Amal to close: a message from the Trustees and Chief Executive
It is with sadness that we announce our decision to bring Amal’s wonderful seven-year journey to a close, a decision taken after long reflection.
Our objectives have always been to increase understanding of the UK’s Muslim communities and to foster their sense of belonging in the UK, objectives that are obstructed by the prejudice and discrimination they face. Our purpose has been to challenge a dominant narrative that is negative, stereotyping and monolithic by supporting Muslims to unleash their creative potential. We have always known that we alone can do little and so have worked to help create a community of practice in the arts sector that fully represents Muslims. We want to stress that it remains as urgent and vital as it ever was to combat prejudice and discrimination against Muslims. This is because:
Muslims experience the greatest economic disadvantages of any group in UK society. For example, 39% of Muslims live in the most deprived areas of the country.
Prejudice holds Muslims back in every walk of life. It is fuelled by negative perceptions of Muslims among the British public, stoked by a relentlessly negative media and policy narrative. One consequence is that Muslims in the UK are disproportionately targeted in hate crimes.
This is not a small-scale problem. There are 4 million Muslims in the UK, 6.5% of the population. As Muslims have the youngest age profile in the UK, their numbers, and the impact of prejudice against them, will grow.
Please visit the Why Care? page on our website for more information - here.
Since 2017, across multiple art forms, our partners – arts and community organisations and artists - have provided opportunities that would not otherwise have existed to Muslim communities. Our participants have told a multitude of stories that represent British Muslims with authenticity and nuance. Together they have shown there is a huge appetite for Muslim engagement in the arts and modelled ways in which the arts sector can become more inclusive of them. We are hugely proud of everything that has been achieved and the goodwill that has been built for our mission. Please visit the Amal Connects projects page on our website to see more about our latest supported projects here.
But, like others, we have found the fundraising challenge to be too great. The whole arts sector is struggling with under resourcing and some of the problems we have faced will be familiar to many, including the pressures created on a small team of trying to raise funds while also ensuring that ambitious work meets the high standards our communities deserve. Amal also differs from many others, in that it is both a grant-maker, supporting partners to co-create impactful projects and a grant-seeker, tirelessly having to raise everything it spends. Unfortunately, there is a reluctance among funders to make grants for re-granting. Our view is that this is what it takes to reach particularly underserved communities such as those Amal serves. We also know that our focus specifically on Muslim creativity has been challenging for some funders who are not comfortable with mixing faith and art. But inclusivity and relevance in the arts cannot be grown through a generalised diversity agenda. Only by targeting specific barriers to engagement of specific communities can progress be made.
Before our closure in mid-2024 we will fulfil all our commitments to our project partners. We will also publish more on what we have learned from our work, findings that will evidence the need for and impact of greater inclusion of Muslims in the arts. We will be consulting Amal’s community on how we can advocate most effectively for the recommendations that come out of this evidence. We invite you to let us know if you have any ideas or would like to contribute on this by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank all our donors and especially the Saïd Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Amal could have achieved nothing without their support.
Amal’s journey has been a rich and illuminating one thanks to the growing community that has worked and walked with us - partners, artists, participants, advisers, friends and staff. We thank you all.
Amal means “hope” in Arabic. Without hope, it isn’t possible to see beyond our current realities to the place of greater social cohesion and harmony that must become our new reality. In our work, time and time again, we have witnessed the power of art to ignite people’s imagination and empathy, to allow them to see beyond stereotypes and divides, to inspire the radical hope of a new and better future. In these divided and violent times, the need for fairer, more diverse representation of Muslims and for greater understanding across communities is more urgent than ever. We know the Amal community will continue to inspire the hope on which change will be built.