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  • MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, wants to empower ‘voices the world needs to hear’ with her $2.86 billion donation
  • Inner City Muslim Action Network, one of the benefactor charities, told Arab News that it plans to use the donation to become an ‘institution’

LONDON: Several Muslim charities operating across the US are among the 286 charities selected to receive a share of the SR10.7 billion ($2.86 billion) donation provided by MacKenzie Scott, who selected the organizations because they are “empowering voices the world needs to hear.”

“Generosity is generative. Sharing makes more,” Scott wrote in a blog post announcing her donation.

Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, said her money will go toward furthering higher education for the disenfranchised, strengthening arts and cultural institutions, as it will also go toward “bridging divides” that lead to discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. Each of the 286 charities will receive $10 million.

Among the Muslim recipients is the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a community organization that “fosters health, wellness, and healing in the inner-city by organizing for social change, cultivating the arts, and operating a holistic health center.”

Ali Bilal, IMAN’s deputy director, told Arab News that her charity takes a “holistic approach” to the health and wellness of their communities. This extends to caring for community members across criminal justice reform, police accountability, and providing arts and cultural events from their Chicago base and Atlanta satellite office.

“We view ourselves as a community organization that is rooted in Muslim values, culture, and faith in the broadest sense. But that serves anyone and everyone,” Bilal said.

She continued: “Depending on the service or program we are talking about, the constituents range very widely. With our health center, about 40 percent of the folks we see are Muslim while 60 percent is everything and anything else.

“Where we are based in Chicago happens to be one of the most diverse neighborhoods on the south side. It is made up of African Americans, Latinos and there is still a smattering of Arabs that were born in the 90s.

“IMAN is run by people of various faiths, but it is unapologetically rooted in Muslim values of justice, compassion and mercy,” she said.

Bilal explained that IMAN planned to use Scott’s $10 million donation to turn her organization into an “institution, as opposed to a passing organization.”

She said: “We envision using these funds in three main ways. One is an investment, which would mean we will not have to run the rat race year in and year out … this gift allows us the possibility to invest for our future.”

A second area it will be used, Bilal said, is to invest in the charity’s physical infrastructure as new spaces will be purchased and new training facilities will be employed.

And finally: “The third area that we are planning to use this on is our people. We will make sure we maintain the most high-performing, healthiest, and most pleased staff that we can possibly create … we have a staff of incredible people, of leaders.”

She added: “We want to continue to invest in that.”

Other charities set to receive Scott’s donations are focused on a slew of issues facing Muslims in the US and globally.

Muslim Advocates, a charity focused on “holding Facebook and other tech companies accountable for anti-Muslim hate online,” as well as other issues facing American Muslims, was also selected.

The charity’s executive director, Farhana Khera, said: “We thank MacKenzie Scott for this extremely generous gift. This money will help further the mission of our Muslim-led organization that is accountable to the Muslim community and works to secure the rights of Muslims and all people.”

Another charity included was Jusoor — meaning “bridge” in Arabic — which is dedicated to providing educational and entrepreneurship opportunities to young Syrians. Pillars Fund, a charitable organization that invests in community initiatives that advance “justice and opportunity for all,” was also selected.

MacKenzie’s vision, she said, is to amplify the impact of her gifts by empowering others.

“We believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use. We encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she said.

She concluded her blog post, which has been viewed thousands of times, with a “favorite” quote from Islamic poet and scholar Rumi: “A candle as it diminishes explains, gathering more and more is not the way. Burn, become light and heat and help. Melt.”

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