Why your Charity is Racist: Questioning Islamic Charitable Prejudice

Bismillah

Firstly I need to get this off my chest, but every time I go to a charity fundraiser I promise myself it’ll be the last. They make incredible amounts of money, but there has to be a more respectful and less awkward way to do it. The MC cringingly egging along the crowd to publicly declare how much money you’re donating makes an exhibition of a simple good act. There’s always that one brother next to you who donates £10,000, and mA that is incredible. But then everybody is looking at you like:

your turn

Why are you looking at me?!?!? I can’t pay for my bus home let alone pledge £10,000! A person will then feel one of two ways. Either feel terrible for not being able to donate a similar outrageous amount of money, or your floating nafs slaps you saying “You gonna let this chump make you look like a girly man?!” Your dumb ass is thinking “Oh hell no” and screams “£20,000!” And what follows is two brothers testing the size of each others.. miswak.. by outbidding each other. Resulting in unrealistic bids that people actually seldom rarely end up paying. Did you know on average a charity organization would only receive over half of the pledges made during a fundraiser? True story. From our experience with charity organisations anyway.

It begs the question though, just how ethical and religious are such events? Why must we publicly parade our donations and make a circus of it all? Is it to inspire others? If so, doesn’t that say more about our own states that we must bounce off each other to be pushed to give charitably? What about the  hadith (and the Honesty Policy’s motto)  “a person who gives charity should conceal it (to such an extent) that the right hand does not know what the left has given”.  Although I am definitely not doubting anyones intentions, I don’t think some charitable platforms are the opportune mediums for people to reflect their pure intentions.

Anyway back to the blog. Are we being racist when we donate all that money?

If there is one thing institutionalised charity organizations have pointed out, it is our tendency to favor one impoverished community over another. As we have previously suggested in a previous blog, our Islamic Organizations have undergone a process of corporatization, and our charitable organizations are exactly the same. They are conforming to capitalistic means of acquiring maximum revenue. As a result they follow monetary trends that highlight which region is currently popular, and then they deliver the relevant campaign to them. This is in their interest because as well as the cause they are supporting, they also have an organization to run.

Top of the ‘make money’ list is… Dadadadadummm. You guessed it, Palestine. In fact Palestine has been by far the biggest recipient of aid and donations from charity organizations worldwide. The contention I wanted to raise however is why Palestine over any other suffering Muslim community (of which there are many)? Would it be outrageous to claim that the reason for this is that the white privilege, arab superiority and fair-skinned polemic has permeated our charity culture? This is the question today. Now I’m NOT saying it is, but I want to pose the question. So read carefully, because I’m not saying Palestine doesn’t deserve the donations because it does, the issue is understanding why WE prioritize it over others? What are the cognitive processes when giving donations? Are we subconsciously selective and prejudice?

My issue is that from my limited experience no African country could possibly stir such an emotional tsunami as countries such as Palestine (Bosnia even), when arguably the conditions and suffering of the African people dwarfs anywhere else in the world. But this is not about who suffers more, weighing one’s suffering over another. But rather understanding why we continuously hold on to Palestine, Why then? Zionists? History? Al-Aqsa? Or, is it because we are subconsciously lulled by our preconceived prejudices into helping the pretty blue eyed, light skinned little arab girl? The Palestinian struggle reverberates in and amongst the moral consciousness of every Muslim worldwide. But show them a picture of a Somali, Ethiopian or Rohingyan and you most likely will not get the same reaction.

pretty poverty-in-africa

Even recently, in the UK there was a fundraising tour commemorating the life of Malcolm X, the famous black rights champion and hero, but it was fundraising for an orphanage in Gaza, Palestine. There’s an incongruity there isn’t it? As if there wasn’t enough African campaigns that would have complimented Malcolm’s legacy a little nicer. CAR? Darfur? Somalia? Take your pick! But we won’t, because you know why? Charity fundraising events need to sell tickets, bums on seats, that’s the reality. The truth is African causes just don’t sell enough tickets.

See for yourself. Here is two links to well known charities and their upcoming campaigns:

http://www.islamic-relief.org.uk/category/events/

http://beta.humanappeal.org.uk/appeals/winter_appeal/index.htm

Is there something more to this? Is this contention linked to the bigger problem of intra-Muslim racism that continuously plagues our communities? For as much as we like to propagate hadith, prophetic character and tolerance, racism amongst Muslims remains a huge skeleton in the closet. Although superficially we may seem to be more accepting, racist sentiments still manifest themselves in subtle ways. But it exists, and it needs to stop. Are our charities perpetuating this intra-Muslim prejudice? Islam isn’t racist, Muslims are. What do you think?

Oh and racist jokes aren’t funny. Except Pakistani ones… Wheyyyyyyyy!

Salaams 🙂

P.S Forgive me for any misunderstanding or offence caused through any bad attempts at being mildly satirical. Just a reminder too… this space intends to be constructive not deconstructive, aspirational not hopeless. It’s coming from a place of love, and we love you. Sending a cyber hug!

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“Surely the men and women who give in charity and give to Allah a goodly loan, they shall receive double and for them is a noble reward.”

(Qur’an, 57:18)

11 thoughts on “Why your Charity is Racist: Questioning Islamic Charitable Prejudice

  1. I’d like to know where you got the information “only half of the pledges are received” Though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true.

    I’ve given up on big charities I’m only for small grass root ones that get things done.

    • jA for your comment. I can only tell you through our personal experience working in them. But this isn’t a critic of charity organisation themselves brother Umar, rather what are the cognitive processes when donating to charity? Are we selective, racist and prejudice when donating to charity? I’m posing the question! 🙂

      Salaam

  2. Salam

    I can see where you are coming from, and agree with the observation that Palestinian causes take up a greater than fair proportion of our fundraising – but I don’t agree that racism is behind it.

    I think the Palestinian issue strikes a deeper chord with Muslims because we feel so helpless to change such a horrifying political situation, so we throw money at it to address the guilt of not being able to physically do more.

    Also, most of the world is not behind the Palestinian issue – thanks to disinformation campaigns and threats of anti-Semitism – so we feel extra passion in supporting the ‘underdogs’ of the Ummah.

    Further, Palestine is in the forefront of our minds, as it is regularly reported on in the mainstream media, whereas the atrocities taking place in other regions, such as Kashmir and Burma are less frequently mentioned.

    There are many groups, Muslim and non, working in Africa – I regularly receive donation requests for African projects. So I disagree that the continent is being ignored by big charities, though I am sure more could be done.

    I do however agree with you on the cringeworthiness of fundraising events – maybe it goes against my British sensibilities. I have stopped attending them for a while now, unless there is a particularly interesting speaker or other unique opportunity like a film screening. I would not say public fundraising is unislamic though, as there is precedent in it from the Sunnah. But it does try the intentions of the attendees, so it shouldn’t be the first stop solution… for example, a secret auction could achieve similar results if done well.

    • Thank you Mehzabeen. Learnt a lot from your input, but as I said I was posing the question and wanted to hear other opinions on the matter! I don’t think our charities are racist! haha 🙂 I wanted to share an interesting conversation I had with a friend of mine debating the same topic. But I definitely think there is something in it, maybe not as exaggerated as the blog might have implied. You also mention it to be a ‘horrifying political situation’, and I agree, but how many political nightmares are occurring constantly throughout the world? Somalia, Rohingya and CAR? Are they not political underdogs? These are places countless Muslims are being persecuted yet similar reactions to that of Palestine are hard to come by. Is it the holiness of the place? All pertinent questions. Another argument I heard is that it is the ‘cool’ movement to be involved in as a young activist. Is it more fashionable to support Palestine as supposed to other campaigns? Anyway, just thoughts that were floating in my head!

      • I agree, there are many equally horrifying situations the world. Maybe it is the holiness of the site, that certainly adds salt to the wounds – we identify Jerusalem as being a place of Islam, but not Burma, CAR, etc.

        Media reporting is key: how often do we hear about these other places? Kashmir is hardly mentioned in the press, though the conflict there has been going on for as long as it has been in Palestine.

        I guess I should not say that racism is not the issue: it’s just that I have not observed this, in the circles I keep. Tbh, when I read the title, I thought the racism that was going to be mentioned was Muslims vs non-Muslims, or UK Muslim projects vs. global Muslim projects – I have witnessed this, and try to educate on the merits of diversified giving where I can.

      • Re: cool factor. I think that is important too. When you have lots of energy and passion for social justice, as young people tend to masha’Allah, political causes like Palestine are going to be more tempting. It’s up to charities, big and small, to direct this passion to multiple causes. Maybe better PR is exactly what is needed?

  3. This article is so on point mashAllah! We have a very serious racism problem within the Muslim ummah which unfortunately is swept under the rug. MashAllah we now have speakers actually talking about it but still no action from the grassroots local Imam Khutba level Everyone seems able to quote the Prophet (SAW) last sermon yet we seem to have serious problems actually practising it. And it’s all communities that have racist elements, no one community is the sole perpetrator even though it is more prevalent with some people than others. And this racism obviously influences the campaigns of these large charities who are basically giving the people what they want because that’s how hey survive in the dog eat dog world of corporate charities.

  4. mashallah god job !
    I hope that people will not do differences between human being indeed
    hope that Allah help us to understand the real meaning of life

  5. I hear you, and would g even further to appeal for an end to poverty pornography from the corporate ngos in the community. However it gets the donors coughing up and is hard to argue against, especially when folks have switched off critical faculties about the priject interventions themselves.

    Theres a site you might like that focusses on this and other dimensions of developmentia.

    http://Www.developmentia.tumblr.com

    Salaam

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