Groups challenge govt attempt to control collecting of alms
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A group of alms agencies have filed a judicial review to challenge the 2011 Law on management of zakat (Alms), which they feel establishes the dominance of the government-run National Alms Agency (Baznas) in managing the country’s alms collection.
The People’s Coalition for Alms (Komaz), which represents 30 privately-run charity organizations, have described the regulations as another government monopoly on religious practice, similar to the way the Religious Affairs Ministry manages the haj pilgrimage.
“We know from the history of Islam that it is possible for the public and the government to manage alms collection and distribution together. Besides, the public trusts private charitable foundations more than the government, given the rampant corruption associated with the management of the haj pilgrimage,” he added.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) announced in February that it found irregularities in the use of interest proceeds worth Rp 1.7 trillion (US$177 million) from the management of the haj fund, which was worth Rp 32 trillion.
Earlier this year, the KPK also launched a probe into the Religious Affairs Ministry’s Rp 110 billion procurement of Korans in 2012.
Alms agencies claim that zakat (mandatory alms) could help more than 31.9 million people or 13.3 percent of the Indonesian population.
Last year, more than Rp 1.7 trillion in zakat and shadaqah (optional alms) were collected from Muslims.
The biggest alms collectors are privately-run organizations, such as Dompet Dhuafa and Rumah Zakat which respectively collected Rp 150 billion and Rp 146 billion. The government-sanctioned Baznas managed to collect only Rp 44.16 billion.
According to the new law, Baznas now has the authority to issue recommendations for alms foundations. Without a recommendation, the foundations might not receive a licence from the religious affairs minister and their operations would be terminated.
Activists have criticized this provision. “How is it possible for Baznas to serve as coordinator, regulator, supervisor and also operator? It runs counter to the spirit of good governance. With this authorization, Baznas could deny issuing recommendations for its competitors,” Heru said.
Provisions in the law also put traditional alms collectors in a difficult position as they could be charged with conducting illegal activities if they failed to register.
A person collecting alms without a licence could be charged under Articles 38 and 41 of the law, which carry a maximum punishment of one year in prison and Rp 50 million in fines.
Muhammad Branata, a Komaz member, said the law could contribute to the decline in the amounts of alms collected in the future.
According to the latest study from Baznas and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture’s (IPB), there is potentially Rp 217 trillion in alms to be collected per year. Figures from last year represent less than one percent of the total estimate.
Branata said that the long-held tradition of families giving their alms directly to neighbors or mosques in their neighborhoods meant the figure was very low.
“A study shows that 90 percent of Indonesians prefer to give their alms directly to the poor and these are unregistered alms. The government needs to issue regulations that could raise awareness about giving alms to professional agencies,” said Branata of Rumah Zakat. (yps)