DUBAI // Charity begins at home for many Emiratis, but the secretary general of the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation says he would like to see more religious endowments funnelled through them.
"Awqaf is getting bigger," said Tayeb Al Rais, secretary general of the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF). "But it is not as big or as fast as I would like to see it.
"A reason for this is that lot of people still keep their endowment to their family. They run it themselves instead of coming to us."
This type of family endowment helps only the benefactor's children or other relatives, rather than the wider community.
Mr Al Rais was speaking yesterday after plans were announced for the third Dubai International Conference for Awqaf, which AMAF will host next month. At present many endowments are used to build and maintain mosques, and a major theme of the conference will be to encourage donors to support other causes.
"It is our responsibility to re-educate the community to seek goodwill from more than just building a mosque," he added. "The community needs hospitals, schools, it needs funds to be spent on sick kids, like a four-month-old boy who, if he doesn't get eye surgery, will be blind for the rest of his life. This is what the community needs.
"The reason for this conference is to tell people of our experiences and hear what they have experienced so we can learn from them. The entire conference is built around how we can do our best to help the community."
AMAF is part of Dubai Government and was set up to help UAE nationals in the emirate. Previous awqaf campaigns in the UAE that promoted the building of mosques attracted hundreds of millions of dirhams. The foundation operates five awqaf accounts - mosques, health, education, social and general - but 80 per cent of contributions flows into the mosques fund. The same trend is seen globally.
Mr Al Rais said there was still a need for awqaf even though the UAE had become a very wealthy country.
"Awqaf was created with the birth of Islam, it has always been there to support the community. Yes, the government is rich, but because of that inflation goes up, living expenses go up, and then you have a band of people who need support.
"The community always has a band of people who need extra support, and they are our responsibility as we live in an Islamic community."
The conference will run from April 22 to 23. Endowment organisations, scholars and experts in the fields of religion, economics, law, finance and Islamic investments from 20 countries will take part. The venue has yet to be confirmed.