Islamic aid agencies in bid to gain public trust

UK-based Islamic Relief is spearheading a drive to set up an umbrella group aimed at increasing trust in Muslim aid agencies throughout the world.

Muslim charities have universally condemned the London bombings, and were already working to set up an umbrella group called the Humanitarian Forum to forge stronger links between Muslim NGOs and the international NGO community.

Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Islamic NGOs have been fighting suspicions that they harbour terrorists.

Ayaz Ali, the Islamic Relief advocacy officer who is co-ordinating the forum, said Muslim charities accepted that if they are to alleviate suspicions, they must be better regulated. He said there should also be more interaction between Muslim charities and the sector as a whole.

"It is important for money to go through official channels so it doesn't get into the hands of terrorists," said Ali.

Islamic Relief hosted a seminar in London at the end of last month to discuss the issues with about 150 delegates from NGOs and governments.

They included representatives from Oxfam, the British Red Cross, the Disasters Emergency Committee and the Human Relief Agency, officials from western governments and ambassadors from several Arab states.

It is likely the forum will be hosted by the Swiss government and funded by a group of Muslim business representatives from the World Economic Forum. Cafod and the British Red Cross will sit on the steering committee.

Sir Nicholas Young, chief executive of the Red Cross, said: "Everybody has been talking about the need to ensure that relations with Muslim communities are as strong as they can be. Building Islamic relief organisations into the NGO sector is an important part of that."

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