Statement of 81 Civil, Human Rights, and Faith-Based Groups

Serious Concerns Regarding Harm to American Muslim Civil Society from Terrorism Designation

Media reports suggest that the Trump administration is considering designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The undersigned coalition of organizations is deeply concerned that such a designation could lead to the stigmatization and targeting of American Muslim civil society, including non-profits, charities, religious organizations, and activists.

For several years, fringe anti-Muslim voices have called for the designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group, and framed American Muslim civil society and leaders as suspect or criminal through guilt by spurious association. We note that numerous scholars and national security and foreign policy experts from across the political spectrum have voiced concern regarding the validity of such a designation. We are particularly concerned about the effects of such a designation on American Muslim civil society, including non-citizens, refugees, and asylum seekers. Even without a formal designation, some have used false “six degrees of separation” accusations about the Muslim Brotherhood as a way to smear prominent Muslims, American Muslim civic and religious institutions, as well as a range of other people. Accusations from government officials can have the power to destroy reputations and chill lawful activity, including freedom of worship, association, expression, and charitable giving.

A designation would intensify this smear tactic. Indeed, many baseless accusations have already come from White House officials, as well as members of Congress. For example, Steve Bannon, the President’s Chief Strategist, has stated that his former news organization, Breitbart, has linked Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president, to the Muslim Brotherhood. Witnesses called before Congress have, without evidence, claimed that the two American Muslim members of the House of Representatives, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, supported terrorism because they attended Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) events.

Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization could lead to a witch-hunt against Muslim civil society in the U.S. It could also open the door to the threat of legal action by the government against Muslims and civil society organizations by invoking overbroad and unfair laws and executive orders regarding designated entities. For example, individuals could be criminally prosecuted for providing support, services, resources, expert advice or assistance to the Muslim Brotherhood without any intent to support terrorist activity. A designation could also result in unconstitutional asset seizures and effective shut-downs of civil society and rights groups. Despite court rulings requiring probable cause and due process when the Treasury Department seizes Americans’ assets, the Department has not changed its internal regulations. The Department takes the view that it can block or freeze the assets of any individual or organization that is providing ‘financial, material, or technological support for, or financial services to,’ or is broadly ‘otherwise associated’ with a designated terrorist organization. There is no requirement of actual intent or knowledge of wrongdoing. The Treasury Department’s decision can rely on classified information the targeted person or organization cannot see or meaningfully refute, and a blocking order can be issued pending investigation into whether the target is somehow associated with a designated group.

As a result, the potential negative impact on American Muslim civil society of false and unjust smears and investigation resulting from a terrorism designation of the Muslim Brotherhood is high. It runs the serious risk of stifling religious and political freedom and the ability to assist and represent Muslim communities without fear of retaliation.

American Muslim organizations are part of the rich fabric of our democracy. They provide social services to their own communities and work with other faith-based organizations to provide support to others, such as those affected by natural disasters and mass shootings. They run mosques that give Muslims space to exercise their faith and promote inter-faith understanding and dialogue. Muslim civil rights groups work to protect communities against discriminatory laws and policies, a role that is critical at a time when the threat of anti-Muslim measures is extraordinarily high and hate crimes against those perceived as Muslim have soared.

We stand in support of American Muslims and more recent Muslim immigrants in all their rich diversity and against the discrimination, fear, and stigma that we are deeply concerned a terrorism designation is likely to increase.


Act Now Worcester

American Civil Liberties Union

American Friends Service Committee

Amnesty International USA

Arlington Street Church - Social Action Committee (Boston)

Asian American Psychological Association

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian Law Caucus

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles

Beloved Community Interfaith Network

Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation

Brennan Center for Justice

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for New Community

Charity & Security Network

Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity

CODEPINK for Peace

Codepink Women for Peace, Golden Gate Chapter

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Council on American-Islamic Relations - Arizona

Emerge USA

Every Voice

First Church Cambridge Mission and Social Justice Committee

First Church Unitarian, Littleton, MA

Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network

Harvard Islamic Society

Human Rights Watch

Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center

Interfaith Action for Human Rights

Iowa Unitarian Universalist Witness/Advocacy Network

Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center

Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

Jewish Voice for Peace

Maryland United for Peace and Justice

Media Alliance

Montgomery County (MD) Civil Rights Coalition

Montgomery County Muslims

Muslim Public Affairs Council

Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity

Muslim Advocates

Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)

Muslim Justice League

National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development

National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)

National Lawyers Guild - Massachusetts Chapter

National Network for Arab American Communities

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

New England Translators Association

New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Old Cambridge Baptist Church

People For the American Way

Prince George's County Peace and Justice Coalition

Project SALAM (Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims)

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

Southern Poverty Law Center

St. Francis of Assisi Pax Christi

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Columbia, MD

T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry

The Aafia Foundation

The Constitution Project Therapists for Peace & Justice

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network

Unitarian Universalist of York

Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN)

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

United For Peace and Justice United Voices for America Veterans for Peace

Women's International League for Peace & Freedom

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom - Houston Women's Voices

Women Vote Action Fund

Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, Southern Methodist University

Yemen Peace Project


Last modified 

February 23, 2017