THE TRUSTEES of a Muslim charity are seeking to reassure the public about the organisation’s intention to take ownership of an advice point building in Broadgreen.
The Millen Advice Point charity used to operate a regular service similar to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau from an office in Manchester Road, but the centre is now only available for booked appointments and meetings.
The Millen charity merged some months ago with another charity, Al-Habib Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre, a Mosque and Islamic community centre based in Chapel Street, Gorse Hill. The Charity Commission approved the merger and registered the new charity, also called Al-Habib Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre.
The deed for the building, however, is still in the name of two former Millen trustees, plus two trustees of the merged charity, so a meeting has been arranged at the office on Thursday, February 14 to discuss a proposal to transfer the title deed of the building to Al-Habib’s charitable company.
This has provoked opposition from some residents, including Nazma Ramrutten, one of the two former Millen trustees, who say the office was bought with Lottery cash for the benefit of the whole community and should not be transferred to a religious charity.
They fear the office would only be used to benefit one section of Swindon’s Muslim community, and claim the transfer would be haram – contrary to Islamic law – as Lottery cash was involved.
However, Abdul Latif, an Al-Habib trustee, denies the claims and says it would continue to be used for meetings and booked appointments by the whole community, pointing out that the trustees of the two charities had been the same since 2009.
He said: “The advice point is still used for the same purpose it was used for – but, as everybody knows, there’s no funding – and it’s run by the same volunteers who ran it before the merger.
“Since the merger, other communities have used that premises.”
Mr Latif said there were a few Muslim trustees at Millen, including Mrs Ramrutten, in 1999 when the charity applied for and used about £174,000 of Lottery cash to purchase and run the building for three years, but there were no concerns at the time, adding it would only be haram to use Lottery money to buy a mosque.
He said the concerns about the transfer were not shared by the majority of people.
Mahmood Ahmed, the last chairman of Millen, who is a trustee of the merged charity, said: “Only the name will change. Millen Advice Point will become Al-Habib advice point. The constitution is the same, the people running it are the same. But nothing to do with Islamic law or anything else, just a name changed.”
Commenting on the use of Lottery money in 1999, Mrs Ramrutten said: “Millen was not for the Muslims at that time, it was for everybody, so that’s different.”