After church aid to Muslims, Asri questions zakat funds for poor


By Boo Su-Lyn, The Malaysian Insider

Influential cleric Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin questioned today if red tape and the lack of state alms have forced impoverished Muslims to seek help from Christian churches.

The former Perlis mufti said it was not a sin for destitute Muslims to receive aid from non-Muslims, pointing out that the blame lay with practitioners of Islam who were supposed to help their fellow believers.

“Where have all our wang zakat (alms) gone? Collections of hundreds of millions of ringgit are announced every year,” said Asri in an essay sent to The Malaysian Insider today.

“Is it not enough to help the poor get out of their poverty without them having to ask others for help?” he questioned.

Pro-Umno newspapers Berita Harian and Harian Metro have highlighted since yesterday allegations that Christian organisations are secretly trying to convert impoverished Muslims through welfare aid.

The Malay dailies also reported today a Muslim woman claiming that she was forced to accept cash and free food from a church, after failing to get aid from Baitulmal or the state fund for the poor, which is generated from tithes collected from mosques.

The reports came after the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) and the police raided a multiracial dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday night, based on an allegation that Christians were proselytising to Muslim guests.

“Why is there so much red tape blocking the poor from getting alms? There is so much red tape just to get even RM100 to RM200. This is despite the zakat offices looking opulent, the high salaries for officers and bosses, and advanced equipment,” Asri lamented.

“Is the high cost meant only to find donors, but without sufficient willpower to find suitable recipients?” he asked.

The Muslim cleric queried how the zakat administration could fail to help destitute Muslims, so much so they longed to leave their faith.