Charity must not be selective, especially in times of crisis, Mustafa K Anuar writes.
Financial help, food aid and other forms of basic assistance serve as a vital lifeline for the needy and the marginalised at a time when economic hardships stare squarely at them during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Kind souls among Malaysians have worked tirelessly to extend help where it is desperately needed, and when starvation is possibly a day or two away for some families.
One such kind person is Ebit Irawan Ibrahim Lew – better known as Ustaz Ebit Lew – who has helped the less fortunate and the needy over the years with a missionary vigour.
Apart from giving groceries and food supplies to the needy, Ebit is also known to have helped groups snubbed by most Islamic missionaries, such as transgenders and Mat Rempit.
Very much unorthodox in his ways, the preacher would also visit nightclubs in Kuala Lumpur to counsel supposedly troubled individuals and has also given aid – lo and behold – to the needy from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.
However, his good work gained intense scrutiny as well as scorn when he visited and gave aid to a poor family of 20, who were squeezed into a termite-infested wooden hut in Alor Star, Kedah.
The visit, recorded on video and posted on social media, sparked accusations that Kedah and its zakat department have ignored the family’s plight.
Even if the family have indeed received aid from government agencies in the state, it still begs the question as to why they were left to live in such squalid conditions all these years.
It was said that the video recording was meant for the preacher to share his concern for, and raise awareness about, the poor with the public.
The controversy boiled over to the extent that Ebit was called in for questioning by police. He subsequently was allowed to continue with his charity work.
While his charitable spirits remain high, this incident does leave a bad taste in the mouth as he now has resigned himself to giving money to the needy via electronic transfer instead of visiting and giving aid to them directly.
This episode reflects poorly on some Malaysians, including a few in the religious circle, who are quick to find fault with and chide those who work to help the unfortunate without even thinking of getting political mileage or reward of any form.
Having said that, it is rather glaring that these snoopy Malaysians did not get hot over the collar with the prevailing controversy surrounding the government’s delivery of food aid to the needy and the desperate.
Some opposition politicians said they are not getting the 1,000 food packs for each of the 222 parliamentary constituencies to ease the plight of the poor.
Equally disturbing, some of these packs are not worth RM100 each as proclaimed by the government. The government later blamed civil society organisations that supposedly brought in food aid that cost less than the stipulated worth.
Earnest critics of Ebit should have asked, for instance, why there has not been an urgent investigation into an important issue that concerns large amounts of money and the needy – because transparency of the government is of utmost importance here.
Also, they should have asked why would the needy be penalised simply because they happen to live in an opposition constituency.
Surely this injustice should prick the conscience of the critics, let alone the government.
The good intent and deed of the charitable must be appreciated while enough intended aid must finally reach the needy in good time.
More importantly, charity must not be selective, especially in times of crisis.