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From Altruists to Outlaws: The Criminalization of Traveling Islamic Volunteers

8 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2012  

Ramzi Kassem

CUNY School of Law

Date Written: 2010


The volunteerist dimension of Islamic philanthropy, although often overshadowed of late by its financial counterpart as a focal point of interest, was until recently an equally vibrant expression of transnational Muslim solidarity. The emblematic figures of the itinerant doctor, the aid worker, the preacher and the fighter featured prominently in the actual mobilization and associated narratives spurred by bloody conflicts in Muslim-majority lands such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, and Afghanistan.1 Along with the scrutiny and policing of Islamic charities and financial networks amplified by the so-called War on Terror came a heightened military and intelligence focus on traveling Muslims who volunteered in various capacities in distant and troubled regions. “Out of place” Muslims came to be regarded and treated as combatants by various governments. 2 The aforementioned emblematic figures were conflated into one -- that of the fighter -- and were criminalized. This Article will begin to explore how that particular process of conflation, exclusion and criminalization occurred.

Keywords: Islamic, Law, Volunteerism, Philanthropy, Muslim

Suggested Citation

Kassem, Ramzi, From Altruists to Outlaws: The Criminalization of Traveling Islamic Volunteers (2010). UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law, Vol. 10, No. 85, 2010-11. Available at SSRN:

Ramzi Kassem (Contact Author)

CUNY School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101-4356
United States

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