European Islamic charities turn to business models

Several large Muslim charities in Europe are increasingly taking their cues from corporate life, viewing Islam in instrumental and marketing terms, writes William Barylo in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (36:3). Muslims have set up numerous charitable initiatives in Europe on causes and issues such as halal food certification, finance, education, or Islamic businesses. Many of these charities started as “safe spaces” that valued religious approaches as alternatives to bureaucratic models. In studying 11 Islamic charities in France, Poland, and the UK, Barylo focuses on the young volunteers for these organizations, who often come from the corporate world and are seeking closer social bonds and affirmation of their religious identity. Yet the growth of these organizations often leads to bureaucratic behavior. “Aware of the donation power of Muslim households, many charities design activities through marketing methods directly inspired by neo-liberalism, increasing ‘consumer choice’ and monetizing each possible detail with tailored user fees.”

The researcher finds that the charities he studied, particularly the larger ones driven by social media, compare God to the “CEO” of humanity, select Quranic verses and Hadiths to encourage “success, enhancement, perfection,” and cite Muhammad as an “example of leadership.” The “adoption of codes and methods of competitive corporate management shows the emergence of a Muslim ‘prosperity theology’ in which material success is deemed as a sign of divine approval,” Barylo writes.

(Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs,