ISNA Canada, a branch of the US-based Islamic Society of North America, misused more than $600,000 in donor money, according to the findings of a scathing audit obtained by the Toronto Star. Although ISNA Canada President Mohammad Ashraf appealed for donations "helping needy Muslims not only in Canada, but all over the world," the audit found that less than one in four dollars went to the poor over a four year period.
A "very small portion ... is distributed to the poor and needy and the major portion is spent on the administration of the centre," concluded the 2010 audit. "Spending for personal expenses out of the charity's funds is unethical," the auditor wrote, saying it is "tantamount to misappropriation of funds."
See the full audit here.
Although ISNA Canada draws in more than $1 million annually, the audit focused on charitable contributions given as part of obligatory Islamic tithing of zakat and fitrah. The funds were meant to aid the poor, but the audit revealed the practice of giving free perks to family members of a top official; the improper issuing of charitable tax receipts; and the diversion of charity money to private businesses, some of which were owned by Ashraf.
"The agency's funds were also used from 2005 to 2009 to pay Ashraf's wife and one of his daughters nearly $150,000 for a handful of services, from consulting and promotions to putting together a newsletter that comes out four times a year," according to the Toronto Star's report. Of that, $60,000 was spent installing cameras and frequently changing locks at the group's center, while $6,500 was spent each year for health benefits for Ashraf's daughters, even though they don't work for ISNA Canada.
"In a review of the financial statements for the halal meat certification agency … the auditor discovered Ashraf had received a $15,000 tax receipt after moving money from the agency's business account over to ISNA Canada and claiming it was a "personal donation," the newspaper reported. ISNA Canada also helped a Pakistani Muslim scholar with her immigration bid in Canada, stating in financial forms that she was employed by the group. However, she did not actually do work for the organization. "This is a serious violation of the (Canada Revenue Agency) rules and immigration rules to hire someone just in the books to help get through immigration," the auditor's report said.
Ashraf has been removed from the leadership of the group, stating that he is "being transitioned into retirement." His replacement told the Star that ISNA has "put an end" to the abuses.
ISNA Canada's website states something different. "As the Centre is now well-established and flourishing (even if it is in constant need of donations), Dr. Ashraf will be retiring from his position as Secretary General effective March 31, 2011," said a statement on its home page. "While we all want Dr. Ashraf to enjoy his retirement years, we also do not wish to lose the benefit of his decades of experience, knowledge and expertise with respect to the operation of a leading community organization. Accordingly, Dr. Ashraf will, upon his retirement, take on the role of Senior Special Advisor to the Organization."