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Donations can cost you your liberty

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Making a charitable donation could find you in Camp X-Ray. Scott McNealy, Larry Ellison and Carly Fiorina, please note, you've been doing it too. As we'll explain. And you could be at risk too, dear reader: if it's the wrong charity ... at the wrong time.

Take the case of senior Intel Engineer Maher Mofied 'Mike' Hawash. Hawash has been arrested on undisclosed charges and detained. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but owes his loss of liberty - and constitutional rights - because he has detained as a "material witness" on the grounds of giving to a charity.

Senior Intel VP Stephen McGeady - a guy with very cool timing, as we recall from the Microsoft antitrust trial - has rallied to his support:-

"Americans are taught that the Constitution protects us against arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and that our freedom and these constitutional liberties are what we are fighting for in Iraq and elsewhere," McGeady wrote to the Oregonian.

"Yet one of our neighbors can be taken from his home or office and held without charge for weeks or months."

Hawash had indeed given to a charity, and The Oregonian newspaper, which had obtained a list of donors from the FBI, set about its work. It contacted Hawash last Fall, to question him about his donation, and last week, they could barely disguise their glee at his detention.

"It is shameful that the Oregonian chose to report this as though Hawash were a criminal, rather than as a citizen whose rights are being trampled," wrote McGeady.

But the crackdown was coming. The Feds were already keeping a beady eye on those wooden slot boxes and collection tins. A Portland FBI officer earlier this month boasted that his priority would was to get suspects "off the street", promising, "we'll be arresting them for tearing the tag off a mattress."

Well, somebody must have got reckless in Sleeptrain. The FBI froze the charity - Global Relief Fund, which distributes zakat or charity - one of the pillars of Islam - to fund health facilities in the occupied West-Bank territories and Mosques and Muslim schools in the US, the Portland Tribune reported last Fall. It was accused of "links" with Al-Qaeda, which it denied, suing the US state after its accounts were frozen. And the links appear to be inconclusive.

The order cites GRF's support for a couple of bad things. Baddd things indeed. One is mention of the word 'Jihad' in GRF documentation. But Jihad, which literally translates from the Arabic as "striving", reflects a Muslim's social obligations, to overcome your bad desires (and don't say you don't have days when you want to overcome your bad desires?).

Its interpretation in the Western media as something nasty is because one of the more vigorous translations, or imperatives, emerges as "Holy War". Which of course, by implication - whoah, another huge leap, there - means armed struggle against Infidel religions, which means Blowing Us Up! Now this whacky sequence as owes as much to the ignorance and conflations of Western media as it does to the few fringe groups who are nuts enough to believe this stuff. Which is against the Qu'ran.

The second is a photograph of GRF supporters purportedly holding up boxes of ammunition. Well, this we put down to small-town youthful exuberance, and the desire of guys to been seen with their stash. You know how guys like to be seen with their stash? (I'm thinking of hip-hop's gold chains here, bear with us). Well, this, we're convinced is just a mere photo-opportunity, and those balaclavas and shades were rented, no doubt, from the NORAID guys round the block. Perhaps there's a kind of "rent a balaclava" franchise, they've all got going there, these poseurs - but who knows?

The third, and rather damning piece of misplaced intelligence is that infoflow in the "Al Qaeda" link turned out to be going the wrong direction. A senior Al Qaeda no-good was fingered with giving a donation to the GRF ... but not the other way round. If you recall, Osama Bin "do you mind if I borrow your mountain for a cave-complex filled with murderous training rooms, only it's like a gym" Laden sweetened his presence in your nearest mountain with almsgiving, donating to local communities and building hospitals. Zakat, in other words. Sure, take over our mountain. That's a deal.

So where do the Oracle, HP and Sun CEOs enter this miserable story?

In December last year, all three suspended donations to the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), a nationalist Hindu charity which claimed to be working on behalf of the urban poor, which it was. But it was also accused of - a charge it denies - operating a "shadow network" responsible for sectarian violence. An NGO accuses IRDF of channelling aid away from Hindu and Christian victims of disasters and encouraging "Hinduisation." And a violent fundamentalist, and well armed fringe is seeking to "Hinduise" tribes in Gujarat, for example.

In other words, an association was made with an organization that promotes terror. While we don't know how strong these might be, the accusation is the same. Yet these annual corporations weren't subjected to dawn raids, while private charity donor finds himself stripped of his liberties.

Newspaper editors are sometimes disappointed to find there a due process of law to determine innocence or guilt. The Oregonian should be reminded of this, as it goes about measuring the length of the noose. ®

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