I
was recently sent a copy of the now infamous Worrells report into the
management of the Australian Federation of Islamic Council’s (AFIC)
financial affairs. Worrells are forensic accountants who were called in
by the committee to investigate the financial and accounting practices
of the organisation. You can download the report from here.

AFIC purport to be the “leaders” or “representatives” of the Australian Muslim community.
Whilst they have been fairly successful in convincing government of
this ridiculous assertion, it is obvious to anyone that has spent time
working with the fractured and fragmented Muslim community of this
country that this is simply not true. Few, if any, Muslims would
consider these people to be their leaders and, despite any claims to
the contrary, ordinary Muslims have absolutely no mechanism whatsoever
for either being elected to the board of AFIC or influencing its
decisions. Instead, AFIC remains protected from reform by a convoluted
set of rules and policies which ensure only those people already part
of the “system” can ever assume leadership of the organisation.

Anyway, the report contains a few things which will interest Australian Muslims.

Firstly, it will undoubtedly surprise the Australian Muslim
community to learn that, according to the report, 13.5% of AFIC’s
revenue is derived from interest. Of course, Islam’s prohibition of
interest (what is known in Arabic as riba) is well known. If
the report raises good questions about AFIC’s financial management,
then surely it also raises equally important questions about whether
AFIC’s operations are compliant with the religion they claim to
represent. 13.5% is not an insignificant percentage: at least one out
of every ten dollars that AFIC earns is derived from interest.

Secondly, it is interesting to note that 66% of AFIC’s revenue is
received from the Malek Fahd School in Sydney. This amounts to
approximately $900,000. As the auditor rightly notes, Malek Fahd School
itself owes $7.9 million in interest-based loans, and it is possible
that the money being drawn by AFIC from the school might affect both
the school’s ability to maintain its infrastructure and its ability to
repay this very substantial debt. In terms of value to the Muslim
community, I think it is fair to say that this $900,000 would achieve
far more good if it was spent on the education of Muslim children
rather than being used to fund an organisation such as AFIC.

Read more at Amir Butler’s blog here.

Peter Fray

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