Sunday, August 7, 2011

Don't blame others if poor Muslims leave #Islam

Aug 7: Muslim scholar Asri Zainul Abidin (right) has again highlighted the mismanagement of zakat funds in the country following recent claims in pro-UMNO dailies that Christian groups had been actively engaged in converting poor Muslims by offering money.

In some of his first reactions to the controversy sparked by the Selangor Religious Department's raid last week at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya, Asri took to task state zakat authorities for ignoring the needs of people who deserve zakat.

On August 3, scores of officers from JAIS accompanied by policemen had entered the church located at the Dream Centre in Section 13, Petaling Jaya, taking down particulars of Muslim guests present at a dinner event there.

The action invited a barrage of condemnations from both Muslim and non-Muslim leaders, with Selangor's Exco in charge of religion Hasan Ali coming out in defence of the JAIS action saying it was based on a complaint over an attempt to proselytize to Muslims, which is illegal under Malaysian laws.

This was followed by two UMNO-owned Malay dailies claiming that Christian churches had been targeting poverty-stricken Muslims.

However, Asri, saying he had been made to understand that some of the Muslims present at the function were destitute and single mothers, stressed that they could not be faulted for approaching those who helped them after Islamic authorities failed to give assistance.

Saying there was nothing wrong for a Muslim to seek help from adherents of other religions, Asri said the blame was on those Muslims who ignore fellow Muslims in need of assistance.

"We cannot blame others for giving assistance. It is every person's right to give help to whoever they want," he stressed.

"Whatever happened to our zakat money?" he asked in remarks posted on his blog.

"Hundreds of millions of ringgit is collected yearly. Is that not enough to help the destitutes come out of their difficulties and stop begging from others?"

This is the second public rebuke by the former Perlis mufti over zakat funds' mismanagement. Last October, Asri lambasted the Zakat Collection Centre managed by the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council following a damning audit report by the Auditor General showing wastage and financial mismanagement.
In June this year, Machang member of parliament Saifuddin Nasution urged the same Council to explain why it used RM32,000 from zakat fund pay for legal fees involving minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom and director general of the Federal Territory Religious Department (JAWI), Che Mat Ali, who were being sued by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim for failing to act on his qazaf (sexual slander) complaints.
Riddled with red tape

This time around, Asri lamented unnecessary bureaucracies for getting help from zakat.

"To get even RM100-200, one has to go through so much hassle. At the same time, zakat offices seem to be luxuriously furnished, and their officers and bosses enjoy high salaries with sophisticated office equipment," he said.

Asri reminded that zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam in which a Muslim who fulfilled certain financial conditions is obligated to give 2.5 per cent of his access wealth, has the objective of bringing human beings closer to Islam.

This, said Asri, is why new converts to Islam are among those in the category of people deserving zakat.

However, Asri said the Islamic authorities in charge of zakat collection had failed to realise this objective, "to the extent that Muslim converts would leave their new faith after failing to get help from Muslims, especially through zakat".

Saying it was only natural for human beings to be grateful to those who helped them, Asri said one should not be surprised if a Muslim was attracted to Christianity due to the church's help.

What should be questioned, said Asri, was the fact that in a Muslim country like Malaysia, there were Muslims who are said to have abandoned Islam after being disappointed by the Muslim community's behaviour.

"Muslims must ask many questions about themselves before blaming others.

"Accusing others just to cover up one's weakness is not the answer to our problem!" wrote Asri.

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