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Arab charity is blooming – no thanks to America

Why doesn't the country that invented modern philanthropy do more to support it in the Middle East?

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Oil and conflict. These are the two topics that dominate news coverage of the Middle East.

But there are signs that amid headlines that scream of suicide bombings and surging energy costs, a quiet social movement is under way – one that could help alleviate some deep-rooted problems of the Arab world.

Last month, while much of the globe watched the oft-hyped World Economic Forum, a first-of-its-kind summit of Arab philanthropists was held in this Persian Gulf city. Middle East royalty and Egyptian businessmen mixed with Lebanese activists and other humanitarian do-gooders to find ways to aid their troubled region. And they carried a pointed message to the Bush administration: Stop making the war on terror a war on Arab goodwill.

The charitable impulses of Arab billionaires and others are growing, according to a report released at the event by the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo.

Building on a long tradition of , the Islamic version of tithing, philanthropy in the Mideast looks strikingly similar to that of Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie and seeks to make profound social changes.

Consider the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who pledged $10 billion last year to his own foundation. If this were an American grantmaker, it would be the third largest in the country, according to Chronicle of Philanthropy figures.


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