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Islamic charity provides free masks to people in need amid Victoria's mandatory rule

National Zakat Foundation Chief Executive Officer and Talal Yassine OAM packaging food boxes in Sydney. Source: supplied

An Islamic charity with offices across Australia is putting the call out to help anyone unable to secure a face mask.

The National Zakat Foundation in Australia is looking to help residents who are unable to secure a face mask, following Victoria’s move to make them mandatory for anyone leaving their homes for the four legal reasons.

The foundation is providing free masks as part of their support program to provide essentials for people who have fallen on hard times during the pandemic.

Munir Abdella, the foundation’s national director of distribution told SBS Arabic24 there are no conditions for asking for a mask, and Victorian residents can start ordering them immediately, via the charity's website or by calling through.

Munir Abdella - NZF National Distribution Manager
Munir Abdella - NZF National Distribution Manager

He said people in need can either request masks from the charity's stocks for delivery or ask for money so you buy it yourself. He affirms that the charity operates in all states and the offer is also available to people nationwide.

"We have some masks that other organisations have donated to us to distribute to people who cannot go out to buy them, so everyone who needs masks in the northern area of ​​Melbourne can communicate with us to deliver them personally to their homes.”

For residents who live in other areas of Victoria, Mr Abdella said they can also contact the foundation to request masks and other essentials, to be organised via delivery services.

Mr Abdella said the initiative is only a small part of what the foundation is doing during the pandemic.

“We work with many organisations to provide meals and food boxes for families whose monthly income is insufficient, throughout Australia.

"We help with rental fees, utility bills, and cost of medicines. These are some of the things we deal with every day ... These are the basics that everyone should have to be able to live a decent life."

National Zakat Foundation
Food boxes prepared in Sydney.

The charity also provides emergency assistance to women affected by domestic violence.

The foundation is funded by Muslim Australians who pay Zakat and Mr Abdella confirmed that they do not receive any government assistance.  

Zakat is an Islamic finance term referring to the obligation that an individual has to donate a certain proportion of wealth each year to charitable causes.

It is seen as a mandatory process for Muslims and is regarded as a form of worship, as giving away money to the poor is said to purify yearly earnings that are over and above what is required to provide the essential needs of a person or family.

National Zakat Foundation
Left to right: Abu Muneer, Ismail Davids, NZF Chief Executive Officer, MP Jihad Dib and Talal Yassine OAM.

Victoria’s move to make face masks and coverings mandatory comes with a $200 fine for anyone who doesn’t comply. 

Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton pointed out that there will be exceptions to the rule.

"A number ... are legitimately not able to wear masks so please don't vilify individuals or don't make the assumption they are simply stubborn," Prof Sutton said.

"There will be people with medical, behavioural, psychological reasons ... certainly don't make an assumption that they should be the subject of your ire."

Some activists believe the new mandate may present challenges for certain people and may stop them from leaving their homes.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said simply buying a mask and wearing it was not straightforward for everyone.

"A lot of vulnerable people in the community are not in a position to watch the news all day, and might not realise that wearing a mask is a new requirement. Most will struggle to afford masks and not be in a position to make a mask," she said.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.

Ms Smith said that instead of issuing fines, police should be able to offer masks to those who don't know about the requirement or who are unable to buy one.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive officer Kon Karapanagiotidis said while he supported the call for mandatory masks, there was further anxiety within the refugee community.

"What we're worried about with masks becoming mandatory is you're going to see lots of vulnerable people not leaving the house for essential services because they don't have the means."

Residents in metropolitan Melbourne are subject to stay-at-home orders and can only leave home for food and essential supplies, work, study, exercise or care responsibilities. People are also advised to wear masks in public.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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