Friday, January 11, 2008
Ever since 9/11 charities have been unwillingly pulled into the global war on terror (GWOT). Soon after 9/11, Congress passed IRC 501(p), effectively denying tax exemption to any organization identified as a terrorist organization. Ever since, nonprofits -- particularly those with international ties or relationships -- have had to tread lightly. To some people, the highest risk comes with any sort of relationship with individuals or organizations identified with the Middle East or the Islamic faith. Now comes word that just the mere suggestion that a group might somehow, some way be linked to any sort of "radical" cause is enough to cause a charity to start gnashing its teeth. A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer relates the story of how Temple University rejected a $1.5 million endowment to create a chair in honor of one of its own. According to the article, Temple's Board of Trustees rejected the donation for fear the University might ge linked to an organization that had scarcely even been investigated. To some of our readers, this type of action might harken back to the great read scare. Here is an exerpt from the article:
Last spring, an Islamic group came to Temple University with an extremely generous offer: $1.5 million for an endowed chair in Islamic studies to honor religion professor Mahmoud Ayoub. But after months of talks, the deal fell apart when trustees and others raised concerns about the donor, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a nonprofit research organization that was included in a government probe into funding of suspected terrorists."They did not want a chair of Islamic studies funded by a Muslim organization," said Ayoub, a blind, 69-year-old Islamic and interreligious scholar who was to be the first occupant of the chair. "That is really a sad thing, because part of the chair's mandate was to encourage and engage in interfaith dialogue with Jews and Christians and others.
Is the board's action simple prudence or a variant of racial profiling? One has to wonder, for example, whether the board would have looked askance at the offer had it been for a chair in Greek Orthodoxy. The article suggests that Temple caved to pressure and racial bigotry from outside groups that labeled the donor organization an "Islamo-facist".