In a move being touted as “a sharp blow against Iran,” the United States government is attempted to seize four Shi’ite mosques across the United States, calling it the largest ‘anti-terror’ seizure ever and claiming the non-profit which operates them is secretly a front for the Iranian government.
The four mosques are located across the United States, in New York City, Houston, Carmichael California, and Potomac, Maryland. The non-profit Alavi Foundation faces formal charges of violating 1995 sanctions signed by President Clinton.
The group is funded principally through rent collected at a New York City skyscraper it owns, which the government also intends to seize. They provide funds to a myriad of Shi’ite religious institutions in the US and Canada and support for Farsi language education programs in US schools. They also provide interest free loans for Iranian-Americans to attend college in the US.
The seizure of the mosques by the federal government will be a serious hardship for worshipers, of course, but the capture of the 35-year old foundation’s assets and its dissolution will be devastating for America’s tiny Shi’ite community, which amounts to only about one tenth of one percent of all Americans.
Though the seizure of churches by the federal government is not unprecedented, it is extremely rare and fraught with controversy. The seizure of private religious institutions on the premise that they are covertly controlled by an “enemy state” only makes this move all the more controversial and will likely prove troubling to many Americans, Shi’ite or otherwise.