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Project Ploughshares

Islamic Relief Canada

Member Profile July-August 2013


"This picture is from Islamic Relief Canada's "War On Hunger" campaign.
The little girl featured in the picture is one of
Islamic Relief's beneficiaries in war torn Afghanistan."

This month CCIC met with Sallah Hamdani, CEO at Islamic Relief Canada, part of the global family of Islamic Relief Worldwide that was founded in 1984. Operating in 35 countries around the world, Islamic Relief Canada's primary objective is to promote sustainable development, but they also respond to disasters and emergencies. Read about Islamic Relief's work with refugees, and in Syria, and their recent "War on Hunger" campaign.


CCIC - How would you describe and characterize your organization, Islamic Relief Canada?

Sallah Hamdani - Islamic Relief Canada is part of a global family called Islamic Relief Worldwide and represents the largest Muslim charity in the world today. We function as a partner office, with charitable status, which raises funds for key development projects in over 35 different countries that Islamic Relief works in. Islamic Relief Canada’s primary objective is sustainable development but we also respond to disasters and emergencies. In addition to this, Islamic Relief advocates on behalf of the non-profit sector and lobby’s governments to take strong decisions to mitigate the adverse effects of hunger, poverty and emergencies.

CCIC - In which part of the world do you carry most of your work, and who are your local partners?

Sallah Hamdani - One of the unique aspects of Islamic Relief’s work is that it does not need to utilize third-party contractors. Islamic Relief functions as a direct link between its donors and project implementation. This is only possible because we have our own permanent offices in all the countries that we work in. With established permanent offices in South Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Far East, our teams are able to perform detailed needs assessments and more importantly, implement projects accurately once funds are received.


CCIC - How has Islamic Relief Canada engaged in/responded to the Syrian crisis?

Sallah Hamdani - Working out of our offices in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, Islamic Relief teams have been at the forefront of relief efforts inside Syria and for refugees escaping to neighbouring countries. Our teams on the ground have been providing food, shelter and medical aid. Internally Displaced Personnel (IDP’s) and refugees require shelter, the injured required urgent medical aid, and starving families require food, Islamic Relief is providing all these necessities. Furthermore, I was fortunate enough to accompany a delegation to Kofi Annan, UN special envoy to the Middle East, to strategize a peaceful solution to Syrian impasse. Here is a clip of our work inside Syria.


CCIC - Can you tell us more about the special campaign that you have organized during Ramadan?

Sallah Hamdani - Our “War on Hunger” campaign is a global family campaign that we’ve launched to fight poverty and hunger during the holy month of Ramadan. Our advertising announces that we've declared war - not on man, but on hunger. Hunger and poverty are serious issues, and they deserve serious attention. Statistics are showing the 1 billion people face starvation on a daily basis. But why Ramadan, and why hunger? Ramadan because it's a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for 30 days and give millions of dollars to charity, as commanded by God. It is a time for reflection, as they think about those less fortunate than themselves - including the orphans, widows and of course the hungry. Hunger because we've been campaigning on this issue for years and it's a constant in the areas of conflict where we work. Some are hungry because they have been displaced and dispossessed by conflict. Some are hungry simply because their communities have been forgotten or neglected as conflict takes centre stage. When I look beyond the war on terror and the politics of the Syrian conflict I see ordinary people who are suffering in the most extraordinary ways. And Islamic Relief should know - we work in some of the most dangerous countries in the world and we are getting aid through to some of the world's most vulnerable and malnourished people.

CCIC - How do you engage Canadians to support the work that you do?

Sallah Hamdani - We are largely a grass-roots organization when it comes to community mobilization and citizen engagement. Volunteers are the backbone of Islamic Relief’s work, without them we would be unable to do the work we do. All universities across Canada have Muslim Students’ Associations or Islamic Relief chapters that raise funds, advocate, organize and support our projects. They are central to our youth engagement and mobilization. Canadians generally, and Muslim Canadians in particular, are very generous and philanthropic, so thousands want to answer the call of helping those in need around the world. We also run a national ambassador program which Canadians from all walks of life. Celebrities who support the work of Islamic Relief represent the ambassador program; these include public figures such as Prince Charles, as well as renowned Toronto Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri, international cricket players, actors and musicians. Through hosting these ambassadors in different cities across Canada, we are able to reach out to a diverse set of Canadians, regardless of religious affiliation.

CCIC - How do you envision the future of your organization? What would you like to accomplish in the next ten years?

Sallah Hamdani - No matter how much we plan and strategize, the reality is everything is in the hands of our Creator. I am hoping in 10 years, we do not have to discuss issues about food security, the fact that dirty water kills 1 person every 4 seconds or that there are 145 million orphans looking for help.



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