The Islamic Charities Project (formerly Montreux Initiative)
in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
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This is a personal account of a mediation or conflict resolution project (2005–2013), funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (Political Division IV) in which the author took part as an adviser. The aim of this exercise in "track two diplomacy" was to help remove unjustified obstacles from Islamic charities. It did not succeed in surmounting all the challenges it faced, partly as a result of political turbulence in the post 9/11 years. In particular, not enough trust was generated between the US Treasury and the charities of the Gulf states to facilitate mediation. The chapter concludes, however, by forecasting that future efforts of a similar kind will be made to bring Islamic charities fully into the international aid system. Materially well-off Muslims have the resources to alleviate poverty and suffering, while the overseas aid budgets of the major Western nations are under pressure. Moreover, a "humanitarian vacuum" is created in complex zones of conflict such as Syria, when bona fide Islamic charities are absent for political reasons and the field is left open for extremist groups. The growth of research on Islamic charities will help give substance and credibility to future interventions.


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