Western Union blocks Muslims’ transfer

Western Union, a global money transfer agency, has delayed or blocked thousands of cash deliveries by American Muslims on suspicion of terrorist connections simply because senders or recipients have names like Mohammed or Ahmed, drawing rebuke from the community as a yet another form of identity harassment.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights advocacy in the US, insisted that the department has the right to fight terrorism, but not over Arab and Muslim Americans rights.

“A comprehensive policy has to be implemented by the Treasury Department to ensure accuracy in efforts to fight terrorism and stop funneling of money to terrorists,” Husam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR Los Angeles chapter, told IOL.

“But at the same time, those Americans who have not committed any wrongdoing must be able to transfer money without any problems or delays,” he stressed.

Ayloush said CAIR’s national office has met with Western Union to eliminate errors and ensure innocent individuals are able to transfer money without any fears or obstacles.

“We also urged Western Union to change its forms to include the first name, last name and middle initial of the sender and the recipient to help reduce false positives that could delay money transfers otherwise,” he added.

“CAIR also filed an FOIA request with the Treasury Department to become aware of what procedures are used to put the list together.”

Iman al-Asyouti believes these regulations seem like an accusation for every single Muslim American. “It means that they [the government] treat us as terrorists until we could prove the opposite,” she said. “It seems like a joke to me and I still can’t believe that things like this are happening here, in America,” she fumed.

Islam Online, 30 August 2006