Arab charity is blooming

Last month, while much of the globe watched the oft-hyped World Economic Forum, a first-of-its-kind summit of Arab philanthropists was held in Dubai. Middle East royalty and Egyptian businessmen mixed with Lebanese activists and other humanitarian do-gooders to find ways to aid their troubled region. And they carried a pointed message to the Bush administration: Stop making the war on terror a war on Arab goodwill.

The charitable impulses of Arab billionaires and others are growing, according to a report released at the event by the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo.

Building on a long tradition of zakat, the Islamic version of tithing, philanthropy in the Mideast looks strikingly similar to that of Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie and seeks to make profound social changes.

Consider the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who pledged $10 billion last year to his own foundation. If this were an American grantmaker, it would be the third largest in the country, according to Chronicle of Philanthropy figures.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation is providing college scholarships for Arab students to attend Ivy League schools in America. Speaking of Arab teenagers, Nabil Ali Alyousuf, acting chief executive of the Al Maktoum Foundation, put it best: "We either educate them or we leave them to poverty, no education, and potential extremism."

[Excerpt of an article by Ian Wilhelm, The Christian Science Monitor]


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