The Sharing Group Discussion: Mercy Mission & the Save Maryam Scam

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Sister San Yee See posted this on The Sharing Group, on the 09th June, 2015: “On a recent post on professional du’at, an organisation called Mercy Mission came to mind.  It seems to be becoming popular in different regions of the world and organising full house conferences.  Are they really whom they portray themselves to be or are they wolves in sheep clothing?  Thoughts?”

Brother Fahim Ferdous Promi: Definitely wolves.  They invite Nouman Ali Khan and Bilal Philips.

Brother Daud Webb: They are enormous.  The conferences tend to be pretty conservative, but I did not think the Twins of Faith did much harm and it brought together the Melbourne Sunni community pretty well.

What is wrong with Nouman Ali Khan?  I have known Bilal to say some questionable things, but I thought Nouman Ali Khan was pretty level headed.  One of my friends went to an Al Kauthar institute course and said he was bored to tears and did not remember much, so if they are wolves, they are not very effective ones.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: We know they are a Wahhabi organisation.  We know they are founded by a group of people who have less than stellar reputations in Australia with terrorist sympathies.  We know one of the founders had allegations of sexual misconduct with were never adequately established.  And we know that in the university days, there were allegations of misuse of funds.  We know they are funded by the Saudis.  And when we had this thread a while back, we had people from their early days come forward with eyewitness accounts and posted extracts of police reports and other anecdotal evidence.  Anything from them is poison, and every speaker associated with them is a Wahhabi, and thus, we do not take our religion from them.

Brother Daud Webb: I am not really a Sunni, so I do not think I would take my religion from them.  Thanks for the background though.  You know, I took my shahadah at their conference originally?  There is a video of me on their page and everything.  There were six thousand people there.  That is a huge turnout for an Australian event.  Most of the people would not have known anything about the organisation I guess.

Sister Ana Shereen: In Kuala Lumpur, there seem to be a mushrooming of all these organisations.  They are all doing the same thing: inviting popular preachers to do talks.  It is very vague.  But if you are looking to just listen and form your own conclusion, then there is no harm, I guess.  I am just more cautious as I am not as learned.

Sister San Yee: A few years ago Mercy Mission launched a campaign called Save Maryam.  The purpose of it was to raise awareness that millions of Muslims were allegedly leaving Islam in Indonesia and they were collecting funds to help combat this.  It was, of course, all lies: Save Maryam’s Lies Exposed!

Brother Daud, what did Mercy Mission talk about at the Twins of Faith conference?

Brother Daud Webb: Well, mostly it was like a market with all the different organisations and businesses having stalls.  I was there last year, not this year.  There were a lot of guest shuyukh who gave talks on the main stage and I watched a few of them.  Some of them were like question and answer sessions.  I remember a sister asked whether it was okay that her husband was not working and she had to support him and the shaykh said he has to make an effort and if he is deliberately making her support him and not trying to work then that is abusive behaviour.  That answer impressed me, so I remembered it.  There was another shaykh who used the Battle of Badr as an analogy for something...  I cannot remember much, to tell you the truth.  It was a year ago.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I remember the Save Maryam fiasco.  They collected millions based on lies and most of that money is still unaccounted for.  It was a fraud perpetrated on a gullible ummah.

Brother Daud Webb: I guess they collected about A$100,000 at the charity auction and a huge amount through admission.  The venue would have cost A$25,000 per day to rent.  It was the REB and I once checked the price when I was organising some event or other.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Organisations like these should be banned.  They are the epitome of these ‘da’wah professionals’ Brother James Harris was talking about.  I think it is disgusting that they can charge so much for their events, telling people things my mother could have told me.  Do we need to pay A$50 or A$100 to be told we should be kind to our neighbours?  Are the Muslims that ethically challenged?

Brother Colin Turner: People lap it up, though, Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis.  More fool us.  And also, we suffer from the dearth of alternatives.  I was at a workshop this morning to discuss the historico-ideological background of ISIS, and one recurring question was, “How do we communicate alternative, benign interpretations of Islam to the people in order to counter the malignant narratives?”  A good question and an obvious answer, but who?  And how?  These Islamovangelist celebrity attention-whores have cornered all the markets, so who is going to flock to see someone telling them about the real message of Islam?  A difficult issue, to say the least.

Sister Nadia Yadumi: I saw a follow-up on the issue, but nothing happened after that: Ramadan & Charity.  Are there any more recent news than this?  There is this report by Brother Maulana M. Syuhada, from the 25th July 2012: “Save Maryam is exploiting Indonesia by creating bombastic video using manipulative facts and figures in order to achieve their donations ambition of $ 2,000,000.  It seems this KONY 2012 type video is a new way of gathering money from all over the world.

On 21st July 2012, Mercy Mission, a UK-registered charity, launched a project called, Save Maryam.  They are spreading the video titled ‘Save Maryam’ via YouTube and encouraging people to donate their money to them.  They try to get this video viral on the internet and target a total donation of $2,000,000.  This is the video on YouTube: Save Maryam.

After watching the video, I was shocked and angry.  The video is very patronising, yet insulting to Muslims in Indonesia.  They use manipulative figures and inaccurate facts, depicting Indonesia as ignorant and hopeless nation.  They claim that 2 million Indonesian Muslims are converted to Christianity every year, and by 2035 Christians will take over Muslims in Indonesia.  This is nonsense!  They claim, in the video, this is the statistics from International Crisis Group 2012.  In fact, if you freeze the video at minute 0:36, you could see how they made up the letter.  The letter head is ‘International Crisis Group’, but if you see the date on the top left of the letter, it is written ‘Jakarta/Brussels, 24 November 2012’.  Yes, it is 2012!  How a letter could be produced for a meeting that is taking place in the future?

They say, ‘Maryam symbolise a whole generation of Indonesians today’.  And on their website they further add, ‘Young Indonesians have yet to discover the beauty and the essence of Islam that strengthens us Muslims worldwide.  Thus Maryam is the voice of every young Muslim in Indonesia that is struggling with the pressures of contemporary life, does not know Islam more than the name they were born with and finds solace only in a growing voice of Christianity.’  The source: Mercy Mission Save Maryam Campaign Launched.

The reality on the ground is far from what are depicted in the video.  Islam has prospered in Indonesia for centuries and has strong root in the society.  In contrast to Suharto era, from 1966 to 1998, where Islamic activities were oppressed, since reformation took place in 1998, people have full freedom of expression, and Indonesians are enjoying the full freedom of practising their religion.  Since then, Islamic activities have significantly increased.  Islam has prospered even further and is so accessible to people from all walks of life through all medium, radio, TV, magazine, newspaper, internet, and so forth.  Islamic programmes are broadcasted every morning in many major TV and radio channels, whether in the form of lectures, speeches, or questions and answers.  Islamic series and movies are now booming and becoming a national trend.  Not to mention, during Ramadhan, TV channels are showered by Islamic programmes.

Unlike in the 1970s and 1980s where only few women wore the hijab, and they were seen as old-fashioned, nowadays, the hijab is the trend of women’s fashion in Indonesia.  Indonesian Muslims have influenced the evolution of hijab, so teenagers feel they can still look stylish and modern when wearing hijab.  The hijab industry is booming in Indonesia.

In the past we were facing a dilemma to choose between a standard curriculum, with only two hours per week of Islamic lessons, and a complete Islamic curriculum, which was mainly only available through traditional Islamic boarding school, the pesantren.  Those who wanted to gain both knowledge, they had to go to normal school in the morning and madrasah in the afternoon.  Nowadays, Islamic schools that integrate Islamic lessons to their curriculums have been growing rapidly, not only at secondary and primary schools level, but also as early as nursery school and kindergarten.  This very short paragraph is just a glimpse of how Islam has prospered in Indonesia in the last decade.

Yes, there are missionaries in Indonesia, as there are in every country in the world, who try to convert vulnerable people, but not in that dramatic scale as depicted in the video.  They are not new; they have been in Indonesia for decades, even centuries if we start back to the colonial era when Christianity first entered Indonesia in the 17th century.  Indonesians are a tight-knit community and well-known for looking-after and helping each other.  Also, religion is a very sensitive issue in Indonesia, let alone conversion.  There is no way two millions Muslims convert to Christianity every year.  It is simply nonsense!”

After watching this video, I have every reason to be suspicious that the Save Maryam campaign is exploiting Indonesia by creating bombastic video using manipulative facts and figures in order to achieve their donations ambition of $2,000,000.

On the 25th July 2012, the Save Maryam campaign published a press release clarifying how they got the 2 million figure.  As a response to their press release, on the 28th July 2012, I published a note: Understanding the Save Maryam Campaign’s Press Release – Incompetent, Dishonest, or Both?

The Indonesian population by religion, according to 2000 and 2010 National Census are as follows:

Indonesian Population in 2000
Roman Catholic

Indonesian Population in 2010
Roman Catholic
Chinese Folk

From 2000 to 2010, the total Indonesian population had increased by 3,639,933 per year.  The Muslim population had increased by 2,964,739 per year.  The Christian population had increased by 548,141 per year.  If the total Christian population only increased by 548,141 per year, how could 2,000,000 Muslims convert to Christianity per year?  And of that 548,141, the biggest percentage is certainly due to natural growth, birthrate.  So, the annual increase due to conversion from other religion is even smaller.  So, the Save Maryam campaign’s claim that 2 million Indonesian Muslims convert to Christianity every year is simply a lie.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: It is fraud.

Sister San Yee: A Salafi charity in Britain who reported that they earned £1.2 million in 2012 said they paid Tawfique Chowdhury, the CEO of Mercy Mission, just under £50,000 for delivering lectures and training courses.  This is just in the UK.  Mercy Mission is extremely popular in Pakistan, the Gulf countries, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.

Brother Daud Webb: If they operate in Australia they are pretty thoroughly audited.  There are limits to what they can get away with.  However, they are Saudi and the Saudi government seems to have links with Israeli Zionists, with the USA and is itself doing a great deal of harm, bombing Yemen and possibly contributing arms to ISIS.  I would also be inclined toward caution in dealing with such organisations.  I have many friends who are actively involved in it and I do not think they know most of what has been said here.

Sister San Yee: It is not just Mercy Mission but others like it in Australia that one needs to be cautious of; organisation such as Hume Islamic Youth Centre, ISCA and ISNA all work under the disguise of Islamic charity but are in fact very toxic.

Here are Mercy Mission UK Trustees Report & Financial Statements for 2012.  On the last page, it states Tawfique Chowdhury was paid £49,877 for lectures and courses he delivered in 2012.

Brother James Harris: That is roughly the equivalent of the full time annual salary for an experienced academic at a British university, at the Senior Lecturer level.

Sister San Yee: We must remember all this money is tax free as it is listed as a charity.


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