Muslim charities across the nation are being urged to seek accreditation from the Better Business Bureau to help lift suspicions about their activities and wariness among potential donors.
The BBB's Wise Giving Alliance and Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based legal advocacy and educational organization, announced Wednesday an initiative aimed at restoring or bolstering trust in these charities among Muslims and non-Muslims. Like other charities that have sought a badge of approval from the BBB, the Muslim organizations would be judged on their governance, accountability, effectiveness, spending on programs and openness to public scrutiny.
Farhana Khera, head of the 3-year-old Muslim Advocates, said the investigations and prosecutions of Muslim charities by the U.S. government since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "have had a chilling effect on the lawful operations of charities and on donors." As charity is a cornerstone of the Muslim faith, she hoped this effort would better allow Muslim-Americans "to be active participants in the civil society of our country."
H. Art Taylor, Wise Giving Alliance president, acknowledged it was beyond the BBB's capability to guarantee that a charity wasn't involved with shadowy organizations.
"There's not much any independent evaluator can do to make sure a charity is not linked to a terrorist activity," he said from his Washington office. "But we believe our measures for charity are strong and promote transparency."
Taylor said the BBB ordinarily evaluates a national charity after a member of the public inquires or complains about it. This program differs in that an initial group of some eight Muslim groups have volunteered to be evaluated.
Muslim Advocates is expected to encourage participation by more groups—whether national, regional or local in scope—at seminars it plans to hold around the country starting this fall. One is tentatively slated for Chicago in 2009, Khera said.
Muslim Advocates itself has started an application for accreditation. Taylor said Muslim Advocates and any other Muslim charity that applies faces the risk of being assessed on the bureau's Web site (us.bbb.org) as not meeting standards or in non-compliance.
Despite that risk, said Taylor, "I believe the charities are better off going through the process than letting the public keep wondering about them." (MORE)