• Muslims have generally been left out in this economic empowerment programme as Islam forbids its adherents to involve in interest based transactions.
• It should not have escaped the attention of the initiators of the Hustler Fund to put in place provisions for Muslims to access the funds.
While the government continues to hype the success of the Hustler Fund, a key constituency continues to miss out on this initiative meant to uplift the economic standards of millions of Kenyans.
More than Sh14 billion shillings has so far been borrowed from the kitty, which forms a key plank in the fulfilment of President William Ruto’s election pledge on wealth creation. Beneficiaries are provided state-backed loans of up to Sh50,000 at an annual interest rate of eight per cent.
With interest forming a key part of the Hustler Fund, Muslims have generally been left out in this economic empowerment programme as Islam forbids its adherents to involve in interest based transactions.
With Kenya now a leading hub of Islamic finance, where several financial institutions are already providing Islamic finance products to cater for the Muslim populace, it should not have escaped the attention of the initiators of the Hustler Fund to put in place provisions for Muslims to access the funds.
Before the roll out, it would have been ideal for the government to liaise with Islamic financial institutions to see to it that provisions were put in place for Muslims to easily access the funds without compromising their beliefs. The Muslim populace in the country comprise a third of the population and this significant numbers should not have been ignored in the formulation of this important economic empowerment tool.
As he lauded the Head of State for implementing one of his key campaign promises, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims national chairman Hassan Ole Naado however, complained that leaving out the community in the Hustler Funds, the government was not giving Muslims a fair share in the national development agenda.
“While we pray for the Kenya Kwanza administration for placing our beloved country on a trajectory of prosperity through creative endeavours such as Hustler Fund, we are concerned that the Muslim community’s interests have not been addressed,” he said.
Since the advent of Islamic finance in the country 15 years ago, many financial institutions, insurance providers as well as pension firms have all been providing Shariah compliant products to Muslims, who are conscious about their of faith beliefs that do allow them to transact in interest-based products.
With the infrastructure of Islamic finance in place, the previous administration had ensured that Muslims were not left out in government financing programmes. Schemes such as the Youth Empowerment Fund and the Women Fund adequately catered for Muslims who easily accessed them through Islamic financial institutions.
Discussions were also underway to provide avenues for Muslim students to access funds from the Higher Education Loans Board without compromising their beliefs.
While the Hustlers Fund was being formulated, it was expected that provisions would be put in place for Muslims to also easily access the funds. Unfortunately two months down the line, no roadmap has been put in place, leading to questions of a deliberate policy to leave out this significant population of Kenyans.
As long as the Hustler Fund has an interest component, Muslims will for the larger part give it a wide berth and this will not augur well for the government as it needs to be seen to incorporate all Kenyans in its national development agenda irrespective of religious affiliation.
Like other Kenyans, Muslims are also taxpayers and the state has an obligation to ensure an important section of its citizenry also benefits from its programmes.
Abu Ayman Abusufian is the head of media, Jamia Mosque Nairobi.