give lots of cash to individuals and small NGOs (U.S, Department of the Treasury 2006, p. 16).
Fifth, the war on terror and its supporting legislations have affected the coordination of Islamic charities operations due to the threat of criminal sanctions (Jeremy & Jude 2008, p. 38). Because of the increased monitoring of the activities of Islamic charities and partner organizations, there is a high risk of criminalization and potential likelihood of staff prosecution. For this reason, many individuals working on Islamic charities are reluctant to discuss important issues that could lead to development of the most effective responses with aid organizations. Charities are reluctant to share crucial information in coordination forums. This level of reluctance is also visible among aid donors with most of them preferring not to discuss any issue openly (Alex & Garry, 2009, p. 122).
The effects of 9/11
The situation at GAZA provides a good illustration of the effects of 9/11on the global regulatory frameworks on Islamic charities. Hamas is an Islamist movement with strong political influence in Gaza. The organization has been designated a terrorist group due to its strong opposition to the state of Israel (Charity Commission 2009). In 2006, Hamas won legislative elections in Gaza. Immediately, the United States, the European Union, Israel, the United Nations and Russia imposed sanctions on Hamas. Part of these sanctions required strict monitoring of Islamic charities that donated aid to Hamas (Napoleoni 2005, p. 34). Subsequently, aid donors have been making grants to Gaza on strict conditions that the grants would not benefit Hamas in any way. However, this has not been possible because Hamas represents government authorities in the Palestinian conclave. Therefore, a number of Islamic charities and NGOs have been compelled to suspend or limit their operations in Gaza, leaving thousands of people vulnerable to hunger, diseases and homelessness. Indeed, the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization in many jurisdictions including the US has affected humanitarian operations led by Islamic charities in Gaza (Charity Commission 2009).
Hamas’ growing influence means that more sanctions are likely to be imposed. Accordingly, any aid organizations working in the region has to bypass established protocols for fear that their operations border potential breach of sanction laws. Some Islamic charities are unable to work with local authorities and municipalities headed by Hamas affiliated leaders as doing so could be interpreted to mean support for Hamas. Relations with Hamas authorities and Islamic charities have deteriorated further after Hamas was accused of staging a series of terrorist attacks targeting Israel. Tensions escalated further after Hamas announced plans to vet Western financed NGOs operating in its area of jurisdiction (Roy 2001, p. 5-20).
The sanctions have also created additional bureaucracies for Islamic charities which now have to devote scarce staff time and resources in checking that aid partners are not blacklisted. Licenses have to be applied for under Israel authorities with assurance that necessary background checks have been carried out to ascertain the legitimacy of prospective aid beneficiaries and partner organizations (Bingham and Lazareva, 2014, p. 91). For this reason, several Islamic charities employ personnel whose duty is to specifically carry out these checks. As a result, operational costs have significantly increased, forcing Islamic charities to reduce the scale of operations. The post 9/11 counter-terrorism laws have also limited the pool of local suitable partners, thereby dealing a blow to the relations between Islamic charities and donor partners. For this reason, most Islamic charities especially those that rely on major international NGOs are moving towards developing their own relief programs to avoid the legal challenges of partnering. In addition, as most aid agencies in Gaza Strip are barred from coordinating their aid programs with local partners, parallel structures are being put in place to circumvent restrictions (Levitt 2003, p. 32- 34).
War on terror facts
Similar to the situation in Gaza, the situation in Somalia provides another rich example of how the war against terror is frustrating humanitarian missions in conflict zones. The horn of African country has not had a stable government for 25 years. The fall of the government of Siad Barre in 1991 left a power vacuum which led to the emergence of extremist groups grappling to control power. The most important of these groups is Al Shabaab, which is affiliated to the infamous terrorist group al Qaeda. Today, al shabaab controls huge territories in Somalia where it imposes strict religious laws. The group is opposed to any Western values and is at odds with the transitional government of Somalia. For several years, Al Shabaab has restricted humanitarian aid to Somalia, thereby forcing millions of people to starve. Aid organizations have concentrated their operations in areas controlled by the government such as the capital city, Mogadishu, leaving other parts of the country vulnerable to deadly famines and pandemics.
Undoubtedly, the application of stringent counterterrorism laws and other measures targeted at aid organizations have severely crippled operations of Islamic charities (Celina, 2015, p. 22). Bureaucracies involved in complying with funding agreements have curtailed operations of charities in areas controlled by designated terrorist groups or individuals (Eben 2006, p. 48). This has affected the ability of aid organizations to provide legitimate humanitarian assistance even in situations where local communities are in dire need of the aid. Although preventing material support for terrorism is important, the legislations implemented as part of the counterterrorism war are having devastating negative impacts on genuine efforts to provide live saving support to communities caught up in conflicts (Alfred & Christopher 2005, p 19).
As Kristina (n.d, p. 1-7) reports, the diversity of regulatory laws that have been introduced since 9/11 have raised operation costs, slowed down administrative efficiency and curtailed funding for charities. It has been established that there has been a sizeable number of prosecutions of charitable organizations for collaborating with terrorist organizations. However, the risk of criminal sanctions continues to undermine charitable operations at least until there is clarification on the application of counterterrorism laws to charities. For now, most of the charitable groups continue to suffer from stringent laws even if the charities are not involved in any outlawed activitiesn (Sageman 2004, p. 84-96).
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