RESPONSE ON ANSWERING FALSE CLAIMS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
16th May 2020
The purpose of this communication is to better inform you and to respond to the unfounded and distasteful statements and allegations that have been circulating on social media and other platforms maliciously targeting the integrity of our organisation and towards individuals associated with MBCOL and their families. It is heart-breaking that this can even occur in the final days of Ramadan, that we have been put in this position to refute slander alone and that many in a position to provide or seek clarity have remained silent and inactive.
We intend to set out those matters below.
ALLEGATION: MBCOL has been absent or alternatively not responded to the needs of the community.
MBCOL has pioneered our specialist work over many decades and have undertaken this valuable service to precisely serve the needs of the community for a considerable number of years; we continue to deliver out of hour’s administration services, and we intend to continue to deliver this in future years to come.
Our key worker is currently in seclusion (itikaaf) during the last 10 days of Ramadan and has received special dispensation to be able to organise and coordinate out of hours funerals with other associated volunteers and individuals. This alone provides substantial and strong evidence of our ongoing commitment in delivering assistance and service to the community in relation to out of hours funerals at this particular time.
The necessary facts are that our colleague Hafiz Adam Sabat worked with other brothers and Masjids which included Jame Masjid to undertake the arrangements for the first ever Covid 19 death in our city. The suggestion that we have been derelict in our responsibility in responding to the crisis is completely false.
At the time of writing this document, the metrics involved are that that during this period, MBCOL has facilitated and assisted with 15 Covid19 related deaths and 17 non-Covid19 deaths. However, importantly we both acknowledge and appreciate that the Covid19 Leicestershire Muslim Funeral Support Group have carried out a significant number of funerals at this time of national crisis undertaking this honourable work. It is for this reason this particular group and body of work was mentioned in a recent statement from the onset and without amendments.
Additionally, prior to the national lockdown, we presented on this topic at the FMO Community meeting alongside healthcare professionals and also convened an urgent and important meeting at our own offices inviting all of the relevant funeral arrangers that would be impacted by the virus outbreak. We were instrumental in bringing substantial and important information to funeral arrangers in respect of infection risks and infection control protocols. We also engaged in relaying important information from our local health professionals and hospitals that were looking at appropriate mitigating steps. We continued to liase with relevant statutory authorities throughout and we made progress in disseminating this valuable information to the community prior to the lockdown and rise of infections.
Given the nature of the contagion, one of the key issues at the onset was surrounding the prevention of the spread of the disease for volunteers, ensuring that effective infection risk protocols are in place including the use of appropriate PPE and importantly the vulnerability of existing volunteers due to their age and underlying health conditions, many of whom have been doing this work for many years. At this point MBCOL initiated and commenced the initial search and enquiries in relation to safe practices for burials in relation to the virus and also to secure an appropriate number of younger volunteers.
As an organisation with obligations and accountability to appropriate regulatory bodies such as the Charity Commission, we had difficulties in relation to securing required insurance arrangements for any harm that may occur to any individuals and as a result this created unassailable legal restrictions for the organisation. As a constituted organisation we simply have to have due regard in relation to liabilities and comply with the law to protect volunteers, the organisation and the future needs of the community.
Not being able to overcome legal and administrative restrictions does not mean that we dislocated ourselves from addressing the needs after many years of established experience and expertise; it simply demanded a group without similar obligations and the ability to manoeuvre in the absence of the same level of legal parameters we have at a unique and unprecedented time.
Therefore, the Covid19 Leicestershire Muslim Support Group were able to operate more fluidly and undertake key aspects of this honourable work at this unique time. We have and we continue to work with them and several members of our MBCOL personnel remain in contact with members of the delivery organisation. Further support has also included assistance with purchasing PPE.
Please also note that MBCOL, whilst providing an Out of Hours Funeral Administration Service does not directly undertake the practical funeral arrangements, other institutions particularly Masajid have always been better equipped and indeed better placed to undertake the practical arrangements for burials such as for ghusl, shrouding and other areas. Our contractual obligations in relation to Out of Hours Funeral Administration Services for residents of the city regardless of religious background or beliefs has been maintained throughout and still continues in line with our legal contract with the Local Authority. We believe that the expectations of this organisation in this respect are misunderstood and as result both completely misplaced and misconceived.
It is a complete distortion of the facts that we have in anyway been derelict in our responsibilities or that we have refused in any way to answer the needs following the Covid 19 pandemic. Any suggestion that we had no role and that we had somehow abandoned our responsibilities to the Muslim community, or we are somehow culpable for any dereliction of duty to our Muslim community is not only false but is defamatory and completely unhelpful.
ALLEGATION: MBCOL has refused the use of its funeral vehicle for all Covid19 related deaths.
This is an absurd suggestion. Discussions took place with all of the funeral arrangers and particularly those with funeral vehicles to clarify matters.
For the purposes of infection protocol controls, our vehicle was not suitable simply because there was no dividing barrier between the driver and the main section of the vehicle at the back.
In addition, our vehicle which contains electrical components and the like together with the location of various fittings makes it impossible for it to be cleaned to the standard required for decontamination purposes in line with infection control protocols.
It was therefore agreed in conjunction with all funeral arrangers that the MBCOL vehicle would specifically be used for non-Covid related deaths. Other funeral arrangers namely Jame Masjid and Central Masjid have vehicles that are more suited, and it was agreed that these vehicles would be used. Other funeral arrangers have also identified their own specific vehicles in this way. Our vehicle is still available for and remains in use for non-Covid burials.
ALLEGATION: MBCOL has no need to fundraise and has not contributed to any of the Covid 19 costs in the current pandemic.
This allegation is not only distasteful but completely inappropriate. The first issue here is one of funding. The Leicester City Council have made it abundantly clear to us that funding will be limited and all work in relation to burial administration work would be put out to tender process. Received funding is allocated to and committed to out of hour’s burial administration only. These funds are restricted funds and we are not entitled to commit any of these funds for our charitable work and activities.
Any charitable work that we undertake must be funded through charitable funds and it is therefore clear that fundraising is important for long term work. In fact, this is an issue which we have discussed with our affiliates for several years at subsequent AGM meetings and there has been consensus that we must diversify our income stream to remain active as an organisation. The said FMO article that references donations does not mention our bank account details and neither does our website providing only an email address. In our experience in this area of work, donations can be broad ranging from items such as PPE or otherwise that often need further discussion.
As an organisation dependent on external funding streams and tenders, the trustees, members and directors of MBCOL are quite rightly concerned as to the potential risks of long-term sustainability to operate as a voluntary organisation supporting families during bereavement and doing what we can to support those that require our services.
There is therefore nothing improper or wrong in us approaching the community to seek donations for the work that we do. In fact, it is a prerogative of any organisation or charity to do so. Any suggestion that this organisation is exercising financial impropriety in doing so is not only false but is defamatory.
Lastly, please be aware that funding that we hold are made up of various funds. Some are exclusively donations given to us which are restricted funds in terms of how we can use this. We have in the past applied for funds for charitable purposes, education and training, publications, training of chaplaincies, palliative care and supporting Hospices such LOROS & Rainbows.
We have outlined above our rebuttal to the false and malicious claims made on social media. What was written has been terribly sad to witness as unsubstantiated claims have been made with no attempt to establish the facts first. We wish to implore people that if you have any concerns regarding MBCOL then you should always in the first instance contact us so that we can address these concerns rather than posting grievances in the public domain. By sharing or not challenging hearsay and rumour, inaccurate defamatory accounts prevail; individuals and the community will then form an opinion which is wholly inaccurate. This is dangerous and morally reprehensible. In order then to avoid spreading falsehoods which in turn cause confusion, division and the emergence of false narratives; we reiterate again that if there are any concerns regarding MBCOL then this should be done in a private manner by contacting us directly.
As mentioned in our FMO article, we thank each and every individual and organisation that has stepped up and worked tirelessly during these challenging times and we pray The Almighty rewards them abundantly for their efforts.