By this time next week, Muslims around the world will be balancing the responsibilities of daily life with the observance of Ramadan. And, as is true every year, while many people engage in spiritual purification and meet their obligation of zakat, a few will be trying to take unfair advantage.
Preying on the generosity of Muslims during Ramadan is a perennial concern and a particular problem in the UAE, where income and levels of charitable giving are relatively high. As The National reports today, authorities in Dubai are about to launch their annual crackdown on begging, an illegal practice that always spikes during Ramadan. Beggars return each year, which indicates that more than a few unsuspecting charitable souls continue to fall for the ruse.
There is more to this problem than just policing. Organised criminal networks that try to take advantage of the holy month clearly need to be reined in. Perhaps more importantly, however, the predatory actions of a few should not discourage the generosity of the many.
First, dealing with the criminal element: each year, beggars seem to hatch more sophisticated plots. In 2010, one gang of criminals even disguised themselves as beggars to scout sites for home burglaries during the month. They made off with Dh3 million worth of household items before being arrested.
Police can only do so much to curb these trends. Increased patrols and undercover operations can discourage begging in affluent communities, but until people stop giving to beggars or groups they don't know, the problem will only continue to resurface. But until all donors give more prudently, criminals will continue to stuff their pockets.
The UAE has sought to make giving safer, by requiring humanitarian aid groups and charitable organisations to register their operations. The UAE Red Crescent Authority, which recently launched its Ramadan 2012 campaign, has a proven record organising and distributing charity. Another national effort, the Radisson Blu and Park Inn Hotels Box Appeal, donates toiletries to labourers, thereby giving residents a simple way to give.
During a season built on the ideals of empathy with the poor, charity is an essential element. Smarter giving should be, too.