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Opinion

April 19, 2017
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Give charity wisely

Give charity wisely

Pakistanis are generous by nature and tend to indulge a lot in philanthropy. Apart from their religious obligation of zakat (a form of alms-giving treated in Islam as a religious obligation or tax, which, by Quranic ranking, is second to prayer in importance), a large number of Pakistanis donate to various philanthropic organizations like Edhi and others diligently working to alleviate poverty.

Most people give charity not only to help those in need but for the moral gratification and blessings.

Philanthropy has always been a big thing in this part of the world and donations are not only given to known organizations and hospitals but also elsewhere. Many people give donations to help build mosques and seminaries - this is a noble cause. But sometimes we see that the demand for money to build a hospital, orphanage, mosque or seminary located in a far-flung area becomes a constant - sometimes even for many years. People keep giving without questioning those asking for money why the project hasn't been completed or without ever finding out where it is located. No one has probably ever gone to the site of the 'charitable project' they are constantly giving money for.

Charity should be a duty to help others but it is also a responsibility to see that the money given is used for the very purpose it is being taken. There should be accountability of the funds generated.

Many people may not like the idea of hounding those who want to do good for the majority, especially when they have been taught to give selflessly without question.

It is easy to see that charity given to organizations like Edhi, Saylani, Alamgir Trust etc. or by parties like Jamaat-e-Islami during disasters is being put to use for the good of society. It is evident through various projects run by these organizations like ambulance services, free food, free education and health. And anyone can go to their office and find out about the system and how the organization functions.

But it is not easy to trace the charity money being used by other people, unknown or lesser known organizations or bodies. And therefore we have no idea if the money is being used for the good of society or not. Or if our money is being used by extremist elements to support terrorism.

Considering the rise in terrorism in Pakistan with negative elements gnawing at the society and spilling blood, it may be a good idea to follow up where our charity is being used.

The problem is that the government has little or no data available to the public where one can determine which organization and its affiliates are genuine and which are not. Some private bodies like Individual Land (https://www.individualland.com/) have put data out there, but people have no idea they exist.

And it is doubtful that many would refer to any of kind data provided to decide where to give their donations. But it wouldn't be a bad idea if we did make an effort to find out where the money is going and if it is actually for example being used to build a mosque or seminary or not.

Most of us give because we think it is morally right to help the needy or at least support those who are doing the actual work. And this is where we get sucked into a grey area in which charity money channelized towards harming the larger society by funding elements that indulge in terrorism. So in a way we might unknowingly be paying the very people who are orchestrating terrorism in our midst.  

Therefore it is imperative that we make sure we are giving donations to the right people and not fueling the very machine that could be our undoing. People need to be aware of the way some elements are misusing the noble cause of charity by playing on people's sympathies.

It is the government's duty to spread awareness by providing data to the public. The media and teachers can also help people understand how charity can be misused.

But the most important role to help people understand this would be of the religious scholars who need to tell people it is not wrong or a sin to find out if charity is being used for the right cause for the betterment of the whole society. In fact this would be a better act on the part of a pious person to do something that would help protect others from harm.

So before the holy month of Ramazan when more money is given as charity, it would not be a bad idea for the religious scholars to unite with the government and media to help people understand who to give their money to and actually help someone.

The government should provide lists of the organizations that are actually working for the good of society so that the funds are not lost to the wrong people. And maybe through a collective effort the charity money will reach the deserving and not be wasted.

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