Manitoba Islamic Association as a Community Organization: From Membership to Ownership

By: Dr. Idris Elbakri*

The Manitoba Islamic Association (MIA) was established over 40 years ago to serve the interests and represent Muslims of Manitoba. The pioneers who established the association had the foresight to structure it as a membership-based organization. Membership is a right to every Muslim in Manitoba who adheres to the values and constitution of the organization and chooses to join and pay the membership fee. The membership of MIA holds the ultimate authority over the affairs of the organization and it delegates, through elections, management of the affairs to an executive council consisting of seven people.

In the recent past, most of us have come to think of membership as merely a means to vote in the MIA elections. Holding elected office in MIA, especially the position of president, became a much sought after goal. We have seen aggressive membership drives, often spearheaded by potential candidates who sometimes even subsidize the fees. There is nothing illegal in that, but whether it is ethical and inline with the spirit that the community upholds is a different story. Is that what membership is all about?

I call on all Muslims in our community to become members of MIA, but don’t think about membership in the very narrow scope of elections and power, but rather, as a way for all of us to assert the values of community service, participation, and brotherhood. Let your membership be a practical way in which you implement the Prophet’s Hadith where he said, “who is not concerned about the affairs of the Muslims is not one of them”. In short, we need to move from membership to ownership. You will achieve a sense of ownership when you feel that you have a personal (but not selfish) stake in this organization and in the affairs of the community. When you feel the communal pain, and celebrate the communal achievement. When you look around in your masjid and you think to yourself, I am working to make this a better place. When you help foster a feeling of safety and ease for all members of the community in their places of worship and gathering.

Over 90% of the affairs of MIA are managed through volunteers. While there is a tremendous need to professionalize the management of the organization, promoting a strong volunteerism ethic must remain a core value for our community. Have you ever asked yourself: who pays the bills, who checks the mail, who updates the website, who puts tape on the floor for Eid prayer, who sets up the audio system, who cuts the grass, who manages the weekend school and who distributes charity? All of these activities are carried out by volunteers.

Are you one of them? If you are, you do not need to be thanked because you do it for a higher purpose. If you’re not, maybe you should consider giving a bit of yourself for your community.

The MIA executive council is establishing a number of committees including office administration, green space, properties management, event organization, community programs, fundraising and takaful. The functions of these committees are the bare-minimum that is needed to operate the organization and meet a minimum of the community’s needs and expectations. Details about these committees and their executive liaisons are posted on the MIA website. Volunteering to staff these committees is a great way to contribute to the well being of our community and to have a direct say in the affairs of the MIA.

Let’s go from passive observers to committed members, and from committed members to active owners.

* Idris Elbakri is ex-president of the Manitoba Islamic Association executive council.
(Article re-produced from Manitoba Muslim Magazine)