Islamophobia Monitor

 

Bank Account Closures

In the last several years, CAIR has witnessed a marked increase in the incidence of closure without genuine cause of personal and business banking accounts maintained by American Muslims with American banks.

In many of these incidents, banks, when pressed, have cited unspecified security or “risk” concerns. CAIR believes these bank account closures may be discriminatory in nature because they appear to be the byproduct of risk investigations of customers based on their identifiably Muslim names, or business and personal connections with Muslim majority countries, and not on any actual connection to illegal activities.

In CAIR’s experience, the situation usually involves the person in question receiving a letter in the mail from their bank which states that their account has been, or will be shortly, closed. A check in the amount of the balance is mailed when the account is closed. Some letters provide a brief response describing the reasons for closing the account in generic and vague terms, such as, for “business reasons,”” security,” or “risk profile.” Other letters cite bank policy which states that any account may be closed at any time for any reason. Most frequently, however, they cite no reason whatsoever. The average targeted consumer has conducted no unusual transactions and has often possessed the same account with the same financial institution for many years.

In one case, Citigroup closed a bank account which was held by a Muslim American in California for more than a decade. The bank sent the individual a letter informing them of the closure which contained only a vague reference to “security reasons.”

Lack of Information and The Legal Gap

Addressing the issue of discriminatory bank account closures affecting American Muslims is particularly challenging. There exists a severe lack of factual justification provided by the banks for their actions, and, because of this, it is difficult to discern whether there are any patterns in the data which would assist in determining the ultimate cause, such as the targeting of any particular geographic area, the identity of the banks involved, the nature of the customers’ particular transaction history, or the degree of contact between the customer and other Muslim customers, local or abroad.

Additionally, efforts through litigation are hindered by the current state of federal law on the subject. Several federal laws make it illegal for financial institutions to discriminate on the basis of religion in credit transactions, such as mortgage lending. For example, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination against credit applicants on the basis of their race, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age, and the Fair Housing Act provides for similar protections for those seeking a mortgage loan. However, there is a gap in existing federal civil rights statutes, which currently fail to protect consumers from religious discrimination in non-credit banking activities, such as maintaining a checking or savings account.

Remedies

For this reason, CAIR has chosen to focus on regulatory and legislative remedies for this issue. In August, CAIR launched a nationwide initiative to gather data from the American Muslim community in order to comprehensively assess the extent, nature, and cause of the phenomenon. It created a special intake form on its website to acquire detailed information from those whose bank accounts were closed without forewarning or adequate explanation.

As CAIR continues to gather facts about the situation, it will simultaneously consider pushing relevant federal agencies to investigate the problem and issue a report summarizing the nature of the complaints on a nationwide basis, including the factual justifications provided by the various banks involved to understand the complete background of these incidents. This information is not routinely disclosed to the consumers affected. 

CAIR may also pursue efforts to support changes to federal civil rights laws which would enable victims of discriminatory account closures to successfully litigate their cases in federal court.

pdf
Jul 17, 2017 2547

2017 on Track to Becoming One of the Worst Years Ever for Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes

In its data update on anti-Muslim bias incidents for the second quarter of 2017, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented that the number of hate crimes in the first half of 2017 has… Read More
Default Image
Jul 10, 2017 2785

Profile: FBI Director Nominee Christopher A. Wray

In May, following President Trump's dismissal of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey, over a dozen candidates under consideration for the vacant position had been… Read More
pdf
Jul 06, 2017 2782

The Hate that ACT for America Wrought

ACT for America has a prejudice problem. Founder Brigitte Gabriel believes that, “America is at stage two Islamic Cancer.” She also argues that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim,” a Muslim… Read More
pdf
Jun 15, 2017 3195

Islamophobia 101

Access a printable version of this document here. What Is It? Islamophobia is a closed-minded hatred, fear or prejudice toward Islam and Muslims that results in discrimination, marginalization and… Read More
Default Image
May 19, 2017 4003

Facts on FBI Director Candidates

in Reports
Following President Trump's dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey, over a dozen candidates under consideration for the vacant position have been mentioned by current and former government and… Read More
pdf
May 17, 2017 4160

Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents 2017 Quarter One Update

Just prior to President Trump’s first official travel to a Muslim-majority country, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy… Read More
pdf
May 08, 2017 3839

Civil Rights Report 2017: Appendix

in Reports
Appendix Definitions CBP: Customs and Border Protection, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security entity tasked with securing U.S. borders. DOJ: U.S. Department of Justice DOT: U.S. Department of… Read More


This website is a project of CAIR's Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.

Websites by INTELLIPLANS.