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Syrian crisis sees rise in Muslim charities

Date: 23 Mar 2016

Citywealth

Omayma El Ella, operations manager at Muslim Charities Forum, says that since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, many more Muslim charities have started up, increasing the competition for donations.

Are Muslim donors generous?

Muslims are the most charitable group according to an ICM poll conducted in 2013. All Muslim charities rely heavily on their community base to donate, and Muslims rely on Muslim charities to receive their obligatory 2.5 percent of their wealth, or Zakat, and their non-obligatory giving known as Sadaqah.

Have Muslim charities suffered as reporting on terrorism has risen?

There is a perception within the sector that there is bias against Muslim charities as institutional funders tend not to favour them and banks are blocking transfer of funds and closing accounts. Certain elements of the media have been especially vitriolic and treat the Muslim charity sector as suspect. That has had a negative impact on legitimate Muslim charities as these media articles find themselves within risk intelligence databases such as World-Check, that then impacts decision-making of the banks in their interaction with them.

What changes do you see in the Muslim charity sector?

The sector is improving governance and internal procedures but also because of increased competition for donors, many are trying to get institutional funding, but it is difficult. More are scaling down their overseas operations to reduce cost. Scaling down is also about complying with counter terrorism laws. Internationally, there is more recognition from the UN, the World Bank, and the German government on the importance of faith-based giving because they are often at the forefront of relief operations. Muslim charities play a vital role in aid finance and their ability to collect tithed funds (Zakat). It has provoked discussions about how humanitarian finance can be linked to Islamic charitable giving without political intervention. This is a controversial issue, however, and it is unlikely Muslim communities will want to give Zakat to a body like the UN.

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