The UK’s Charity Commission
The UK’s Charity Commission (CC), once criticised for its “disproportionate focus” on Muslim charities and feared by Islamic charities in the past, has praised Muslim charities in a blog by its outreach manager Nick Donaldson. According to Muslim Charities Forum, the blog says that “British Muslims gave approximately £100 million to charitable causes during the month of Ramadan this year. To give some context, that equates to approximately £38 a second.”
Ramadan heightens the spirit of charitable giving amongst Muslims and this year the Charity Commission advised donors at the very start to be careful that their donations go to legitimate charities. It produced a video and gave 10 important tips to encourage people to give safely.
This acknowledgement from the charity regulator will go a long way in allaying ill-feelings and even fear in the Muslim charity sector.
It is now an established fact that British Muslims are the most generous givers of charity. Two years ago Prime Minister David Cameron, who often drew criticism for his occasional abrasive comments about Muslims and their institutions, acknowledged the efforts of the community stating that “Charity is one of the things that Islam is all about. Here in Britain, Muslims are our biggest donors – they give more to charity than any other faith group.”
Since 7 July 2005 terror attacks, the Muslim community has been going through continuous vitriol from the right-wing media, neocon-linked thinktanks and far right groups such as Britain First. The Brexit vote on 23 June only gave succour to xenophobes and Islamophobes. Although Sadiq Khan’s massive win as London Mayor in May has been a source of inspiration for young Muslims, many younger people from the community think twice before entering public life and serving the nation.
Only last week the Sun’s former editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, questioned whether a headscarf-wearing journalist should have been allowed to appear on the Channel 4 News after the terrible Nice attacks. His comments were termed “religious hatred” by Channel 4 News and the press regulator received more than 800 complaints.
However, this type of disparaging remark towards Muslims in the public domain is becoming far too common and, as a result, often very dispiriting for many Muslims. While this situation has propelled a significant proportion of young professionals in the Muslim community to invest their energy and passion into the voluntary sector, society as a whole does not get the full benefit from their contribution in vital areas such as in politics and media.
Ramadan, which ended earlier this month, is special to Muslims, as it is meant to be a time for their spiritual harvest through social action. During this month many Muslims pay their compulsory Zakah (2.5 per cent of one’s yearly savings) to the needy and destitute. They also make special effort in this month to increase their voluntary contribution to people around them and take special care to keep away from wrongdoings. Muslim public behaviour significantly changes for better in this month. By its very nature, the month transforms one’s public life in terms of behaviour and empathetic dealings with near and dear ones as well as with neighbours and colleagues – irrespective of their background.
Apart from charity giving, Ramadan helps build bridges amongst all people. Muslims are a relatively new and young minority in Britain and it is vital they connect with fellow citizens and proactively clarify misunderstandings and correct myths about them. The Ramadan spirit helps Muslims reach out to others and get proactively involved in broad-based civic activities.
Ramadan teaches believers to be a force for good to all. Although charitable giving is an essential ingredient in Ramadan, it is also fellow feeling within and beyond one’s community. We all breathe the same air and have similar hopes or concerns for our safety and security where we live.
Ramadan in fact helps Muslims to wage a war against our common enemies – ignorance, fear and inaction. Our world desperately needs a message of hope to heal our fractures and fight for justice and equality. We desperately need a spiritual regeneration in a world more and more centred on individual fulfilment, material wealth and short-term gains. We need a strong moral anchor to navigate through the complexities and challenges of modern life. Ramadan can best prepare the believers to practice what they preach.
Muslim charitable giving, not only in Britain but across the world, multiplies manifold in Ramadan. Ordinary Muslims during this month become extraordinary. The spirit of giving creates people like Abdul Sattar Edhi, a legendary philanthropist and a living saint who passed away recently. However, there are many unknown saints and heroes amongst us who give all their energy and passion 24/7 in the British charity sector as well as in public life.
As it is a period of deep reflection and consciousness, the Ramadan agenda should be to build resilience in community solidarity, enhance empathy and excel in giving, not taking.