Muslims all over the world have a penchant towards building mosques. Mosques are iconic markers of Muslim existence and Australia is no exception.
There is a belief that if one builds a mosque for Allah, He, in turn, will build a house for that person in paradise.
According to one estimate, there are over 370 mosques or Muslim places of worship in this country.
As Muslim population increases through ‘controlled immigration’, conversion or natural rate, we may expect several more to appear in future.
Even if Muslim population were to remain static, as they become more religious and regularise their prayers, size of congregations will grow, demanding roominess in existing mosques or new ones.
Unlike in many other Western countries Australia is unbelievably accommodative to religious beliefs even though it is ruled by secular government and constitution.
Muslims must be thankful to fellow Australians for this accommodation.
However, there is one issue that the community has to tackle head-on in relation to the financing of these mosques.
There was a time, particularly in the last quarter of previous century, when donors from Muslim countries helped construction of mosques. Local Muslim philanthropy also contributed towards the cause.
Now, with drying foreign assistance and thinning philanthropy, the burden of financing mosques has fallen on shoulders of the regular worshippers. Money is collected mostly through fundraising events and weekly collections on Fridays.
The question is who are these collectors and whom are they accountable to? If a registered society does the collection then that society automatically comes under government rules and the executive committee of that society is required to maintain and show audited accounts.
But, when individuals collect in the name of a proposed mosque, whom are they accountable to? Is there a mechanism to make them accountable?
Earlier, when the national body, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) remained a strong, resourceful and prestigious apex body, that organisation through its state councils and member societies, exerted some control over mosques through financial assistance and systematic monitoring.
Mosque administrators were accountable to AFIC, and AFIC in turn was accountable to the community and government.
Today, AFIC’s reputation has crumbled through costly litigations and financial mismanagement and it has lost the confidence of the Muslim community.
However, there is one organization, Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) that can fill the vacuum if that organization can restructure itself and expand its activities.
We don’t need an ANIC and a Grand Mufti just to announce the beginning and end of fasting. ANIC should get involved with what really matters to the community. Bringing mosques under proper management is one such activity.
ANIC knows very well that mainstream media and powers behind it are not kind towards Muslims. There is a hidden agenda to restrict Muslims settling in this country and building mosques.
Any financial scandal concerning mosques will be manna from heaven to this media and its backers. Prevention is better than cure.
Will ANIC take up the challenge?