Mismanagement of ISGH Funds shocks Houston Muslim community
The Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the nation's most organized Islamic organization with 8,500 members of the city's over a quarter-million Muslim population, would have its election on December 5, 2021. At stake are offices for vice-president, Treasurer, and two regional directors. While the incumbents face more formidable challenges, several community members have raised questions about the management style of the leadership amidst a scandal that shocked Houston.
The scandal revolves around an employee accused of mismanaging funds, who reportedly drew thousands of dollars for ghost employees.
On October 1, 2021, the ISGH issued grave concern alleging that one of its former employees had embezzled a considerable sum of money.
The local television station KPRC carried a news item that the ISGH Comptroller allegedly stole $200,000 through an elaborate scheme of paying non-existing employees over the months. This employee in question was under the ISGH Executive Body (EB), including Ayman Kabire as President, Bassel Choucair as Vice President, Badar Alam as General Secretary, and Faizan Atiq as Treasurer.
Sources close to ISGH reveal the then President, Vice President, and Treasurer had hired this Comptroller in July 2019 and terminated the services of the existing one who served the organization for more than 20 years. In addition, the newly appointed Comptroller allegedly siphoned off over $200,000 from October 2020 to May 2021 by feeding ghost employees through the system after misusing the well-defined process.
Why did the board allow this to happen for so many months? Why did it fail to catch the ghost employees? Was it deliberate or an oversight? Is this the first time such mismanagement happened? These are the questions on the mind of many.
Several community members have issued an open letter to the ISGH board demanding resignation and a forensic audit of the body's operations.
What also troubles the community is that ISGH took the Federal Paycheck protection Program Loan (PPP) and the grant from Harris County. They point fingers at the board for neglecting their duties and putting the entire Muslim community and its institution at risk. Embezzlement of federal funds is a crime, and it can lead to the closure of institutions found guilty.
Many fear that such an alleged fraud was not possible without the knowledge of those responsible for running the body's affairs. They also question the neutrality of an internal audit. Many view it as insufficient and an attempt to cover up.
Various members are bitter and feel that the current board has lost people's trust and should resign from the ISGH to allow members to elect a new board with amended bylaws that would enable transparency and accountability.
ISGH is one of the success stories of Muslim organizations in the USA. It has the largest membership of any Muslim organization, and it runs numerous centers and masajid. However, this incident has shaken the community, and the campaign to cleanse the organization is getting momentum.