Many members of the Australian Muslim community are genuinely worried about the future of their umbrella organisation, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC).
The ongoing grouping, infighting and lack of respect and trust on the leaders of AFIC may have even made some Muslims seriously thinking to start a new organisation to avoid the repeat of all wrongdoings of AFIC and the potential liabilities resulting from the ongoing legal proceedings.
Some others are in the opinion that, as a last attempt to reform AFIC, a completely new leadership should be elected in the upcoming Federal Congress. The team must be fresh without any link to the recent and past infightings.
Given the recent history of AFIC elections, the incumbent group is unlikely to create an environment conducive to any fair and noncontroversial elections. Fortunately, recently a wise judge has instructed AFIC to call a Federal Congress and appoint an independent body to conduct the election of a new Executive Committee (EXCO) of AFIC in the Federal Congress to be held from 6-7 May 2017.
Refreshed AFIC must avoid all leaders who have brought it to the verge of collapse, especially those who have been frequently changing sides for mysterious reasons, compromising principle, dignity and trustworthiness, and are in the business of one day calling someone enemy and the next day becoming the best friend, and the vice versa.
The starting point of the reform of AFIC must be its age-old and undemocratic constitution. A lot of the provisions of the current constitution is outdated and reasons for the current self-destruction.
Changes to AFIC Constitution:
Currently only nine Council Presidents and AFIC President vote in electing the EXCO. This is where the problems starts. All member Societies of AFIC must be allowed to vote in the election.
To ensure the fairness of AFIC elections it is essential to scrutinise the Councils and Societies if they regularly held their AGM and elections as per their constitution, paid membership fees and submitted annual reports, at least for two consecutive years, to be eligible to vote in the AFIC elections and participate in the Congress.
All office bearers and members of the AFIC EXCO should be directly elected in the Congress. No EXCO member will be eligible for re-election for the same position, and more than two terms on the EXCO.
AFIC must have adequate representation of women and youth on the EXCO and all its organisational levels.
AFIC EXCO or State Council members must be volunteers, not entitled to any financial benefit (eg loss of income) other than reimbursement of exact expenditure to perform AFIC or Council assigned duties.
Nepotism must be banned and conflict of interest transparently managed. No children and relatives of AFIC office bearers and its Councils will be appointed to any paid positions in AFIC or its business organs and awarded any business contracts.
AFIC must get out of the culture of court cases and self-serving activities of its leaders, so that it could play a positive role to foster Islamic living in Australia.
The assets and business wings of AFIC must be managed and operated by skilled paid staff who will report to AFIC. The main focus of AFIC should be to re-establish as a community organisation.
On a national level AFIC should:
Organise Annual Conventions (similar to ISNA in the USA/Canada) for people of all ages, gender and ethnic background. This will provide a sense of belonging of Muslims to AFIC and a forum to know fellow Muslims and interact with them on matters of mutual Islamic and social benefits.
Reactivate a national body of Muslim Student Associations (like the Australian Federation of Muslim Students Associations in the past) to create future generation of leaders for the Muslims of Australia and support a national student/youth organisation.
Organise seminars on topics of interest to the Ummah at different centres of Muslim population and engage with Muslim and non-Muslim professionals, faith leaders, and policymakers to improve relationship and understanding with the wider community and government agencies.
Work for Halal legislation through the Federal/State Government/s to make the system unified, transparent, accountable, reliable, professionally managed, and beneficial to the community and county. AFIC Halal Certification body should be a community owned AFIC managed entity where its income should be used to strictly manage the certification regime and promote Halal products.
Proactively involve in Interfaith and Multicultural engagement and liaise with government bodies and the media to counter Islamophobia and contribute towards understanding, social cohesion, inclusiveness and friendship to promote peace and harmony within and beyond Australia.
Professor Shahjahan Khan is the former Vice President of the Islamic Council of Queensland, the Director of MCCA and Professor of Statistics, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland.