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2012-11-04

Morocco plans zakat fund

By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 02/11/12

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Morocco is moving closer towards the creation of a national zakat fund. The idea was put forward by the late King Hassan II when he called for an entity responsible for collecting alms, but the proposal was never implemented.

Najib Boulif, the Minister Delegate of General Affairs and Governance, recently said that preparations for such a fund were now being made by the Islamic Affairs Ministry, which is working on a management model. The government will then examine implementation mechanisms, the minister told Magharebia on October 24th.

Boulif said that given the very tough economic situation, stakeholders unanimously agreed that the practice of zakat must be expanded.

A zakat fund would enable the government to manage the sizeable sums currently donated by benefactors to organisations outside state control, according to economist Nacer Yahyaoui.

"Streamlining and channelling zakat funds will enable the state to pour large amounts of money into social welfare. Funds could be used to incorporate social aspects into many fields, such as employment, health and education," he said.

Samira Kassimi, a sociologist, argued that such funds exist in many Muslim countries and that it is now Morocco's turn to launch one, especially as there are many benefactors who would be willing to pay into it. She said that some members of the public would like to see their zakat money managed by the state so that it could be used for projects that really make a difference. In her view, public mistrust of the authorities is largely a thing of the past.

"The Benkirane administration is inspiring confidence, if only in terms of transparency and efforts to combat immorality. As a result, charitable people would not hesitate to give their zakat to it," she claimed.

Zakat was mentioned in the Party of Justice and Development's election manifesto. Before the elections, Abdelilah Benkirane said that Moroccans did not yet feel that they could trust a state body with their zakat as they saw this as a matter between themselves and God, but that the party was determined to examine the issue.

From a religious perspective, zakat is compulsory and a right of the poor, according to Hmida Merroukh, a professor of Islamic education. Every year, Muslims must calculate the amount they will give according to their means and give it to the poorest in society, he said. The donation given must be worth at least 85 grams of gold (2.5% of assets). Zakat is payable by livestock, goods, metals and minerals, fruit, vegetables and cereals.

Public opinion is divided. Some people feel that an institution should be created to manage the charitable giving, while others reject the idea.

Safae Meliani, who works for a private company, subscribed to the former view. She said that some fraudsters embezzle zakat money and use it for their own ends, whereas the creation of a public fund would make it possible to manage donations.

That view was not shared by Ahmed J., a public-sector worker, who said that zakat was an entirely personal matter. He said he feared the prospect of zakat being made compulsory for all citizens at a time when Moroccans are already weighed down by taxes. "Income tax is deducted at source. It accounts for 38% of people's incomes. Can't that tax be counted as zakat?" he wondered.

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    نورالدين فليغة 2012-11-13

    My brother Hafido, is it enough to mock and be radicals? I felt the sincerity of your expression and exasperation with others. However, is exasperation alone enough? Is it enough for me to refuse everything? Maybe I will invite you to find the positive exception and upgrade it, as it is a contribution to our sons future well-being. I agree with you about the situation. But I don't agree with your evaluation and method of addressing it. The deeply-rooted trust crisis can't close all the doors of hope in offering food to a poor, treatment to an ailing person or a smile in the face of your brother. I hope you will always keep on loving your countries.

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    hafido 2012-11-7

    These thieves definitively have no scruples! They even want to take the slightest hope that the poor have at getting some change or stuff from their neighbours and friends. The Arab governments are all corrupt and want to make us believe that they put the money they collect to good use. Who are they fooling! Stop diverting all of the peoples wealth, you criminal government! When are the citizens going to have rights! The zakat! By God! It’s serious to want to try taking the zakat too! This government of Mohamed VI is definitively more greedy for money than the one of his father, Hassan II. First the Mohamed V Foundation, and now the zakat, as well as having to pay under the table every day for the slightest administrative service, which are supposed to be free! And you get ripped off by the police on every street corner. It’s an outlaw government! And it dares to speak about the zakat! This is sad. I ‘m worried about the future of our children. I tell myself that I won’t write anymore comments on the various articles here because, as I see it, this government will not change, and neither will my point of view, but when I read these articles, I can’t stop myself from writing. Believe me, this government wants nothing good for us! They think only about getting richer and richer on the backs of the poor people, who are defenseless. They are a pack of hungry wolves, and their hunger will never be sated. –Thank you

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    BRAHIM 2012-11-5

    Yes, it’s good to think about the Moroccan people and the Moroccan-ization of the people with this idea and several others. The amount of the zakat is important. The issue is how you are going to collect it and who will do it. How are you going to monitor the sums received and what are you going to invest it in? Also, think about the people’s mentality. –Thank you

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    Belhajilali 2012-11-5

    Against the background of a crisis of confidence rooted in our minds for a long time now, the project has little chance of success, and, anyway, zakat is a matter closely related to the individuals’ faith. Consequently, instead of trying for apples where there are oranges, we would do better to fight against tax fraud, which is much more important, only after we establish effective tools for monitoring the recovery of business taxes. We also need to ensure at the same time that all what is seized goes to the state funds, which is far from being the case up to this point, and this is at least more of an issue of the political colour of the government than it is of the awareness of the tax payers.

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    نورالدين فليغة- الجزائر- 2012-11-5

    The history of Zakat fund dates back to the treasury of Muslims which was founded in the era of the prophet and the Rashidun Caliphate. It was organized in a distinguished way in the era of Omar Ibn Khattab - may God be happy with him - who drove the Islamic state laws in an active way. Establishing security after renegades’ war conducted by the first Caliphate Abou Bakr Seddik - may God be happy with him- helped him in this. Some of the reasons of the disappearance of the Muslims' treasury and its substitution with the public treasury is the disagreement over funding. The regime of public treasury is based on taxation and overburdening citizens with taxes as duties towards the state in which the taxpayer receives a violent and strict treatment from tax services which don’t care about the source of money from the religious aspect (Halal and Haram). Moreover, the situation of the taxpayer, whether he is capable of paying or not, is not taken into consideration. Rather, he has to pay sanctions to the point that tax evasion act is considered a crime causing the severest sentences including life prison. Usually in underdeveloped countries, influential and powerful people evade paying taxes unlike the rest of the population. As for the Muslims’ treasury, it is paid from legitimate money since illegitimate activities are banned and aren’t allowed under the pretext of funding the treasury. Zakat money is paid in all the Islamic world upon the free will of citizens to the poor and needy. This is motivated by the religious faith in its sectors fixed in sharia (eight categories). Although Zakat money didn’t receive due care, the experiences of Zakat funds met significant interest in Islamic countries. In Algeria, the Islamic Salvation Front founded when it won in provincial and communal elections in June 1991 local Zakat funds supervised by some imams and preachers. They were very successful in taking care of the needy. Sheikh Jaballah Abdellah, president of the former Islamic Ennahda party in Algeria suggested setting up a national Zakat fund after conducting thorough scientific studies. However, authorities in Algeria sought to monopolize the idea. So it remained within the framework of the ministry of foreign affairs. Although some Imams tried to collect these funds and set up mechanisms to distribute them by the ministry of foreign affairs, there was an opposition to the methods and mechanisms of distribution.

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