MLFA’s story began eighteen years ago, after the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Muslim Legal Fund of America was established 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 tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11 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. Islamophobia dominated politics and the media, affecting Muslims from the classroom to the courtroom. A “Muslim” registry was formed (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System – NSEERS), targeting Arabs and South Asians for deportation. Fast forward 18 years, and communities face denaturalization programs, the Muslim ban, and terror watchlists that disproportionately affect minorities in this country.
Equally troubling was the targeted smear campaign against the American Muslim community by labeling over 300 Muslim individuals and American Muslim organizations as “un-indicted co-conspirators” in the shocking and unjust 2006 criminal trial of the Holy Land Foundation. Such an unprecedented and overreaching action harmed the reputations of individuals and organizations, who were left with no legal recourse to defend themselves.
MLFA aimed to develop effective strategies and pursue constructive solutions to counter discrimination against American Muslims in the legal justice system. MLFA is especially concerned with impediments on American Muslims’ ability to give charity (zakat) as a result of the government’s closure of many major Muslim charities in the US. Collateral effects of 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 18 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Muslim donors continue to fear government retaliation for donating to Muslim charities in the United States.
MLFA’s strategy evolved to focus on proactive engagement of our Muslim organizations, schools, mosques, and charities, while also supporting numerous public interest cases in matters concerning national security law. It funded a strategically focused, specialized law center, the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, in order to retain the best counsel and promote legal compliance to empower and protect our communities, from the inside, out.
Since its founding, MLFA continues to fund 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 to Muslims in America.