Blog

Response Letter

Dear Members of the Islamic Center of Markham (“ICM”) Congregation and Community, Asalamualikum.

We pray that this letter reaches all of you in the best of health and iman, inshAllah.  As many of you may be aware, some individuals have raised certain questions and made assertions with respect to ICM governance and have put out materials across various platforms during the holy month of Ramdhan with those questions and assertions.

We hope that through this letter we can constructively engage with anyone who has any such questions and assertions.  ICM is your community institution, and it is an Amanah upon us to respond to any questions raised in an open and transparent manner.

In the accompanying appendix, we have outlined the key concerns raised by a few community members. Upon review, you will find that many of these concerns can be clarified based on established facts, while others may necessitate further discussion.

  1. Designation of Property as a “Musallah” vs a “Masjid”

While we are not sure as to the true underlying concern regarding this issue, to maintain flexibility with respect to potential planning considerations (that would involve future developments for a school), at this point, we have not specifically designated which part of our facilities will be designated a “Masjid”. This decision is made through consultation with senior scholars (including Maulana Abdul Rasheed of ISM). Having said that, we don’t believe that the lack of such designation should have any impact on the community and/or the programs that are offered. In fact, it reflects a prudent practice to make a final designation once all aspects regarding the property have been considered.

  1. Land that was sold to the City of Markham

As some of you who have been in the community since our days of having purchased land on Williamson Ave. must be aware, the City of Markham was intimately involved in enabling the acquisition of current property.  Based on the negotiations at the time of purchase, the City had mandated a portion of the property must be acquired by them for the extension of Anderson Avenue, for which the city adjusted the cost price and our payable reduced to $2.2 M.  Additionally, we have continued to use the same land for parking for $1/per year rent for the past 10 years. This information was clearly communicated to the community at the time of the purchase and was in fact discussed at the town hall that was held on October 03 2014, where the decision to purchase the property was put to a public vote, and all attendees, regardless of status as a donor or otherwise provided their inputs.  The community voted in favor by an overwhelming majority and the transaction was thus further pursued.

  1. Flood Plain Classification

The purchase process of ICM property underwent thorough review by the designated law firm, Abraham LLP. Our lawyer, Shahzad Siddiqui, meticulously assessed the entire process.

It has been incorrectly asserted that we were aware that part of the property has been classified as part of a “Flood Plain”.  While such a designation in itself is not something that impacts our day-to-day operations, we only became aware of such designation as part of our efforts to establish a school on the premises.  As part of such planning, we were required to discuss plans with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), and we were only then informed of the designation.  Further, such designation would not have been known at the time of purchase as normal course due diligence that was conducted through our lawyers did not involve the TRCA as that is outside the scope of normal due diligence.  We are currently in discussions with the City of Markham for a detailed study to be conducted that allows for a solution to this issue.

  1. Funds for the School have been used for operational purposes.

We understand this to be referring to a funding commitment from a specific donor (Br. Shakir Rehmatullah) that was to be used for the purposes of the establishment of a school.  As we were not able to proceed with the school as planned because of the flood plain issues, the contribution from the donor was discussed with him and the donated funds were used towards the payment of the building and roof replacement, which is indeed the part of the school plan as well, with the full permission of Mr. Rehmatullah (see attached).

  1. Requirement to sell more land to the City of Markham

There is no requirement to sell any land to anyone.  As part of the study that is being undertaken by/with the City in respect of the flood plain designation, all options will be discussed with the City as to how best to proceed such that we can make full use of our property as we desire.

  1. Presence of Toxins on the Property

During the time of the ICM building occupancy, after a comprehensive inspection, an occupancy permit was issued by the City of Markham, as required for any publicly accessible place.

We are not aware of the presence of any toxins or other material that would be deemed unsafe.  The only issue we are aware of is relating to a limited area that has soil contamination, where such issue was disclosed to the community at the time of the purchase decision community meeting.  Such contamination will need to be remedied before any school project can proceed but otherwise has no impact on the day-to-day operations of ICM including most importantly to the health and safety of our community. Additionally, a reduction $500k was negotiated from the purchase price for this issue.

  1. Building and Fire Code Violations

We take safety and Security needs very seriously, and significant work has been done in this area. We also work very closely with the relevant authorities to make sure we are complying with all applicable laws and will continue to do so, and a periodic inspection/audit is carried out by the Markham Fire Department. As a matter of fact, we have received positive feedback from the Markham Fire department for being an exemplary organization to work on fire and safety plans (see attached)

  1. Holding of AGM without Community Members Present

We have complied with all the requirements for the holding of an annual general meeting (“AGM”).  Such AGM is convened and carried out in accordance with the requirements of ICM’s constitution and bylaws. We are in the process of having greater reporting from the ICM Board of Directors (“BOD”) to the community in terms of the matters that the BOD is having to consider and action. We are also in the process of reviewing ICM constitution and by-laws to meet the growing needs of our organization and new governmental requirements.  As such, we are undertaking a governance review and will look to an independent third party to help advise as to best practices to follow in respect of communications and soliciting feedback and input from the community.  We will keep you informed as the status of such review and will provide such recommendations as soon as we have them.

  1. Financial Shortfall

We purchased a factory building just under ten years ago and after making the building debt free, we embarked on a huge development phase including roof replacement.

A complete and fair view of the financial position of ICM would take into consideration the following: i) asset value of property; ii) trajectory with respect to generating revenue, which has increased on a year over year basis; iii) shrinking shortfall. ICM maintains large operations to support Faith, Education and Community based services requiring substantial financial support. We continue to actively work on plans to increase revenue streams such that less community donations are required for the operations and maintenance of the facility and/our programs.  ICM is not however unique when it comes to charitable organizations and particularly Islamic centers.  Many if not all such institutions are solely reliant on community funding for their operations.  The fact that ICM has established a revenue stream through the sports facility is a positive step.

We do, however, recognize that we need further improvement in our communication with the community with respect to the plans and financial status.   Besides the regular e-mail and social media updates, we are planning to provide our community with the financial status by publishing quarterly updates on our website as well as posting them on the bulletin board to keep the community informed regarding revenue and expenses. Insha’Allah, we will also look for ways to formalize regular feedback that can help with finance, programming, operations, and strategy. In addition, we will strive to convene a quarterly meeting with the community members.

  1. Mismanagement of Funds

ICM annual audit is conducted by 3rd party auditors (AGT LLP), and we report our financials annually to the CRA in accordance with CRA requirements.  Our auditors have never raised even a concern about mismanagement of funds or improper expenditure.

  1. Dinners for dignitaries,

The Muslim community in Canada plays a crucial role, and it’s vital to establish relationships and collaborate with all levels of government as responsible citizens. Canada is our beloved country and the home for our generations to come, and it’s essential not to live in isolation.

These programs are done primarily to benefit our ICM organization and community at large. We need ongoing support from elected officials from the government (grant applications, etc.), Police and Fire departments. When we invite these key individuals, it provides us with an opportunity to drive a positive image of the Muslim community and develop strong working relationships with these important individuals. To note, these practices are also followed by other faiths and communities.

These dinners are generally ticketed events and sponsored by the Muslim business community with very little contribution coming from the donations collected.

There is always recognition of community members and volunteers during key events.

  1. Low staff morale 

Most of our employees have long working relationships with MDI and our employee turnover is extremely low. Our employees are always willing to go above and beyond their core job to support masjid projects and priorities to get the bigger reward from Allah SWT.

To conclude, several incorrect and misleading allegations are made against MDI management. Our management and volunteer team work hard only for the pleasure of Allah SWT and not for any worldly or financial benefit. Alhumdu Lillah, we have come a long way to meeting our long-term goal to establish a Muslim Family Life Centre to fully utilize this large building, encompassing three core pillars: Faith, Education, and Community Service. With needed renovations, we started using this building in 2015 providing congregants with many essential community services. Offering a multitude of spiritual services including five times daily prayers, Islamic education, Hifz program, scholarly programs/conferences featuring internationally renowned scholars and shuyukh, guidance and counseling programs for youth and sports activities for all ages including karate, basketball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, and table tennis. At present, we are offering many programs for youth and adults as well as supporting many humanitarian and charitable causes.

To celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan with the community, many special arrangements are made. These arrangements include daily Iftar, scholarly programs after Taraweeh, Qiyamul Lail and youth programs. Eid prayers are attended by 3,000+ congregants and we host a big celebration event after Eid prayers. Please visit “our Journey” section for details.

Our mandate is to make our Centre home for all and provide a thriving environment for all Muslims.

 

Financial: March 31, 2024