(MENAFN - Arab News) Muslim NGOs have been urged to make their activities transparent to remove suspicions, establish better relations with governments and respond effectively to smear campaigns aimed at tarnishing their image.
"Deliberate attempts have been made to discredit Muslim NGOs and charities by linking them with extremism and terrorism. We should respond to these allegations in an intelligent and effective manner," said Dr. Ismail Maritheri of King Abdulaziz University.
Giving a presentation on NGO Leadership at the community development workshop organized by the Islamic Development Bank, Maritheri emphasized the need to train students and community workers on how to respond to such allegations in a positive manner.
"We should respond to smear campaigns intelligently instead of reacting violently," said Maritheri, an academic and trainer, who has obtained his doctoral degree in creativity.
Mohamed Rifai, who represents IDB Graduates Association in Sri Lanka, pointed out that some Muslim NGOs were accused of misappropriation and misuse of funds. "Funds collected for some charitable works are not fully utilized."
Rifai called upon Muslim NGOs to learn from their counterparts in the US and Europe that work with a clear planning, and do their work silently without giving much publicity. "They have good links with the governments and communities and they are not suspected."
At the same time, Muslim NGOs fight with one another and boast about their work. "They use most of their funds for building mosques and madrassas and neglect important community needs such as poverty alleviation, healthcare and education," Rifai said.
Shehu Usman Muhammad Makarfi, chairman of the Shoura council at the National Islamic Center in Kaduna, urged Muslims to respond to anti-Islam campaigns in a civilized and Islamic manner. "We, Muslims, have to understand Islam properly and work according to its teachings without bothering about false allegations. We should learn how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) dealt with such allegations," he told Arab News.
Makarfi attributed the violent reactions to the anti-Islam film and cartoons to a lack of knowledge about Islam and Prophet Muhammad's teachings. "We should start building Islam from our homes. Muslims should not be provoked hearing or seeing baseless allegations. We have to make use of such incidents as an opportunity to engage non-Muslims and enlighten them about the true teachings of our religion. This will change their attitude and make them realize that Muslims are not terrorists or radicals."
In his hour-long presentation, Dr. Maritheri called upon the NGO representatives from different countries to achieve good leadership qualities to bring about changes and leave a big impact on their communities. "Negative thoughts and attitudes prevent us from unleashing our potentials."
He also urged the delegates to spread the beauty of Islam in their communities. "Most people are not aware of the great teachings of Islam. Negative media has given a bad impression about this wonderful divine religion. We have to tell our non-Muslim friends the mental peace we enjoy by practicing Islam. We should also become the voice of the voiceless."
Khalifa Said Jallo from Denver Colarado said the program impressed him. "It helped me to learn a lot from the experiences of others. It also gave me an opportunity to know more about IDB and its efforts for the development of Muslim countries and communities. Every organization faces problems but the success lies in how they overcome such problems."