Point of View: Make sure contributions go for good, not ill
Monday, May 6, on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims in Oklahoma and across the world begin 30 days of abstention from food, drink and other sensual pleasures lasting from before dawn until sunset. The month is also marked by increased prayer, community service, and sharing of faith and community with our allies across the state. It's a time to join with family and friends, deepen relationships with God, and strengthen commitments to organizations that fight injustice and protect Oklahomans of all faiths and creeds.
On this day, the national headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has released a report, “Hijacked by Hate: American Philanthropy and the Islamophobia Network,” detailing how more than $1.5 billion has been used to advance an anti-Muslim agenda through American philanthropic organizations, many of which are exploited without their knowledge and used to promote dangerous Islamophobic rhetoric and policy.
In a time when American philanthropic organizations carry tremendous financial and social power, it is vital for those who donate money to do so responsibly and to ensure that their donation doesn't contribute to the hate, disenfranchisement or oppression of others. Nearly 1,100 faith-based charities, family foundations and commercial foundations granted $125 million to 39 major anti-Muslim groups between 2014 and 2016. These groups, which have as a primary focus the vilification of Islam and Muslims, include the American Defense Initiative, led by Pamela Geller and cited as an inspiration by Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Brevik; ACT for America, a major contributor to anti-Sharia laws across the country; and the Center for Security Policy, which has among its contributors conspiracy theorist David Yerushalmi (“Our greatest enemy today is Islam”) and disgraced former FBI agent John Guandolo.
Oklahoma’s charitable organizations play an irreplaceable role in filling gaps where state services are underfunded and overworked. Supporting those who experience homelessness, providing medical care to impoverished families, fighting for justice and the defense of civil liberties, our nearly 19,000 nonprofits contribute nearly $15.3 billion to our state economy and employ around 10% of our workforce. Nonprofit giving is a vital part of American democracy, a longstanding tradition dating to the Founding Fathers that continues to benefit our society today. Oklahoma’s giving community should know if their generosity is being exploited by those who wish to use their platforms to sow fear and intolerance.
The 2019 Islamophobia report presents an opportunity for our nonprofit community to work together to ensure that as an industry, instead of contributing to anti-Muslim, anti-democratic groups, we are making positive social impacts and strengthening the bonds among faiths, ethnicities and Oklahomans from all walks of life.
Laizure is civil rights director for the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).