Penny Appeal appoints first non-Muslim CEO in Islamic charity industry

Alex Leith with Penny Appeal founder Adeem Younis

Penny Appeal’s Board of Trustees have appointed Alex Leith as the charity’s new Chief Executive Officer. 

Leith, who is the first non-Muslim CEO of an Islamic charity in the UK, has had a career in tech, digital marketing and finance.

Penny Appeal said the appointment represents their commitment to championing diversity and cross-cultural collaboration.

Alex Leith said: “Since its founding in 2009, Penny Appeal has created a truly remarkable humanitarian legacy, lifting generations of people out of the poverty cycle. I was inspired by the tenacity and appetite of the leadership to strive to always do more for those in need. I’m keen on rolling up my sleeves, learning on the job and bringing my all to the table.”

On joining a Muslim-led charity, he added: “Diversity is more than a tick-box exercise, it’s about recognising and leveraging the strength we have in our differences. I’m proud to have one of the most diverse boards and workforces in the charity sector, together we represent the best of Britain.”

Chair of Trustees of the Wakefield-based charity, Mohammed Jahangir, said: “We are excited to have recruited Alex as our new CEO. He brings an incredible wealth of skills to the role. Our interim CEO Harris Iqbal has done an incredible job in the past 18 months. This includes launching a new 5-year strategy, breaking records in annual income, driving a full change management plan as well as ensuring improving effectiveness and efficiencies whilst leading our COVID-19 response worldwide.

“Sadly, the need for humanitarian intervention, both in the UK and around the world has only increased in recent times. We are confident with Alex at the helm, we can continue to grow in our service to those in need, offering an essential lifeline to vulnerable people around the world.”

The appointment came after the Interim CEO, Harris Iqbal, chose to focus on a wider portfolio of consulting work in the public and private sector and scale his family business in the health and leisure industry, whilst continuing to provide senior support to Penny Appeal.

He said: “It has been an honour to lead the lifesaving transformative work of Penny Appeal over the past 18 months during a deeply challenging and complex time for the charity. I’m grateful for the support and trust from the board, staff and donors extended to me over this time. I remain ever-committed to Penny Appeal and will continue to work closely with the organisation, as well as with Alex as he assumes his new role.”

Penny Appeal has seen phenomenal growth in the past decade to become Britain’s second largest Muslim charity in terms of income after Islamic Relief and Muslim Aid.

However, the past few years have seen controversy strike the charity with allegations of child abuse in Gambia by a Penny Appeal partner and a seeming power struggle for control of the charity.

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