I read with interest your article about the application of Zakah to the problem of under-developed countries around the world. It is a noble concept, which shares a great deal with the idea of the “tithe” or tenth in Christian theology. This parallel would be useful in giving your idea more universal acceptance as a practical remedy for poverty. I fear, however, that there are several factors that would make it more difficult to carry out. First, in the United States and Europe at least, there is a widespread feeling that, with a few notable exceptions, the massive assistance transferred over the past decades has been largely ineffective in alleviating poverty. Corruptions, mismanagement and violence have frequently wiped out or negated efforts to deal with such problems. In this country for example, the Government spent more per capita to assist citizens below the poverty level over a period of about twenty years that the average wage made. In the end, we are told that the number of poor increased. Second, and related, the filtering of such assistance through the impersonal channel of government has, in my opinion, severed the human link between the donor and beneficiary. This I believe has been a tremendous loss and argues for a non-governmental mechanism for disturbing assistance that will give both a human investment in one another.
The writer’s interest in and concern about the ills that affect our world are commendable and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss possible solutions with him in the future. I am acutely aware of the shortage of resources from governments because of the reductions in the support for education at all levels. Education, including the transfer of technology and knowledge, is as much part of an effective attack on poverty as it is an indispensable element of promoting understanding and cooperation between peoples.
W. Nathaniel Howell
University of Virginia
As always, I received our copy of Al Shindagah with interest. I always know I will find several articles well worth reading. This issue did not disappoint.
Infact I passed the piece about the origins of coffee around the office for general reading. I also have been following the Chicago Beach Project, so Fergi Varghese’s article was welcome. With regard to your thought on a more universal application of the Zakah. I agree that the concept of Zakah provides more guidance than the Christian imperative to be charitable. Also, you make an important point when you note that seriously addressing the social, moral and environmental damage caused by poverty would go a long way to reducing incidences of terrorism and war. Certainly Sen. McGovern and others would endorse your suggestion to levy a ‘nisbah’ a military spending. Regrettably, the greatest hurdle to this idea may not be in collection but in the distribution. As you note, such a global fund would constitute one of the largest financial funds in the world. As such, it would inevitably become a political tug-of-war as to who gets the funds and how they are used. It pains many Americans to know that the US is over $1billion in arrears in its obligations to the U.N. because of political maneuvering related to questions about that organization’s bureaucracy and spending priorities. Beyond the vision necessary to create the organization you suggest, a rare political will – to abide by its decisions etc – would also be needed.
Again congratulations on another informative issue of Al Shindagah.
Richard F. Wilson
Middle East Policy Council
Thank you for sending me the recent copy of Al Shindagah magazine _ very interesting reading, particularly Mr. Al Habtoor’s article on Zakah.