Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, Chief Executive Officer of Islamic Relief: "We unreservedly condemn all forms of religious hatred including anti-Semitism and are not influenced, let alone controlled, by any political agenda or external group"
For Muslims, giving to charity is not an optional extra but a religious obligation. The principle of zakat requires us to donate 2.5% of our disposable income, and thousands of Muslim charities have been formed to assist the poor and needy around the world.
Among the most prominent is Islamic Relief Worldwide, which has offices in over 40 countries from Sweden to South Africa and has assisted more than 92 million people since its foundation in 1984. It is my privilege to serve this great organisation as Chief Executive. It is also my responsibility to speak out when critics seek to question our motives and undermine our integrity.
One such critic is Tobias Petersson, who has drawn the attention of Nyheter24 readers to allegations that Islamic Relief is linked to terrorism. Mr Petersson is entitled to his opinion, but the Islamic Relief Worldwide I know and love abhors terrorism and works extremely hard to ensure that aid does not fall into the wrong hands.
Islamic Relief Worldwide is a purely humanitarian organisation, a registered charity with the Charity Commission of England and Wales dedicated to alleviating the poverty and suffering of the world’s poorest people through emergency relief and development programmes. We are a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and a signatory to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Code of Conduct, reflecting the fact that we subscribe to the highest standards of neutrality, impartiality and independence in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Right now our teams are delivering life-saving aid to communities devastated by the severe earthquake in Nepal and torn apart by the protracted conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Some are risking their lives daily to assist people in need – people of all races and religions.
We have seen no credible evidence to substantiate Israel’s claim of Hamas links, either from the Israeli authorities or through undertaking a thorough independent investigation. We are entrusted to carry out projects on behalf of UN bodies and other major global institutions as well as the governments of several countries, all of which have high standards of due diligence and thorough processes, as well as ongoing monitoring of funds. These partnerships would be unthinkable if there were any truth in the allegations made by Mr Petersson.
Mr Petersson is wrong in suggesting that monitoring and evaluation of our work is limited to a single independent investigation of our operations in one location. All our operations around the world are audited annually and are subjected to dozens of additional independent audits every year, including audits requested by Sida in Sweden and other funders. Not one of these has found a shred of evidence of links to terrorism.
We have systems and processes developed over many years to ensure that aid reaches those who need it and does not fall into the wrong hands. This includes an extensive screening programme to check against over 540 global lists of proscribed organisations and individuals across five continents, covering more than 240 countries, in order to ensure that no one we employ, partner or work with has any links to proscribed organisations.
Mr Petersson has displayed very limited knowledge of the circumstances of Ayaz Ali’s unlawful detention in Israel. Mr Ali was held in a military prison for three weeks without access to a lawyer and was finally released by order of an Israeli military court judge, after the Israeli authorities failed to produce any evidence to bring about a charge. And contrary to Mr Petersson’s slur of anti-Semitic and Islamist links, we unreservedly condemn all forms of religious hatred including anti-Semitism and are not influenced, let alone controlled, by any political agenda or external group.
It saddens me that one-sided, negative media coverage of Islamic Relief so often obscures the vital life-saving work we do, the courage of our aid workers and the extraordinary generosity of our donors – a very different picture that I encourage Nyheter24 readers to appreciate for themselves by visiting our websites at www.islamic-relief.org and www.islamic-relief.se. We are trusted by hundreds of thousands of people across the world to turn their generosity into practical support for poor and vulnerable communities – a noble cause that we are determined to serve to the best of our ability.
Dr Mohamed Ashmawey,
Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief