Muslim solidarity fundraising risks misuse

With millions of rupiah being raised in Indonesia, transparency and accountability is needed.

By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

December 25, 2013
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Photographer Riza Izhar and cleric Agus Abdullah took turns describing their experiences investigating the conflict in Syria and the misery it caused for Muslims there.

  • Ustad Agus Abdullah (centre at podium) talks about the conflict in Syria during a December 15th fundraising event at a West Jakarta mosque. [Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata/Khabar]

    Ustad Agus Abdullah (centre at podium) talks about the conflict in Syria during a December 15th fundraising event at a West Jakarta mosque. [Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata/Khabar]

"We went there to find out for ourselves what is really happening there," Agus told an audience of about 30 men at the At-Taqwa Mosque in Kemanggisan, West Jakarta on December 15th.

The two men were sent to Syria for two weeks in June and July by the Muslim Concern for Syria and Palestine Forum (FIPS) to channel humanitarian aid it raised since September 2012, Agus said.

After the two men spoke, participants were also asked to contribute money.

FIPS coordinates with aid groups in Syria to distribute blankets, clothes and other basics purchased with funds collected from Indonesian Muslims, Riza said.

In March, FIPS raised over Rp 30 million ($2,466) for Syrian Muslims at a Cibubur mosque, FIPS spokesman Hardiansyah told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Where does the money go?

FIPS is not alone in collecting cash to help Syrian Muslims. Though for a good cause, such fundraising raises questions about transparency and accountability.

Muhyiddin Junaidi, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman for co-operation and international relations, told Khabar there is a high risk of misuse.

"It could be problematic due to the lack of transparency," he said.

Muhyiddin said the MUI calls on Muslims to donate money through official, well-established charity groups.

"This is in the name of solidarity but incorrectly addressed," he said. "If it is for solidarity, there are still many Muslims in Indonesia that need help."

Dewi Kurniawati, an alumna of the University of Indonesia's postgraduate program on Terrorism in International Security, said people who donate money during a religious gathering might be reluctant to ask questions.

"It would be hard to ask for accountability if the call to donate was made by a figure with religious authority. We are taught that once we donate our money, we have to sincerely let it go and not question it again," she told Khabar.

Warning on terrorism funding

Terrorism expert Al Chaidar said crowdfunding is commonly used by religious movements.

But he acknowledged crowdfunding is prone to misuse for terrorism funding, citing an Aceh case where money was raised in the name of Muslim Palestine solidarity. It was later discovered the money raising group had links to Dulmatin, one of the 2002 Bali bombers.

He added sometimes local committees do not know whether funds they raise could be misused by the main management committee.

"However, it doesn't mean that other crowdfunding efforts are flawed, as many of them are transparent and accountable," he told Khabar.

But Indonesia needs more of such monitoring, Al said, especially when money is channeled in Islamic societies through traditional means such as hawala, which systemically remits money without any actual movement of currency.

Riza and Agus said FIPS can account for every penny it has collected in the name of Muslim solidarity.

"We are first and foremost accountable to God for raising this money, but we are also accountable to the public from whom the money was raised," Riza said.

Reader Comments
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    • Agus
      May 8, 2014 @ 07:05:34AM
    • It is difficult to find someone who is truly trustworthy. I have an experience of encountering a person who could not care less when a fellow Muslim is in trouble. To this day am still shouldering the burden of being an employee of a private company. I have been though many trials and I have had to borrow as much as 20 million with interest. A fellow Muslim of means would not give me a loan. In the past, I would always give someone a loan as long as I had the money. To this day I work solely to pay off the interest and my debt has not decreased even a little. I have tried asking a bank for a loan but I am hampered by collateral. If only it were without interest perhaps my debt would be settled by now. No fellow Muslims have been willing to help despite having the means. These days no one is willing to give a loan without interest even though they are also Muslims. I have even explained my situation to Islamic teachers who are very rich but would not help me with a loan without interest even though I would have guaranteed payments every month because I have a salary, rather than only paying interest every month. They still would not help and only told me to have patience. I hope that my fellow Muslims never experience what I have, you won't even be able to pray in peace. Every morning, day and night I pray but I have not been given a way out and it has led me to write my experience.
    • Ahmad Buchori Ismail
      January 23, 2014 @ 02:01:30AM
    • Let us think and act and prioritize what is already at hand, because the suffering of Muslims in this country is no less important. Then we can take care of our other brothers, hopefully we can do these at the same time.
    • baroroh busro
      January 20, 2014 @ 11:01:43AM
    • For as long as man lives, we will be slaves to our desires, with the devil coursing through our veins, all will struggle to resist his temptation. Therefore, all who are able to refuse and resist the debauchery will be rewarded by Allah in His heaven [Qs 3: 133 - 136]. Fundraising is rife with deviant temptations.
    • alinafiah lubis
      January 20, 2014 @ 02:01:41AM
    • I completely agree.
    • Entang Suryaman
      January 15, 2014 @ 10:01:21PM
    • Baitul Mal should be established from the Neighborhood Unit level because it is this social unit that is close and knows where help is most needed. May Allah SWT always give us the correct guidance.
    • aryo gending
      January 15, 2014 @ 06:01:24AM
    • To help others who truly need help we should not think about what would be in it for us to provide that assistance. We as human beings are given privileges by the Creator, among them is the capacity for reason and we must think about how we could help our brethren, that is the whole point. In addition, we as Muslims must believe that His will always prevails! So let us not recriminate one another, Islam does not teach its followers to point fingers, let alone condemn each other. Truly, we can only try and pray and His power will determine everything.
    • jaya
      January 13, 2014 @ 07:01:34PM
    • Charity is an obligation but must be considered further because right now the people still require aid for flood victims.
    • Ibnu thai Meong
      January 11, 2014 @ 09:01:03PM
    • I think the funds should be channeled by the Indonesian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then to the Indonesian embassy in Syria.
    • Hadi Sudjono
      January 7, 2014 @ 05:01:34PM
    • Don't be easily deceived by movements under the banner of Islam. Anyone can receive the help of Muslims because we are all Allah's people.
    • Mochamad Derry Nurdiani
      January 6, 2014 @ 11:01:00PM
    • And Allah knows best.
    • sajrah. sr
      January 6, 2014 @ 12:01:58AM
    • Be aware of what we have been through lately, one's life cannot be sweet if they do not experience hardship.
    • edy mulyadi
      January 2, 2014 @ 10:01:40AM
    • It is indeed time for Muslims to have a Baitul Mal (treasury). We need only to create the system and perhaps involve institutions such as the KPK.
    • suwinanto
      January 1, 2014 @ 09:01:25AM
    • It is now difficult to find Islamic figures who are qualified, figures who are seen as capable of being the driving force for Islamic message. It turns out that many have been found to be corrupt. Are there many more impoverished Muslims in this Muslim majority country to be ignored so that we could help citizens of other countries? Aside from ourselves, there are many that need our attention. Why go overseas to help Muslims? For recognition? Do we need incentive to help our own?
    • talok72
      January 12, 2014 @ 01:01:22PM
    • Whose example are they following, I wonder?
    • yulyantie candra winata
      December 30, 2013 @ 01:12:47AM
    • Absolutely correct, I agree.
    • muhammad jufriSsosI
      December 25, 2013 @ 10:12:07PM
    • With resolve and remembrance of the tsunami 9 years ago, we the people of Aceh indeed need to remember the victims, our brothers and sisters who endured a disaster by Allah SWT.
    • Kohar Suwandi
      December 25, 2013 @ 10:12:26PM
    • Even donations gathered by official institutions can be misused, let alone this kind of donation. But it all comes back to the interpretation of Muslims on what is charity in Islam.

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