CAIRO — Citing the case of a poor woman who offered her son as collateral for a refrigerator, an Egyptian police captain has called for his fellow officers to help pay off the debts of impoverished people who have defaulted on loans. The Interior Ministry, which expressed support for the initiative and urged cooperation with police, released 41 defaulters from prison July 15.
The two groups say they are cooperating solely to bring relief to the nation's poor, though some doubters suspect political motives.
Police Capt. Mohammed Jamal delivered his request May 7 via Facebook, noting that a major tenet of Islam, Zakat, calls for monetary contributions to charity.
“Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam. … Help me spread this [campaign] to do more good. I call on interior security officers who serve the country. I call on every noble and kindhearted police officer to, instead of imprisoning people, let us this time release prisoners. It is really sad to have a police report on a woman who offered her son as a guarantee in exchange for a refrigerator. This is frustrating. People have no compassion or tolerance for the poor who lost their source of livelihood and are unable to secure even the simple necessities."
Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar said in a July 8 statement that he approves of Jamal's humanitarian and social initiative, which supports cohesion between police officers and citizens and consolidates their relationships. Ghaffar instructed the Department of Humanitarian Relations at the Interior Ministry to ensure coordinated efforts between the Prison Service and police to carry out the initiative.
Maj. Gen. Maher Hafez, assistant to the minister and former chairman of the Supreme Council for Police Forces, said numerous police officers in all parts of the country have participated in the initiative and donated large sums of money. He explained that the idea was not limited to the month of Ramadan, but will continue throughout the year. More imprisoned defaulters, in addition to the 41 already released, are to be released successively.
He told Al-Monitor that the initiative by police officers is purely humanitarian and removed from political calculations. “This was an individual idea by one of the officers working with humanitarian relations in one of the police departments. He came across a 54-year-old woman [who owed] 2,000 Egyptian pounds [$255] to a young man as the last installment for a refrigerator. This woman had settled all of her debts to this young man except for the refrigerator payment. The idea came to the young police officer after failing to settle the dispute amicably between the parties. It was welcomed by all leaders, including the interior minister and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” Hafez said.
Some people, Hafez charges, have attempted to sow dissent between the populace and the police by sensationalizing individual incidents in which police officers might have attacked citizens. He stressed the importance of Egyptians standing united in the face of terrorism.
For his part, Hassan Nafaa, head of the faculty of economics and political sciences at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor, “This initiative is not without political calculations, since thousands of defaulters who are not politically active could be released for a small cost. This increases Sisi’s popularity and reduces the number of inmates in Egypt’s congested prisons." Sisi allocated 21 million pounds (about $2.7 million) out of the Long Live Egypt Fund for this purpose June 23, Nafaa said.
“This initiative comes at a very sensitive time, following a number of violations by the police that were massively highlighted by the media, most notably the June 2 incident in Farskor City, when Deputy Police Chief Maj. Ahmed Abdul-Hadi beat lawyer Emad Sami with a shoe, leaving him with a head injury. Sisi personally apologized June 7 for this incident, but the conflict between lawyers and police flared up again when a police corporal shot at lawyer Mohammad Ali Jamal in Nasr City Court on July 11.”
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