RIYADH, 16 October 2005 — With a drop of 20 percent in its revenue, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) has either had to roll back or scale down its youth-related activities.
Among the affected activities are summer camps and a Gulf-wide survey that WAMY planned in association with the Arab Bureau of Education for Gulf States in order to determine what socioeconomic factors influence young men’s behavior.
Dr. Saleh Al-Wohaibi, secretary-general of WAMY, explained how the organization’s youth-related activities have suffered due to the cutting back of the scholarship program for overseas students. He said the best way to wean youth away from undesirable activities was to instill sound values based on Islamic teachings. “That’s what the summer camps were about. Now with nothing much to keep them usefully occupied, they spend the whole day sleeping at home during the summer vacation. And when they get up, they drive off to spend the night in the desert.”
Dr. Al-Wohaibi said the activities of the WAMY branch office in Washington had also been substantially scaled down. WAMY and other charitable organizations suffered a loss of image as they were linked to terrorism by the Western, more specifically, the American media.
“This kind of hostile campaign is still going on in the American media. We are conducting a public relations campaign through the US media. With the help of some Saudi organizations, we have established Friends of Charity Association (FOCA), which is a lobbying group in Washington. It’s doing a good job in trying to reach out to government officials, congressmen and the media as part of our effort to explain our activities and remove misconceptions.”
Asked whether WAMY’s outreach program had helped to ease visa restrictions on WAMY officials for overseas travel, he said it had helped in creating a better understanding of WAMY. “Instead of reading about WAMY in the media, they know us now from close association,” he said. “We are facing difficulties, mainly in the US. That is why we do not want our people to go there. Officials are held up at airports and interrogated. The situation both for WAMY and other charitable organizations is not as good as it once was.”
Besides youth-related activities, other programs that have been hit include those relating to development activities as well as Islamic propagation. However, programs concerning poor families, the construction of mosques and digging of wells have continued. The fall in donations has also had an adverse impact on the welfare of orphans and the poor.
He said the outreach program had helped to correct the wrong impressions of WAMY. “There was a substantial decline immediately after 9/11. However, the situation is gradually improving. This year we have witnessed a major improvement. Even some non-Muslims are beginning to be more sympathetic to WAMY and also showing a great deal of understanding of its activities,” he added.