Fadi Itani: How Muslim charities are pulling together to respond to the Covid-19 crisis 

21 Apr 2020 Voices

Fadi Itani from the Muslim Charities Forum explains how its Our Campaign for National Solidarity is helping organisations work together during the coronavirus crisis. 

Covid-19 has stopped us all in our tracks, with life as we know it, for billions across the globe, changed in an instance. 

Whilst it sweeps across the world bringing economies to their knees, health care systems to the brink, and forcing families to question how they will make ends meet – it has, somehow, in all its destruction, made all of our differences seem unimportant and trivial. We all share in a common challenge now. We all share in an innate want and need to protect our families, neighbours and communities from Covid-19.

We have seen across the nation, the incredible power of togetherness, whether it be the hundreds of community-based mutual aid groups set up to coordinate local responses to those in need within their community, or the hundreds of thousands of people taking up the NHS’s call for volunteers. It’s about coming together and trying to help our country and the world at its time of great need, not for personal gain or commendations, but simply because it is the right thing to do. 

Taking action 

As a representative body for a number of Muslim charities in the UK, MCF is aware of the anxieties felt by Muslim community in the UK, in particular. With a high number of intergenerational households and a population where a high proportion have health problems that place them at a higher risk (such as heart disease and diabetes) - many within the Muslim community are scared. 

This, coupled with the fact that Muslims are already Britain’s most disadvantaged faith community, makes this crisis very real, and very personal. The Muslim community has felt the impact of the crisis heavily.  The first lives lost amongst NHS staff were Muslims, and several high-profile Muslims, from councillors to other well-respected members of the Muslim community, have also lost their lives. 

Yet, despite what may be said by those with unfavourable views of Muslims, we do not exist in isolation to the wider UK population. We feel the pain of our neighbours as if it were our own, no matter their faith. We do not just feel though... we also act. We volunteer our time, we donate our money, those of us who work in essential services do our jobs on the frontlines knowing well that is may cost us our lives. 

Pulling together

When the Covid-19 crisis hit the UK, MCF recognised the necessity of an immediate and well-coordinated action. We spoke with our members and a number of other UK-based Muslim charities, organisations and representative/umbrella groups and decided that now was the time for collective and unified action. We have joined hands (virtually) to provide a collective response.  

Our Campaign for National Solidarity helps raise funds to support families and individuals in need of assistance, particularly those facing financial difficulties, as well as helping community organisations with the resources and support necessary in order to help them more effectively coordinate their local responses and assist the most vulnerable in their areas. 

We have pooled our resources and expertise and increased our manpower through our incredible staff and volunteers. We are pulling our strengths together, so as to minimise our weaknesses – we are doing what is needed to be a part of ensuring that the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people across the UK, in all their diversity, is protected and upheld.

We make up a small part of a very big picture of the UK Muslim communities' response to this crisis. Thousands of Muslims across the UK are volunteering their time, at the time of writing this piece we managed to capture the details of just over 120 Muslim-led volunteer/mutual aid groups which have sprung into action over the past few weeks.  Mosques and Islamic centres have closed their doors to worship but opened them up to provide space and storage for the emergency services and local response groups. 

How charities are mobilising 

The action is taking place in all corners of the UK.  In the South-East, the Kent Muslim Welfare Association has been working with its local authority to provide a buddy system and prescription delivery services. National Muslim charities have been working across the UK to provide assistance to local groups. 

Muslim Charity has developed an innovative takeaway partnership scheme to provide meals for vulnerable people, and to help takeaways businesses stay afloat. In Nottingham, Muslim Hands has provided disaster response advice to local mutual aid groups so that they are equipped and have the skills needed to ensure they can be effective in their response. 

This crisis is multifaceted and one of the major dangers of isolation is the increase of instances of domestic abuse, hence, another Muslim-led charity, Human Appeal, has been working to support victims and survivors during this period. 

The campaign is supporting and mobilising the goodwill of our community in serving the rest of the nation. We know that when we all work together, we can protect and support the most vulnerable. It is now, more important than ever, that we all join forces and unify. For surely when we work together, together we can overcome this crisis. In the months and years to come, hopefully, we will look back with pride at how, when those in our communities, country, and world most needed it, that thousands, across the UK, stood up and did our bit to help. 

Fadi Itani is chief executive of the Muslim Charities Forum 

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