Inspired by the Prophetic order to “tie your camel, and trust in Allah,” the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) held its 3rd Annual National Muslim Nonprofit Leadership Conference (MNLC) in Dallas, TX from December 7-9, 2018. This unique conference was designed to safeguard our community by teaching how to be proactive rather than reactive, which causes temporary crisis, financial burdens, and missed growth opportunities.
Muslim organizations face the same social and structural issues as any other 501(c)(3) nonprofit. According to IRS records, over 300 Muslim nonprofits have lost their 501(c)(3) status between 2011-2015. These organizations lost their nonprofit status due to an oversight, technicality, or simply not knowing what required nonprofit compliance rules or regulations apply to them. The MNLC aims to help prevent Muslim nonprofits from losing their 501(c)(3) status, strengthen their organizations, and avoiding areas of legal vulnerabilities.
The national MNLC was attended by dozens of imams, mosque boards, Muslim nonprofit leaders and staff, and Muslim philanthropists from all over the United States. Hasan El-Heet, a mosque board member, said about the national MNLC, “By them teaching me about governance, risk management, and compliance, and giving me this information, it helps me protect my organization’s 501(c)(3) from being terminated.”
Sessions were presented by senior-level attorneys and subject matter experts. In years prior, crucial topics covered in the conference included banking and fundraising regulations, fiduciary responsibilities, record keeping, mandatory reporting vs confidentiality, international charitable giving, and so much more.
This year, the range of topics expanded for a more mature and evolved leadership. This included an exclusive next-level Governance/Risk/Compliance Board Boot Camp attended by those organizations that completed the GRC program.
Other new topics presented included electioneering, employment, the #MeToo movement, legal documents that are both Sharia compliant and enforceable under US law, and the myth of radicalization. In addition, current issues presented to attendees – such as humanitarian organizations operating in war-torn Yemen and Syria (to mention a few), as well as inviting international speakers and their role in fundraising efforts – were shown with respect to the legal parameters they can function.
While the 3-day law conference is held annually in Dallas, a modified one-day version of MNLC is conducted in a city-by-city tour to reach as many Muslim leaders throughout the US.
The MNLC is a project funded by the Muslim Legal Fund of America. MLFA was established shortly after the tragedies of 9/11 when it became apparent that Muslim individuals and institutions in America were increasingly facing unfair scrutiny.
“MLFA’s vision is an America in which Muslims are treated as equal under the law in all aspects of life,” said Khalil Meek, Executive Director of MLFA. “By having this conference, we are equipping our community leaders with the knowledge and resources they need to successfully navigate the increasingly complicated legal landscape affecting Muslims in America. Understanding these challenges is the first step in safeguarding organizations and the communities they serve.”
Going back to the Prophetic teaching of “tying your camel,” leaders of nonprofits gained perspective into what laws they need to be aware of in order to protect their institutions, making them stronger, more transparent, and safer. This will have a lasting impact on our community for generations to come.