The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a nonprofit that provides research about American Muslims, recently released a report stating that 25% of the American Muslim population has faced hurdles while banking in the United States. Muhammad Ali Mojaradi, a Michigan-based educator, founded an online learning platform called Persian Poetics in 2018, where he translates and teaches Persian language and poetry. However, Mojaradi claimed that his business has suffered due to his ethnic and religious background, including having his account frozen multiple times without warning.
Muslims in America face discrimination in various forms, and one such form of discrimination that the ISPU report dug into is financial institutions’ discrimination. Muslims are twice as likely as the general population to have issues with business and nonprofit accounts. The report found that nearly all Muslims (93%) who reported facing challenges with financial institutions experienced an issue with a personal account. Challenges included not being allowed to open an account, having an account suspended or closed, and having payments subjected to extra scrutiny.
The holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims partake in fasting and increased charity, started this week, and Muslim Americans are worried that discrimination from financial institutions could hurt businesses and charities in their community during this critical time. Muslims reported challenges when sending or receiving payments, and some payments still get flagged for additional review, which delays getting money.
Mojaradi, whose online learning platform teaches Persian language and poetry, experienced issues with PayPal, Patreon, and JPMorgan Chase. He explained every term flagged and who he was, but he was still subjected to discrimination. In one exchange, PayPal asked him for “an explanation of the reference to ‘Persian’.” Although many financial institutions claim that they need to review certain transactions due to sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Muslims believe that these are mere excuses to discriminate against them.
In 2019, a Muslim woman filed a complaint against Citibank in New York after the bank allegedly prevented her from opening an account, saying they first needed to investigate her husband, who has an Arabic last name. In 2017, a Muslim man, his wife, and his 15-year-old daughter were detained by police when a teller called 911 as he tried to deposit a check.
Muslims in America deserve the same banking opportunities and experiences as the general population, and this discrimination must come to an end. Discrimination not only infringes on an individual’s ability to prosper and thrive but also entire communities’ ability to live out their faith in terms of charitable giving.
In conclusion, ethnic and religious discrimination against American Muslims in financial institutions is a grave issue that requires immediate attention. Financial institutions must reassess their policies and work towards creating a fair and equal banking experience for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.