The Islamic charity sector needs to be more transparent and accountable, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
As usual we’ve been bombarded with appeals for funds this Ramadan from Islamic charities. If they’re not asking for our money on the street, they’re canvassing on social media, in newspapaers and on TV channels.
This is usually done by overwhelming us with images of disaster and pain as well as pricking our Islamic consciences with religious langauge and appeals to “help our brothers and sisters.”
And of course the worthy causes out there are numerous – from Syria to Gaza and many, many more. And because we are Muslims and charity is a cornerstone of our faith we want to give and we do.
In fact, a recent study reported that British Muslims are the biggest charity donors in the UK.
However, I have a confession to make – I never give a penny of my money to British Muslim charities. Why? Because my personal experiences of travelling the world with several charities has convinced me that some of them lack professionalism, transparency and accountability. In short, I feel they are businesses rather than charities. I don’t trust them.
Let me give you a few examples but I am going to refrain from naming names simply because I don’t want to get sued.
I once went to Africa with a certain charity which had raised a substantial amount of money from a TV telethon. The head of the charity travelled with a large amount of cash on him, paid for accomodation in five star hotels, and ate an incredible amount of food while he was there. This was all paid from viewers’ funds as far as I am aware.
He knew absolutely nobody in the country, gave a large amount of money to a local aid worker whom he hardly knew, and insisted that we film him handing out cash to the poor and generally doing “good works.”
On another trip to Asia our team leader was so incompetent that it took us three days to reach people in desperate need rather than one day like it should have. Along the way we lost a lot of the aid we were supposed to deliver and generally the whole trip was characterised by bickering and infighting which delayed assistance to the needy.
These are just two examples but I have experienced and heard about many more. In fact, anybody who has had anything to do with the charity sector will know exactly what I’m talking about.
I acknowledge that there are many hard-working, selfless people at British Muslim charities who do a tremendous amount of good and actually help people in need. I also suspect that these are probably the foot-soldiers at these organisations rather than the fat cats at the top.
But given that they are dealing with our money I feel that British Muslim charities should all be obliged to answer the following questions:
1. How much of the public’s money do they spend on administration costs?
2. How much do their bosses and employees earn?
3. How much money do they pay TV channels for air time?
4. How much money do they spend on advertising?
5. How can we be sure that our money is properly accounted for and actually reaches those who it is meant for?
I should also say that I would love to name the charities that I’m talking about but I don’t have the money to defend a law suit and I’m certain that they wouldn’t hesitate to use their financial clout to pursue me. I also know that some people will say that I am effectively condemning all Muslim charities by not naming them and that I am rumour-mongering.
In response I say that I am faced with two choices – I can expose blatant wrongdoing which I’ve seen with my own eyes and run the risk of being labelled a rumour-monger or I can shut my eyes and ignore it. I choose the former.
That said, while I truly believe that the Islamic charity sector needs to be more transparent and accountable I am happy to clarify that I don’t believe that ALL Muslim charities are bad. I’m just saying check them out thoroughly before you give.