JNN 09 Mar 2014 MINNEAPOLIS – A leading Muslim civil rights group has expressed concerns over the moves by a Minneapolis-based bank to close accounts of American Muslims without reason, demanding an explanation for the unjustified move.
A Minneapolis-based bank has been closing the accounts of its customers in the Islamic community for years, but nobody can figure out why.
For years, Twin Cities’ Muslim residents who say they have had their bank accounts closed unnecessarily and without reason by the Minneapolis-based TCF Financial Corp.
In one case, an American Muslim citizen — born and raised in Minneapolis — had his bank account closed, along with his sister’s account. The client used the account he opened in 2002 for his dental practice.
He reportedly did not have any international transactions on his account, nor did he ever bounce a check or fail to keep a minimum balance. But he says that didn’t stop TCF from issuing a letter notifying him that the bank was “exercising its right under the terms of your account contract to discontinue our banking relationship.”
“A letter notified me that my account is closing, then after visiting and calling them I was notified by phone that TCF will not keep me as a customer even if I open a new account,” the former TCF customer told MintPress News.
Another Minneapolis resident says his TCF account was closed after a 12 to 15-year banking relationship. A doctor and practicing Muslim, the appellant says he learned his account was closed when he “received an unregistered/uncertified envelope at my doorstep that contained a check for the balance of my entire account with TCF bank and a letter stating that my account had been closed.”
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota chapter, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, the closure of bank accounts belonging to Minnesota Muslims of Somali, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin, largely occurred between 2012 and 2013.
“All of the clients are American citizens,” Saly Abd Alla, the Civil Rights Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota chapter, told Mint Press on Wednesday, March 5.
“Some are converts to Islam, others were born into a Muslim family; they are various ages and professions; different ethnicities and races.”
The cases of closing bank accounts for Muslim clients at the Minneapolis-based TCF Financial Corp came to CAIR’s attention in January 2013 when several Iranian students at the University of Minnesota had their accounts closed.
Some of the closed accounts were for American Muslims who were born and raised in Minnesota.
Though confirming that he did not have any international transactions on his account, nor did he ever bounce a check or fail to keep a minimum balance, his account was closed.
He received a letter from TCF notifying him that the bank was “exercising its right under the terms of your account contract to discontinue our banking relationship.”
“None of these individuals have been charged with any crimes or engaged in any transaction that violates US law,” Abd Alla said.
“The only thing these individuals have in common, aside from TCF abruptly and without explanation closing their bank accounts, is that they have Muslim names.”
The fact that these individuals are Palestinian-American, Syrian-American, Iraqi-American, Indian-American, Pakistani-American and Somali-American may mean that their bank accounts are watched more intensely than others, and there may have been stricter guidelines set in place regarding what the federal government viewed as appropriate transactions.
Concerned about the closure of Muslims bank accounts, the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of Muslim clients whose accounts were closed by TCF Bank without explanation.
“As a civil rights organization, we are deeply disturbed by these allegations of discrimination and religious profiling of loyal TCF Bank customers,” CAIR-MN said in a letter to TCF.
“We want to ensure that TCF Bank is not engaged in discrimination and is not targeting people who are Muslim or come from predominantly Muslim countries.”
Mark Goldman, senior vice president and director of corporate communications for TCF Financial Corporation, denied accusations.
“TCF is disappointed the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights has chosen to file an ambiguous claim that prevents the bank from responding more specifically to a serious allegation,” he said.
“We believe that the facts will show that this issue is about compliance with federal law and is in no way an issue of discrimination.”
Yet, CAIR-MN were determined on finding how many denial-of-banking letters have been issued nationwide, preparing to file a national complaint with the US Department of Justice.
CAIR-MN is “collaborating with other CAIR chapters to bring a national complaint against TCF, Chase and other banks who have violated civil rights laws,” Abd Alla said.
“CAIR-MN is also increasing its efforts to educate the Muslim community on their civil rights and empowering them to report cases of discrimination,” she said.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities