ICP: Islamic Charities Project
The aim of this project is to reflect how unjustified obstacles in the way of bona fide Islamic charitable institutions can be collectively removed. Many experts hold that the best way to give aid in critical situations is often, rather than through top-down initiatives, to strengthen local people’s ability to help themselves through community-based organizations that make for autonomy. A medical analogy would be the provision of immune system boosters. Among Muslims and no less than among Christian or Jewish communities – where faith-based organizations are much in favour – religion is the basis of vast civil society networks that can be used as conduits for intelligent aid.
[a] To generate research-based knowledge on the ‘receiving end’ (zakat committees, mechanisms for the distribution of depoliticized aid through local Islamic charities, etc) and to make results available to a wider public by publishing them in Arabic and English;
[b] To come forth with policy recommendations on how to make the work of Islamic charities more effective and more open to international scrutiny and accountability;
Read more in the ICP Project Brief
One of the areas of focus of the project is the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), where research is being undertaken on the local zakat committees (social welfare committees charged with the collection and distribution of Islamic legal alms). An occasional paper was published in 2008: The Palestinian Zakat Committees (1993-2007) and Their Contested Interpretations (available in English and in Arabic), written by Jonathan Benthall.
Complementing the West Bank working paper, a new working paper was published in February 2012, analyzing institutionalized zakat practices in the Gaza Strip from 1973 to 2011 (available in English and Arabic).
The Working Paper, written by Emanuel Schaeublin, argues that prior to 2007 the zakat sector in the Gaza Strip was successful in effectively serving local communities thanks to a decentralized system of governance that allowed for a certain degree of local autonomy. However, research shows that the system was compromised by the intervention of political networks, the Palestinian security apparatuses, and the Israeli occupation. As a consequence, the effectiveness of zakat-based relief activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been severely diminished since 2007. In 2011, the political situation continued to be detrimental to an efficient and transparent zakat sector able to enhance local communities.
Finally, in relation to the two working papers, the CCDP released a media study purported to analyze how local journalists of different political leanings covered the issue of zakat committees and the contentious reform of 2007.
This study, entitled "Reforming or Instrumentalizing Zakat? A Study of Palestinian Media Coverage", reviews the media coverage of the struggle over the zakat committees in the Palestinian media after the 2007 internal split. Indeed, the reforms introduced by the Ministry of Awqaf in the West Bank in December 2007 provoked a controversial discussion in the Ramallah and Gaza-based news outlets. The study shows that most of the media discussion was distorted by political points of view: editors did not manage to use an independent and critical tone to discuss the events.
Relevant links and articles
"Charité bien ordonnée", in Egypt Today, June 2010
"Islamic Charity Organizations are a Powerful Force for Integration", interview with Jonathan Benthall in Qantare.de, 2010