Personal Thoughts on the Khoja’s Greatest Community Leader By Mohammad Mahdi Karim, Student of University of Warwick
1. Reflection on the verses from the Holy Qur'an
2. Introduction of Councillors
3. Address by the President of ISIJ of Toronto
4. Address by the President of NASIMCO
5. Key Note Address by the President of The World Federation of KSIMC
6. Observations from the floor
7. Minutes of the Third Exco of the term 2017-2020 and matters arising
8. Exploring WF-AID Delineation from The WF
9. Update on Census Project
10. Vision of the Secretariat Term 2017-2020 - Updated Action Plan
11. TEDxKhoja Proposal
Reflection on the verses from the Holy Qur'an
The first day of the fourth Executive Council (ExCo) meeting in Toronto, Canada started on Friday 21st June 2019. We commenced with a beautiful recitation from the Holy Qur’an by some of the students of the As-Sadiq Islamic School.
Introduction of Councillors
The Councillors all introduced themselves, each giving a brief description of their roles and how they are involved in supporting The World Federation and our community. This allowed all of the attendees to learn more about the Councillors. Alhamdulillah, there were many Councillors in attendance from all over the world, including the North America, UK, Africa, India, Pakistan and Australia.
The Office Bearers, after introducing themselves, read an apology letter from the Vice President, Shabbar Dhalla, who was unable to attend this meeting. This was the first meeting he had not attended in 10 years, and he wished the whole delegation for a successful and fruitful meeting during this ExCo.
The Secretary General of The World Federation, Shan E Abbas Hassam, gave the delegation some information about the history of NASIMCO and ISIJ of Toronto. NASIMCO was established in 1980 as an umbrella body to unify North American Jamaats. Shan noted that the ISIJ of Toronto centre is ‘one of a kind’. He praised the team for persevering with the building of the centre, which he says is a result of ‘the blood, sweat and tears of the team who made this happen and the support of NASIMCO and The World Federation’.
Address by the President of ISIJ of Toronto
The President of ISIJ of Toronto, Habib Meghjee, welcomed the delegation, starting with a wonderful two minute video about the ISIJ of Toronto centre. He spoke about their plans to open a fourth centre, to cater to their growing community. This centre also has the As-Sadiq Islamic School, which has over 700 students enrolled. Habib Meghjee also spoke about the importance of these meetings and the NASIMCO conferences, which allow for development and the sharing of best practices. He spoke about some of ISIJ’s recent initiatives, which include electronic voting. He finished by wishing everyone success for this ExCo.
Address by the President of NASIMCO
Arif Jacksi, the newly elected President of NASIMCO, followed by giving a short address to the delegation. He spoke about the current priorities of his new team, which include the eradication of poverty and the spiritual upliftment of our youth and adults. He echoed the words of the ISIJ President by saying that collaboration and sharing of best practices is key to success. An example of where this has worked so well is the Madrasah Centre of Excellence (MCE) Tarbiyah curriculum, which is being used around the world.
This led onto the President of The World Federation, Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi, giving his keynote address. He began by thanking the recent and incoming Presidents of NASIMCO, Alhaj Razak Damani and Arif Jacksi for organising the meeting and congratulated Arif Jacksi on being elected for the 2019-2022 term. The President also thanked ISIJ of Toronto for hosting the event and being welcoming of all of the team and attendees.
Alhaj Anwarali spoke about our common goal of building a ‘vibrant, proactive and stronger world body, and to uplift our community to higher levels of development of progress’. He said these ExCo meetings are key to achieving this as it allows the leadership teams to discuss various matters, review programs and assess progress on our activities. The President also noted his pleasure at the attendance of the delegation from India Federation, who were unable to make the last ExCo in Karachi due to visa issues.
Alhaj Anwarali also spoke about the shift in the geo-political and economic situation on a global scale, which is affecting citizens in all countries. We are witnessing the worst humanitarian crises in Yemen and Syria, where hundreds of thousands of families have been displaced due to the devastating wars in their countries. Shortages of food, medical attention and shelters are some of the challenges facing the people in Yemen and Syria. He took a minute to pray to Allah (SWT) for lasting peace, security and tranquillity in these countries and in all parts of World.
There has also been much suffering due to despicable terrorist activities, such as in New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The World Federation issued statements of condemnation on behalf of all of our Regional Federations on these incidents.
The President noted that this is his second year in the role and thanked Allah (swt) for giving him the opportunity to serve the community members and leaders for their support and cooperation. He said meeting with community members and leaders from all regions and Jamaats gives him the opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into the challenges and opportunities that exist in these places.
Speaking about the current and future objectives of The World Federation, he said ‘we are more determined on inward investments as our strategic priority to help our own community to enhance development in areas which we have prioritised’. He said that during the course of the two day ExCo event, The World Federation’s Office Bearers will report analysis which cover key areas of collaboration. There will also be updates from all WF departments, including Islamic Education, Khoja Heritage and WF-AID.
In the last two ExCos, in Karachi and Stanmore, the President spoke about Spirituality and Public Relations and re-emphasised the importance of the Madrasah and Pulpit, something Shaykh Murtadha Alidina will speak on in more detail. Imparting some advice to the community, he said ‘I wish to remind our community to build bridges of friendship, goodwill and cooperation with other religions and sects whereby collectively we can achieve a lot of goodwill’.
The Al-Wahda Sports Festival is being held in Toronto this coming week and the President spoke about how he’s pleased to know that over 1000 participants have registered! The WF encourages sports, physical activities and sports visits between Regional Federations and Jamaats, besides the games such festivals provide a platform for the community members and youths of both genders from different parts of the world to congregate together to display their talents in sports but also to network and create bonds of relationships and sportsmanship. He applauded Toronto Jamaat and the organising committee for organising this wonderful event and wished them a successful and enjoyable festival.
In his closing remarks, Alhaj Anwarali thanked the leadership of the Regional Federations for their support and guidance and thanked the WF team and Secretariat staff for their efforts and commitment to delivering the plan for this term.
Following this presentation, Anver Rajpar, the President of Pakistan Federation, gave a short speech and thanked the councillors for their support towards their work for Pakistan Federation and presented awards to Sibtain Asaria and Mustafa Kassam for their efforts on various projects.
There were many observations from the floor regarding the President’s speech. One of these was Hussein Hussein from The Federation of Australasian Communities (FAC), who announced that FAC, India Federation and Africa Federation are working together to hold a sports festival in Sydney during January inshallah and has invited everyone to attend. He also spoke about the lack of females present at ExCo and emphasised that the leadership teams work to increase the number of women involved by the next ExCo. Shabir Najafi, the Chairman of Africa Federation, said that the latest Africa Federation conference had an equal split of male and female delegates, which the leadership commended them on.
The next item on the agenda was the adoption of the minutes from the last ExCo held in Karachi during November 2018. After some deliberation and discussions, these were adopted.
The first paper to be presented was called ‘Exploring WF-AID Delineation from The World Federation’, which was given by the Head of WF-AID, Madiha Raza, and WF Secretary General, Shan E Abbas Hassam.
Three potential approaches were presented:
1. Keeping the Status Quo
This approach would keep things as they are now, which has strengths such as WF-AID benefiting from the consistency and settled status of WF. However, there are existing issues such as brand confusion, lack of donor diversity and the fact that the Office Bearers team have their focus split between the entire organisation which does not allow for growth.
2. Complete Delineation
This approach would mean splitting WF-AID off completely from The World Federation. This would mean a fresh start, with the potential to be a serious player in the humanitarian sector. However, there would be a loss of backing and accountability to WF.
3. Hybrid Approach
The third option is a hybrid approach, which would mean that WF-AID would still be linked to WF, but there would be a separate senior leadership team for WF-AID. This would free up the time of the Office Bearers team to allow them to focus on strategic matters at WF and similarly the senior leadership would put their efforts in WF-AID which will result in potential increase of funding opportunities.
Following the presentation of the three models, the councillors discussed the three options, with many voicing their opinions on which of the three options would be the best choice and which would be a workable solution. The councillors pointed out that it’s important to make an informed decision taking into account the objectives of the organisation, recommendations from experts in the field and the consequences of the objectives of The World Federation. The Office Bearers agree that a lot more thinking and deliberation is needed to make the correct decision.
After a short break for Juma’ah prayers followed by lunch, the meeting reconvened with an update on the Census project, which was delivered by Saeeda Jiwa, Shaykh Safdar Jaffer and Shiraz Walji. The World Federation are intending to carry out a Generational Plan that would chart out a future path for the Khoja community for the next generation (20 years). There are three phases to achieving this:
1. Data gathering
2. Model building and analysis
3. Reporting and recommendations
Saeeda Jiwa told the delegation that there are many aspects to this project and many things to consider, including GDPR law. She said that they are flexible and understand some individuals may not want to share certain details and that they will consider only some fields within the form as being mandatory for completion, so people can choose to keep some details private.
Comments from the floor included suggestions such as including the youth in the data collection phase so we can help to engage them and training volunteers to help people fill out the surveys. Saeeda Jiwa also said that the Regional Federations need to work very closely with Jamaats in order to complete this project effectively.
Shan E Abbas Hassam, Secretary General, paid tribute to the team for their work on this project, saying that they have been doing great work and reaffirmed the Office Bearers committed to providing as much support as possible.
Next on the agenda was the updated action plan from various departments of the WF Secretariat.
The first department to present their updated action plan. Shaykh Mohammed Ali Ismail, the Deputy Head of Islamic Education gave this presentation. In his presentation, talked about the structural expansion of the Islamic Education department and then covered the department's work in light of six key concepts:
1. Modern Digital Services
The new Digital Services function of IE has to date created 54 videos on various topics, such as the Characteristics of Imam Ali (as). Most recently, it launched the Shi‘i Theology, Ethics and Practice Series (STEPS). Shaykh Mohammed Ali took the opportunity to play samples of the latest videos. You can find out more about STEPS and watch out videos here.
2. Pertinent Research
Shaykh Mohammed Ali then spoke about IE’s Academic Board, which assesses book proposals, supervises the Research Section of our Qum Office, and oversees the forthcoming dedicated Fiqh page.
3. Strong Ties with Maraji
Through our offices in Qum and Najaf, strong ties have been maintained with the Maraji. These offices hold various educational courses such as the Madinah and Bab al-Ilm short course, which is now in its 17th year, and the Nurses and Medical Practitioners Retreat, which was held in Najaf in April.
4. Raising Spirituality, Knowledge and Skill Levels
IE is continuing its work on the Scholar Database Project, which aims to enlist the capacity and skills of scholars across the global community. The India Office partnered with India Federation in holding the Madrasah Centre of Excellence’s Teacher Skills Programs. Furthermore, with the MCE, the Spiritual Development Programme for Madrasah Teachers will start soon. The iSistani app, launched earlier this year, incorporates three of His Eminence’s (may Allah protect our scholars) works on Fiqh. And the Khums Seminar held in London in May provided guidance on how Khums is to be calculated in light of recent changes in the rulings.
5. Tableegh in Diverse Range of Communities
The WF works in various countries, and in the last six months the External Tableegh Coordinator visited Bosnia, Kosovo, Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines, and South Africa, France, and Germany. Shaykh Mohammed Ali briefed the attendees on the projects being undertaken by the WF in these countries.
6. Improved Publishing
To date, the WF has published 75 titles. In the IE Strategic Plan, eight stages have been charted out for all WF publications to go through to ensure that high standards are met. Six titles are currently being worked on, including a French translation of a work on Shi‘i traditions.
Shaykh Mohammed Ali Ismail then answered questions from the floor, which included questions about the publication of a booklet from the Khums Seminar, which was recently held in Stanmore. Shaykh said the first draft is ready and is being reviewed by learned scholars and will be released soon inshallah.
The WF-AID update was next and was presented by the Head of WF-AID, Madiha Raza. Madiha spoke about how the department has been working to establish a clear strategy, which includes employing more staff as Project Coordinators.
The key update from Madiha was the steps taken towards our aim of empowering impoverished communities. Madiha spoke about the recent Ramadan Relief appeal, which included long term sustainable projects designed to help people beyond the Holy month. She said there are two aspects of the department; one is the emergency relief, which includes food and shelter, and the second is the long term support, which includes microfinance projects and long term solutions.
As part of the shared Secretariat initiatives, WF Councillor Salim Rehmatullah, supported by Mohammed Meghjee from Peterborough, presented a proposal called 'TEDxKhoja'. The aim behind this initiative is to put our community on the world stage.
The proposal includes an initial three events, which will take place in areas where our community is already established. Each event will be themed in light of local and global issues as identified by community members. However, this is aimed at both Khoja and non-Khojas.
There were comments from the delegation, who seemed interested in the concept of having these TEDxKhoja events. The comments included some questions around youth and non-khoja involvement, which Mohamed said would be overwhelmingly positive.
That concluded the events of the first day of ExCo4! We will continue with the Vision of the Secretariat and then move on to the remaining agenda items.
The World Federation and CoEJ have donated £5,000 to help the victims of this tragedy and their families.
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