- Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair: The Muslim world is very generous but the real challenge is what we donate and how do we do it
- It is estimated that the global Muslim population donated about $200 billion to charitable causes in 2017
LONDON: Muslim philanthropists need to set up legally recognized institutions, improve their transparency and start acting like listed businesses if they are to improve their international reputation, said Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair, Emirati banking head and chair of the Abdulla Al-Ghurair Foundation for Education Fund.
Speaking at the Global Donors Forum, held in London on Monday, he said that the sector “has not progressed as much as we should have” and called for an end to donations made to informally established Muslim charities.
“The Muslim world is very generous but the real challenge is what we donate and how do we do it. So that contribution can have more meaningful impact. That is why I am calling for a new era of Muslim giving,” he told the audience gathered at the British Museum on Monday.
Charitable giving is an essential pillar in the Islamic faith and it is estimated that the global Muslim population donated about $200 billion to charitable causes in 2017.
The image of Muslim philanthropy has, however, has been damaged by headlines in recent years alleging links between more dubious charities and extremist factions embroiled in conflicts around the world.
Even well-intended charitable donations may not actually have the impact on society the donor may have intended, Al-Ghurair said. He noted how donors continue to give to new buildings, mosques or universities “without having the intended impact on people’s lives.”
Al-Ghurair used his speech to outline key principles that could help bring about a “new era” for philanthropic efforts from the global Muslim world.
Earlier this year Al-Ghurair set up the $27 million Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund, a program targeting refugee children in Jodan and Lebanon currently residing in the UAE. The initiative will run for three years and it is aiming to support 6,000 children and young people this year.
“At the moment we don’t have any institutionalized foundations in the Muslim world and that makes it difficult for us to build a proper community that can exchange ideas,” he said, calling for charities to be legally recognized.
“All donors should be able to track their donation very simply and clearly, just like we track our courier shipment,” he said, noting how this would boost confidence in charitable funds and encourage governments to work with them.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Global Donors Forum, he said: “We have to be like a publicly listed company. Accountability is there, we set targets. Whatever we do in a listed company, all that should come with a philanthropic organization — because we are under the microscope.
“Some people feel relieved — my soul is clear — I have given my $1 million donation. We don’t want that — we want you to follow through and work for impact,” he told Arab News.