A Brief History
The Muslim Legal Fund of America ("MLFA") was established in November 2001 by a coalition of civil rights activists seeking to redress systemic discrimination against Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians. While these communities have historically not been immune from discrimination, the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 caused a surge in discrimination, hate crimes, and unlawful profiling by both public and private actors.
Immediately following the terrorist attacks, law enforcement questioned Muslims en mass about their constitutionally protected rights of free speech, association, and religion. The Department of Justice engaged in selective immigration enforcement by targeting Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians for deportation. Nonimmigrant men between the ages of 16 and 45 from primarily Muslim countries were required to register with the government pursuant to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System ("NSEERS").
Despite the good faith registration of these nonimmigrants, the government deported thousands of Muslim men and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of Muslim families in America. Bigoted individuals and vigilante groups committed hate crimes including bombing mosques, defaming mosques with swastikas and anti-Muslim slurs, beating Muslims in public areas, forcibly removing head coverings off of Muslim women's head, and murdering Muslims. Articles, books, speeches and websites that portrayed the entire Muslim community as terrorists and Islam as a religion of violence appeared with increasing and alarming frequency.
Equally troubling was prosecutors' smear of the American Muslim community by labeling over 300 Muslim individuals and American Muslim organizations as "un-indicted co-conspirators" in a 2006 criminal trial. Such an unprecedented and over reaching action violated the Department of Justice's internal policies and attorney manuals. It has resulted in irreparable harm to these individuals and organization's reputations, and because they were never charged or indicted for criminal activity, they are left with no legal recourse to defend their reputations.
MLFA was established to develop effective strategies and pursue constructive solutions to counter discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians in the criminal justice system, work place, educational institutions, airports, air carriers, immigration policies, and public accommodations. MLFA is especially concerned with impediments on American Muslims' ability to give charity, also known as zakat, as a result of the government's closure of nearly every major Muslim charity in the United States. Collateral effects from such closures, including the deportation and prosecution of donors on non-terrorism related charges created a palatable chilling effect on religious liberty rights. Notwithstanding the passage of 10 years since the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks, Muslim donors continue to fear government retaliation for giving charity to Muslim charities in the United States.
Since its founding, MLFA has supported numerous public interest cases. MLFA continues to educate the public, raise funds, and participate in coalition efforts aimed at restoring the fundamental American principles of fairness and equality for which our Founding Fathers fought so hard to establish. MLFA enjoys the support of thousands of Americans of diverse backgrounds who believe that the ideals of freedom, liberty and justice for all apply equally Muslims in America.
The Muslim Legal Fund of America received its tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in 2001 and a fatwa from the Islamic Society of North America ("ISNA") Fiqh Council of North America in March 2003 declaring donations to MLFA as legitimate Zakat-ul-Mal.