As part of his effort to improve relations with the Islamic world, President Obama pledged to help American Muslims give to charity.
During a speech yesterday in Cairo, the president said Muslim nations and America must work to preserve freedom of religion, citing religious philanthropy as an example.
“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,“ he told the audience at Cairo University.
Zakat is one of the five main tenets of Islam and requires Muslims to donate at least 2.5 percent of their assets to the needy every year. American Islamic charities have complained that government scrutiny of their organizations has chilled giving.
In addition, the U.S. Treasury Department has provided guidelines to make sure overseas philanthropy to areas like the Palestinian territories and Pakistan does not inadvertently support terrorists. Those guidelines, while voluntary, are considered too onerous by many nonprofit groups.
During the Council on Foundations meeting last month, a Treasury official said the Obama administration is considering revising the giving guidelines.