UK Muslims Advised to Give Zakat Locally, Not Abroad

LONDON – Giving millions of donations and Zakat charity annually, British Muslims were urged to spend their donated money in the UK rather than overseas, as part of a national effort to improve mosques’ role in the community.

“[There are] Islamic charities in the UK which get millions in funds raised from UK donors. With a few exceptions, investment in the UK is not a priority for them,” said Ishtiaq Ahmed, co-founder of the Bradford Council of Mosques, Britain’s oldest, set up in 1981, The Times reported.

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The issue of Zakat-spending was raised during the first big conference in Britain for mosques to share expertise on how to improve governance, outreach, and security that was held in London on Saturday.

Iqbal Nasim, chief executive of the National Zakat Foundation, said British Muslims gave up to £300 million in Zakat each year.

He said that more than 98 percent was donated for overseas aid, adding that Islam taught that Zakat should support the donor’s local community.

Nasim said that too little Zakat money was donated to local causes, which contributed to severe problems within Muslim communities in Britain, including above-average levels of unemployment, poverty and health difficulties.

While several mosques have set up youth clubs, homeless services, football teams, cafés, toddler groups and advice centers, many were still run solely as places of prayer.

Attendees heard that many mosques were “not fit for purpose” and risked becoming “defunct” if they did not become more like community centers.

The 2.5 percent Zakat rate is owed on wealth above a threshold, usually equivalent to 600g of silver, worth about £250. In 2016 an estimated £100 million was donated by British Muslims in the month of Ramadan alone.

He added Muslims could still donate separately to overseas aid but Zakat was different.

“Zakat is not charity,” he said. “It is more like a tax. It is supposed to be focused on the local areas where supporters live.”