Googl Alert Bernama - KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 28 (Bernama) -- The establishment of the proposed International Zakat Organisation should be expedited to ensure that the socio-economic problems afflicting Muslim countries are addressed without delay, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today.
The Prime Minister said this was important to avoid any form of marginalisation of the ummah as well as to accelerate the process of sustainable economic development.
"To date, assistance channelled from wealthier Muslim countries and Muslim individuals to the less developed countries have largely been ad hoc in nature. In particular, we are unable to realise the potential of zakat and wakaf in solving problems afflicting the Muslim community.
"This we must address without delay or hesitation," he said when addressing the International Conference on Zakat: Towards the Establishment of International Zakat Organisation, here.
Offering Kuala Lumpur as the organisation's headquarters, Abdullah also said that Malaysia was ready to commit the necessary resources towards realising the establishment of the International Zakat Organisation.
At the same time, Abdullah said, zakat funds should also be used as a means to provide assistance that would have a lasting effect on those countries.
"I propose that zakat funds be utilised for the development of resources, especially in the area of human capital development. We should not view zakat as merely charity or as a means for short-term relief for those in need.
"We should not merely feed the hungry with fish to eat. We should have programmes to teach them to catch fish so that they can take care of their own welfare long into the future," he said.
The idea to establish an international zakat organisation was mooted by Abdullah, who is the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) chairman, last December as an effort to help poor Islamic countries address their socio-economic issues.
Today's conference was the first step taken by Malaysia towards the establishment of the organisation which calls on all rich Muslim countries for support.
Calling on the more fortunate countries to commit themselves to the cause, Abdullah said the success of the strategy would rely on the cooperation of all parties to pool together their resources.
"I sincerely hope that other Muslim countries, as well as the larger Muslim groups and individuals all over the world will come forward to support this noble cause," he said.
He added that the support must not only be in the form of hard funds but also ideas, materials and other non-cash contributions.
Abdullah also expressed the hope that the proposed zakat institution would be managed professionally.
"The organisation must operate on a transparent basis in order to gain credibility and generate confidence. Only in this manner will it gain the necessary support for funds from wealthy Muslim countries, corporations and individuals," he said.
About 200 participants from 16 countries attended the one-day conference.
Among those present were Brunei's Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Jawatan Luar Pekerma Raja Datuk Seri Utama Dr Hj. Md Zain Serudin, Egypt's Mufti, Dr Ali Gomaa Muhammad Abd al-wahhab; Qatar's Minister of Religious, Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Faisal Abdullah Al-Mahamood; Pakistan's Minister of Religious Affairs, Zakat and Ushr, Muhammad Ijaz ul Haq; Indonesia's Minister of Religion, Dr M. Maftuh Basyuni; and Syria's Minister of Awqaf, Dr Zeyad Addin Al Ayoubi.
Iran's Deputy Minister of Legal and International Affairs, Sayed Abbas Aragchi; Bahrain's Undersecretary for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs Dr Fareed Yaacob Al Muftah; and Yemen's Deputy Minister of Local Administer Abdulwahab Ahmed Abdullah Al-Quradi were also at the conference.
At the function, Abdullah also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Halal Industry Development Corporation Sdn Bhd and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The MoU is to enable both parties to, among others, share their research and information to better facilitate growth within the OIC countries.