x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Beggars target mosque crowds

Beggars are lining up to exploit the charitable nature of Muslims during Ramadan, the Ministry of Interior has warned.

ABU DHABI // Beggars are lining up to exploit the charitable nature of Muslims during Ramadan, the Ministry of Interior has warned. "There is no doubt that this trend increases during the month of Ramadan because beggars know they can get money easily and rapidly from people," said Mohammed Saleh Beddah, the ministry's public relations manager. The ministry and the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments have launched a joint campaign to increase public awareness of begging, particularly during Friday prayers and evening religious lectures in mosques.

"They also know that they can obtain a bigger amount of money in addition to zakat [alms-giving] money," said Mr Beddah, adding that a beggar could collect as much in the holy month as during the whole of the rest of the year. Eighty per cent of those arrested for begging came from Asia, and the rest were Arabs, officials say. Mr Beddah warned that beggars were most active around mosques and ATMs. "We have arrested large numbers with a significant amount of money. One had collected Dh10,000 (US$2,720) in one week."

Many beggars were "professional" and not in need of money. "The majority are young people who can work either in their home countries or in the UAE, but they take advantage of this month of blessing and turn it into a lucrative trade," Mr Beddah said. Sometimes whole families were involved and there were networks of beggars preventing "outsiders" from competing with them. Mr Beddah said people caught begging were arrested and detained pending legal proceedings and deportation. Money was confiscated, but they were not fined.

rruiz@thenational.ae