UAE banks chief calls for transparency in Muslim giving

Emirati banking head Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair. (Supplied)
Updated 10 September 2018
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UAE banks chief calls for transparency in Muslim giving

  • 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.


British PM May: 'I will not break up my country for EU Brexit deal'

Updated 21 September 2018
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British PM May: 'I will not break up my country for EU Brexit deal'

  • Theresa May hits back with angry statement after EU leaders rejected May’s Chequers plan
  • Sterling plummets as both sides warn they are planning for a no-deal scenario

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday Brexit talks with the European Union had hit an impasse, defiantly challenging the bloc to come up with their own plans a day after the bloc’s leaders savaged her proposals.
At a summit in Austria on Thursday, EU leaders rejected May’s “Chequers” plan, saying she needed to give ground on trade and customs arrangements for the UK border with Ireland.
The British media said the response had left her proposals in tatters, and May angrily struck back in a televised address from her Downing Street office, saying neither side should expect the impossible from the other.
“Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect,” May said. “The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.”
Sterling extended its losses as May spoke, falling to as low as $1.3080, about 1.4 percent on the day, putting it on course for its biggest one-day drop this year, over growing fears Britain could leave the EU without any deal.
May has said the Chequers proposals for trade with the EU, which would resolve arguments over the border of Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic, were the only way forward. EU leaders in Salzburg repeated their view that the plans would undermine their cherished single market.
After the summit, EU leaders said they would push for an agreement next month, but both sides have warned they are planning for a no-deal scenario.
“It’s not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals,” May said. “So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are, what their alternative is, so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.”
May, who commands a majority in parliament only with the support of a small pro-Brexit Northern Irish party, said she could not agree to any deal which treated Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom.
The EU insists that there can be no hard border between the British province and the Irish Republic, with Northern Ireland remaining in the bloc’s customs union or effectively establishing a border in the Irish Sea if no alternative deal is reached.
“I will not overturn the result of the referendum nor will I break up my country,” she said. “We need serious engagement on resolving the two main problems in the negotiations and we stand ready.”
However, she said no matter what happened, the rights of three million EU citizens living in the United Kingdom would be protected.
Earlier, her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said some EU leaders had shown unstatesmanlike behavior in Salzburg.
“We’ve already compromised hugely with the Chequers proposals,” Raab told BBC TV. “What we’re not going to do is be salami sliced throughout this negotiation in a typical style that the EU engages in without movement on the other side.”
For the British media, the message from Salzburg had been clear. “Your Brexit’s broken,” the Daily Mirror newspaper said.
Newspapers led their front pages with a Reuters picture showing May, dressed in a red jacket, standing apparently aloof and alone from a mass of suited male EU leaders.
May faces a fight with angry Conservative lawmakers at her party’s annual conference from Sept. 30.
Many have voiced opposition to her plans, which they said would bind Britain into much EU regulation in return for free trade, and some would prefer a no-deal “hard Brexit” in March, despite warnings that would ravage the British economy.
“Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy has been a disaster,” opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “The Tories have spent more time arguing among themselves than negotiating with the EU.
“The political games from both the EU and our government need to end because no deal is not an option.”
In response to May’s statement, the Confederation of British Industry and other business bodies said they wanted to see constructive dialogue, not rhetoric.
Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan added his voice to those including union and business leaders who said there should be a second Brexit referendum. Scotland’s top court ruled on Friday that the European Court of Justice should consider whether Britain could unilaterally change its mind on Brexit.
“The referendum was the largest democratic exercise this country has ever undergone,” said May, who has repeatedly ruled out a second vote following the original 2016 referendum. “To deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy.”