POLITICS

Ignored In Obama Speech: Shift From Bush On Muslim Charities

I credit Spencer Ackerman for being the guy who got me looking for the many ways President Barack Obama applies counterinsurgency strategy to policy and politics. And, over the course of lengthily reviewing Obama's Cairo speech today, Ackerman seems to place Obama's efforts squarely within the COIN genre -- an appeal to the persuadable parties throughout the region that simultaneously frosts dead-enders like the Iranian hardliners. And he did so, as Ackerman notes, without backing down from the stated commitment to Afghanistan or otherwise sounding a note of apology.

Elsewhere, however, Ackerman picks out part of the speech that he feels might end up going underreported, namely, "that Obama indicated he'll relax Bush-era restrictions on Muslim charitable giving."

Cairo, today:

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Ackerman points out that there's an obvious next set of questions that go to both security policy specifics and broad-strokes politicking:

A lot of work is going to need to go into establishing what exactly Obama means here. Some U.S. Muslim charities have been convicted of funnelling money to terrorist organizations, primarily against Israel. Some of the cases, however, have apparently been created on the basis of illegal surveillance, as lawyers for the al-Haramain charity contest. The issue, however, speaks directly to whether the government will compel American Muslims to choose between different aspects of their identity or embrace them as American citizens.

We'll have to wait and see if this matter ends up getting and substantive attention. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be surprised to see this issue become the grist for the next great paranoid freak-out.

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