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.
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.
[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.
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.