Response to National Review’s Feature Article “Uncharitable: Zakat is Not About Charity, but Jihad”

| April 23, 2011 | 16 Comments

Response to National Review’s Feature Article “Uncharitable: Zakat is Not About Charity, but Jihad”


Dear National Review Editors,

Your publication of Andrew C. McCarthy’s piece, “Uncharitable: Zakat is Not About Charity, but Jihad”, featured April 23, 2011, is a complete disappointment to your standing as a leading conservative publication, as well as to journalism and truthful reporting.

Mr. McCarthy indulged in several exaggerated statements about Islam and Muslims that surprisingly missed a keen editorial eye and were allowed to be published. It is my interest to address those inaccuracies and educate you on what zakat truly is; clearly, there is an imperative need for such education at this time. Allowing such a level of gross statements to circulate uncorrected among your readership is the reason why conservatism has not only earned a poor reputation but also why it flourishes with racism at this time. Mr. McCarthy’s piece is a clear example of what’s wrong with modern conservatism.  Your willingness to publish his ill-informed piece is also a clear example of what’s wrong with conservative media.

His first misstatement is as follows:

There are, in fact, no American laws or rules that make it harder for Muslims to give to charity. What we have are laws against material support of terrorism — against using devices like charitable fronts to channel money to jihadists. Those laws are not directed at Muslims. They apply to everyone but are applied most often to Muslims, because Muslims carry out most anti-American terrorism.

Correction: While it is true that at the moment, Muslims carry out the most known anti-American terrorism, his preceding statement touching on Obama’s Cairo speech addressing an alleged difficulty for Muslims to give to charity, makes a direct connection between all Muslims as referenced in Obama’s speech and the small percentage of Muslims who I’m sure do redirect zakat money to fund jihadi objectives.  However, such actions are the cause of individual choice and cannot be ascribed to the faith nor be treated as a blanket statement stereotyping all Muslims.

Second misstatement:

The president’s suggestion that the religious obligation of zakat — one of the “five pillars of Islam” — is the equivalent of “charitable giving.” It is not. Zakat is every Muslim’s obligation to contribute to the fortification of the ummah, the notional worldwide Islamic nation. And that very much includes the funding of violent jihad against non-Muslims.


Correction: First, zakat is charitable giving. I invite Mr. McCarthy to share where in the Quran Muslims are supposedly urged to fund violent jihad. He will not find it because it’s not there. However, verses explaining and encourage charity are readily available (see 3:92; 2:177; 2-261-266, 2:271-273). I’m not an Islamic scholar, but all it takes is a little bit of research and fact-checking to make sure you know what you’re talking about, rather than indulging in bigoted statements that ensure higher readership among a fringe audience.

To continue, there are two types of charitable giving, zakat and sadaqa. Zakat is required giving for Muslims. Muslims are expected to give 2.5% of their annual income to charitable aims to support the needy. If we cannot give monetarily, we are expected to give of our time. As in any act of giving, the goal is to strip ourselves of selfishness and to think of our community.  Unfortunately, yes it’s true that zakat is reserved for Muslims. While this was very likely because an early Muslim community was struggling to thrive and needed internal help, it certainly is disappointing to see that mentality continue among many (but not all) Muslims today. However, this is where sadaqa comes in. Sadaqa is general charitable giving without stipulations or guidelines. One can give sadaqa freely to whomever they please, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and this does occur regularly among Muslims. Where Muslim organizations have failed, Muslim individuals have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help non-Muslims – stories which simply do not garner mainstream media interest.

Third misstatement:

[On Global Giving:] What of the world’s Muslims? Over the same period of time, they accounted for a whopping 0.1 percent of the total donations committed by governments — basically, a rounding error for a Saudi sheikh’s weekend in Vegas. Drawing a telling contrast, Ms. Rosett noted that the House of Saud’s annual contribution to ICRC operations in 2008 came to a grand total of $216,460 — less than a penny per Saudi, though quite generous compared with the $50,000 kicked in by Iran, whose population is three times larger. By contrast, the United States gave $237.8 million.

How could it be that the oil-drenched realm of zakat – of what we are to believe is obligatory benevolence — lags so embarrassingly behind Dar al-Greed? Very simple: Zakat is not “charity” as we understand that term.

Mr. McCarthy has taken arguably one of the worst examples of Muslim leadership and applied to to the whole. The House of Saud hardly represents Muslims (especially when considering that most Muslims aren’t Arab), nor can Islam itself be held responsible for the disproportionate giving among failed Muslim leadership.

In closing, I’m extremely disappointed to see such rhetoric published in your magazine, and hope that in the future you’ll offer a little more accuracy to your readership. Thank you for your time.



Shireen Qudosi
Editor, Qudosi Chronicles


Editor’s Note – April 24, 2011
McCarthy offers a response. I appreciate it but I don’t feel he’s addressed argument premises. Regarding verse 9:60, which he uses to justify his argument connecting zakat with jihad by citing it’s “in the cause of Allah”, and then relying on Islamic scholarship as a support his claim – allow me to remind McCarthy that not only does the ‘supporting’ text interpret rather than look at the exact text, but that (if he had read the Quran himself before criticizing it, he would know) there are many causes of Allah and that violent jihad is one scholar’s interpretation. McCarthy has selected one vague verse and applied a chosen meaning to it rather than look at all the verses that directly state zakat’s purpose.

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Comments (16)

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  1. Michael Dar says:

    I do not doubt for an instant that you mean well and make all possible efforts to present another face of Islam. Your task is almost impossible! Unfortunately, facts are there for all to see. You cannot deny that the liberal, democratic western countries are the target of the Islamic world. I have been listening to the Immams in the mosques from all over the world. Their messages are the same almost everywhere, and it is not one of peace. Where does the militantic Immams and the likes of Sheikh Quik, Anjem Choudry, Abdullah el- Faisal or Organizations like Cair (Sponsor of Hamas) get their funding from if not mostly from charities?. It is virtually impossible to know if real legitimate charity are finally not used for illegitimate purposes. Everybody knows that Arab-Islamic terrorism (95% of world’s terror) is financially supported by Arab/Islamic potentate states, Islamic caritative organization, narcotics and illegal weapon commerce. I nevertheless refuse automatic stigmatization because of the few (growing) other voices I hear from Arabs and Muslims.

    • Anonymous says:

      But you can’t pin this on the faith itself when looking at what guidelines we have for charitable giving. Jihad is not one of them, plain and simple.

  2. Mjrsifou says:

    Well said Shireen!! Snaps to you for calling people on what they say…they should do their homework first and not say inaccurate blanket statements about so many people and a religion that neither deserve being accused of this misinformation!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks. I’ll check it out.

    • GW says:

      … and has dismantled your argument.

      • Anonymous says:

        I would disagree. He’s completely ignored the premise of my arguments.

        • Enough Already says:

          Incorrect. He cited evidence, but you only made a series if conclusory assertions that really just state your opinion on the matter and nothing more. If you expect to back up statements showing that his example of Haiti, for instance, was inaccurate or an outlier example, it would help to point to other examples (preferably enough exames to show that it is a clear outlier against the trend, as opposed to your own cherry-picked data).

          In short, you were dissected pretty handily by his post.

      • I always distrust comments that make triumphant announcements like “has dismantled your argument.” There is an atheist character who drops in at Hank Hannegraaf to announced that he “demolishes Hank’s entire post.” Such claims almost always ring hollow, being made by people so in love with their own image, that they neglect to examine whether there is any substance under the surface. Either that, or they are covering a serious lack of confidence with brash words.

  3. Enough Already says:

    Yes, actually, you can. Your view here completely ignores the weight of history and the faith of Islam itself. There is a reason there is so much violence and ignorance preached by those who follow “the faith,” because the core texts and a great deal (if not the majority) of informed (I.e. Writing by practicers of the faith and imams) supporting writin and preaching supports and directs it.

    If you want to help Islam get a better image, you need to get your head out of the sand and start confronting others of the faith. Taking on those outside the faith, like McCarthy, for only pointing out real flaws will do nothing.

    BTW, christianity went through it’s own time of militancy that was more or less supported by it’s central text and learning (Buddhism did as well: see Ashoka Maurya (sp?)). Thankfully, the tradition of western civilization and the enlightenmentturned away from that nonsense…. Starting in the 1500’s

    • Enough Already says:

      Apologies again…… The above is in response to the blogger’s post below that you cant pin things on the faith itself…

  4. Enough Already says:

    Apologies…. Didnt quite finish……

    ….. Starting in the 1500’s with the reformation and continuing on for the next several centuries.

    Unfortunately, islam today looks more like the Christianity of the crusades (I.e. It’s a
    Medeival view of the world), and it’s high time that people within he religion started taking on their own Muddled views. It is the 21st century, after all, not the 7th…….

  5. Michael Dar says:

    I feel uncomfortable by having to disagree with well intentioned, peaceful, compromising Muslims such as Qudosi. First of all because there are so few of them and I wish they would become a majority in their faith as to breng about a different, les aggressive, better, more conciliant attitute towards non Muslims. They will have to make the needed changes themselves like stop taking the “Prophet” at his word and of course overcome (and survive) the theological crisis that would provoke. Charity by the way was not a Muslim invention and already an obligation in Judaisme (Tzdaka) and later also adopted by the Christians, well before Islam. Who said “War is Deceit”? The problem begins when “Zakat” meant to originally be a social enterprise, is highjacked by Islamists for “Jihad”. For instance, Hizbollah (Lebanon) and Hamas (Gaza) with the help of Muslim “charity” from around the world created (seemingly legitimate) social structures like education, healthcare etc. which the local authority would or could not provide to the people. Those, while materially helped by the (terrorist) organizations were at the same time indoctrinated, recruted and trained for Jihad.
    Unscrupulous misuse of charity is an universal phenomenon by the way, not specific to Isalm. For instance almost every executives and staff of NGO’s make a life long, overpaid career with the funds provided for by charity, government assistance to develploping countries.

  6. spool32 says:

    That seems a weak response. Wasn’t his source for interpretation a valid and widely accepted one within the Islamic faith?

  7. SiarlysJenkins says:

    Excellent refutation, and you are correct, McCarthy does not answer your criticisms at all, he just indulges in a long-winded “is so” rant, worthy of a child on a school playground.

    The fundamental point is that the tenets of Islam, per se, call for charitable giving, whether zakat or sadaqa, not for funding acts of terror. Beyond that, like any of the world’s great religions, or even the world’s minor religions, there are a variety of individuals ways that professed adherents practice, or stray from, the teachings of their faith, or argue over the difference.

    What do you think of the Christian evangelist who deliberately invaded a community celebration in Dearborn, where he KNEW the participants were mainly Muslim, then had himself filmed to show how intolerant Muslims are? (Gary Fouse featured it). I think I would have responded the same way the crowd did, not matter what my religion was. Hey, we’re trying to have a nice time and you’re spewing all this deliberate provocation…

  8. For me Zakat is a 3 pilar of islam. Islam is incomplete without it.

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