These efforts include regulating the work of charities and intensifying public awareness campaigns conducted via imams and mosques, officials told Al-Shorfa.
The Ministry of Endowments banned the collection of zakat donations in mosques last Ramadan, but the decision only went into effect this year.
The ministry issued a list of penalties for violators, and is moving, in co-ordination with Al-Azhar and security agencies, to prevent unauthorised donation boxes from being placed in mosques and gathering places, said Mahmoud Metwalli, a member of Egypt's Zakat Committee.
Zakat collection is restricted to Ministry of Endowments and Al-Azhar offices, as well as to around 14,000 licensed, nationally-recognised charitable organisations that receive zakat funds to disburse to the needy, Metwalli said.
"These organisations are subject to supervision and monitoring and are fully transparent with regard to the disclosure of collections and disbursements to the poor and the salaries of their employees," he told Al-Shorfa.
Zakat funds are disbursed each year by Al-Azhar and the endowments and social solidarity ministries to an approved list of eligible recipients, including the sick, orphans, widows and the poor, Metwalli said.
The disbursements are paid out directly or through post offices, in which case the payment dates are announced in the media, he said.
This year, an electronic link will be established between organisations that collect zakat, civil society organisations and the Ministry of Social Solidarity to monitor the funds and verify the beneficiary lists, he added.
EFFORTS TO PREVENT ABUSE
In some cases, unlicensed or fictitious organisations that have no defined budgets are collecting funds, Metwalli said, and "thus, the fate of the money they collect is unknown".
Additionally, he said, some individuals go from house to house to collect money, claiming to represent a legitimate organisation.
To stop this type of abuse, Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Endowments are conducting awareness campaigns at mosques around Egypt on the need to restrict zakat payments to authorised parties.
"The awareness campaigns also include the circulation of the names of ministry representatives and licensed organisations and institutions, with emphasis that citizens need to check the ID cards of those who try to collect funds," Metwalli added.
"The state of lawlessness that prevailed in the past period allowed some suspicious individuals to once again infiltrate Egyptian society," said Al-Azhar University sharia professor Nayef Abd Rabbu, who serves as an advisor to the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
"These individuals belong to terrorist groups that wreak havoc in Egyptian territories and require financial support to maintain their existence, and the month of Ramadan represents a favourable opportunity for them," he said.
In response, he said, agencies concerned with the collection and disbursement of zakat are tightening their control over the process to prevent these funds from reaching the coffers of "terrorist groups".
ZAKAT IS MEANT FOR THE NEEDY
Zakat funds are distributed based on lists of eligible recipients which are researched, vetted and compiled in advance, Abd Rabbu said, noting that Al-Azhar works with civil society organisations and charities to prevent beneficiaries from making multiple claims on these funds.
"The amount of money paid by Egyptians for zakat may reach up to 15 billion Egyptian pounds ($2 billion)," Abd Rabbu said.
Sheikh Abdullah Abdelradi, imam of al-Mustafa mosque in Dokki district, said he has been active in raising public awareness against giving zakat to non-officially licensed parties.
"There are many who exploit the surge in donations during the month of Ramadan to support some extremist and terrorist groups," he told Al-Shorfa.
The Ministry of Endowments is working to eliminate this practice by prohibiting mosques from accepting zakat and cash donations, he said.
"I personally, and other imams, ask citizens who wish to donate to mosques to donate in kind, that is to bring to the mosque equipment it needs" such as air conditioning units, fans, loudspeakers, prayer rugs and other necessities, Abdelradi said.
In-kind donations also can include maintenance work or joining the mosque's charitable organisation to organise evening banquets, or Rahman tables, during the month of Ramadan, he said.
"This way, [the handling of] funds is restricted to official parties only," he said.
In his religious sermons and speeches, Abdelradi said he stresses the need to refrain from giving money to unknown individuals or organisations, "especially those who go door to door to collect donations and zakat for a particular cause or project".
He also suggests that in lieu of cash, those who wish to donate more than the required amount of zakat could pay for student textbooks or tutoring or offer to pay the debts of a struggling family.
(Al-Shorfa.Com / 13 June 2014)---
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