Islamic Relief: An Islamic Perspective on Fair Trade

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

The international relief and development organization Islamic Relief has published an in-depth analysis on fair trade according to Islamic principles:

An Islamic Perspective on Fair Trade

The growth of international trade has brought about significant economic benefits and prosperity to many. However, small-scale producers in many poor countries, particularly those whose livelihoods depend upon the farming of a single crop, are unable to compete in a world market controlled by large multinational companies and distorted by the subsidies provided by rich countries to their producers. As a consequence, farmers in poor countries have few options for generating an income and many live in poverty often unable to meet even their most basic needs. Fair trade is a response to these conditions.

European and North American Fairtrade labelling bodies, non-governmental organisations and various faith-based organisations have all been instrumental in promoting fair trade. Indeed, for ethical and moral reasons, many Christian faith-based organisations have adopted a clear and unequivocal position in support of fair trade. Is an Islamic perspective on fair trade also supportive? Do Islamic principles and teachings encourage Muslim organisations to be equally active? And does an Islamic perspective provide additional insights? In order to address these questions, this paper presents an Islamic perspective on fair trade. It does this by outlining the key principles upon which fair trade is based, such as sustainability, fairness, equity, and workers rights, and examines relevant Islamic teachings.

This investigation finds that the principles of Islam are not silent on issues of fair trade and trade justice. Indeed, there is a rich heritage in Islam of high moral standards, ethics, values and norms of behaviour, which govern personal, professional and business life. In the area of business and commerce Islam obliges buyers, sellers and consumers to act honestly, fairly and with integrity in their daily business practices – for business is not something that can be treated separately from all other aspects of social life. Islam also obliges workers to be treated fairly, and with dignity and respect. Since the fair trade movement is primarily concerned with fairness, equity and justice, it seems that the principles of fair trade and the teachings of Islam are entirely congruent. With references from the Qur’an and ahadith this analysis demonstrates that, from an Islamic perspective, there are indeed strong and clear faith-based reasons for supporting fair trade initiatives. Through supporting fair trade, Muslims can ensure that producers receive a fair price that guarantees a living income and decent working conditions with longer-term contracts that provide greater security and ensure more sustainable development.

Read full article: http://www.islamic-relief.com/InDepth/downloads/Islam_and_Fairtrade.pdf

H&M’s New Conscious Collection

April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

H&M has launched a new collection that they claim is made with more sustainable materials and with social consideration (i.e. made fairly). Check out the video on the new collection:

http://www.hm.com/ca/conscious-collection#conscious

Statement made by John Lewis on the Resignation of Mubarak

February 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the American Civil Rights Movement made this statement after hearing news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt:

“What we have witnessed in Egypt today is nothing short of a non-violent revolution. The peacefulness of this transition on the streets of Cairo is a testament to the people of Egypt–to the discipline of the protestors and the military–who resisted any temptation to descend into brutality.  They demonstrated so eloquently the power of peace to persistently broadcast their message of change.

 “As a nation and as a people, especially this nation which found its own beginnings in a revolutionary movement, we must always try to find ourselves on the just side of budding movements of non-violent change.  We must always give credence to any effort that leads to a more truly democratic world society that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.  We must always nurture and empower movements which respect freedom of the press, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and the inalienable right to dissent.”

The Egyptian Revolution: The Fall of the Pharaoh February 11, 2011

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mabrook Ya Masr!

Congratualtions to the people of Egypt for achieving their aim of overthrowing their dictator Hosni Mubarak. After 18 long days of protest, you have shown the world that peaceful (peaceful on the side of pro-democracy protesters) protests, and a nation standing together united with one voice for a better future can change the face of a nation and make history. Others in the world promote war for the sake of such endeavors (toppling dictators) and have caused mass suffering and destruction, but we see today what a nation’s own citizens can do when they have the will and determination to take a principled and peaceful stand against injustice. Your bravery has inspired the world as we watched you stand, day after day, in the face of violence, arrest, and even death, for the sake of the rights we in the West take for granted.

We pray for you, and for a better future for Egypt. We pray for those who died.

May God bless all of your efforts.

Response to PM Stephen Harper’s Statement on Egypt

February 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement on Feb 1st  on recent events in Egypt:

“Following President Mubarak’s announcement today that he will not seek re-election, Canada reiterates its support for the Egyptian people as they transition to new leadership and a promising future.

“Canada supports universal values – including freedom, democracy and justice – and the right to the freedom of assembly, speech and information. As Egypt moves towards new leadership, we encourage all parties to work together to ensure an orderly transition toward a free and vibrant society in which all Egyptians are able to enjoy these rights and freedoms – not a transition that leads to violence, instability and extremism.

“We commend the many groups, such as the Egyptian military, who have worked hard to support freedom of assembly and to minimize violence during recent demonstrations. We stand by the people of Egypt, young Egyptians in particular, for their steadfast support for the fundamental values that Canadians profoundly share with them.

“We also extend our condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed or injured during recent events.

“We urge all parties in Egypt to renounce violence and allow peaceful and meaningful dialogue between the people and government to address political, economic and social concerns. This dialogue should lead to free and fair elections and a government that supports universal values.”

——

I sent a letter to the PM concerning his statement:

Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

While I applaud your support for the demands of the Egyptian people, I am greatly disappointed that the Canadian government has not expressed greater concern for the Egyptian government’s actions against its citizens.

Calling for an end to violence on both sides does not send the right message to Egypt, the world, and concerned Canadians. The Canadian government should be expressing outrage for the Egyptian government’s use of violence used against protesters, the loss of Egyptian lives, the shutting down of the internet, and the control of communication. We stand for the values of freedom of speech and assembly, and support the spread of democracy. We in the West supported these values when it came to the people of Tunisia. But when it comes to the dictator Mubarak, we are weak in sending the same message due to his support of Western interests in the Middle East.

People of the world perceive this hypocrisy in Western governments. Canada should be a leader in speaking up for Egyptian rights, and speaking against the repressive Mubarak regime.

_________

You can email the PM at: pm@pm.gc.ca

In Solidarity with the People of Egypt

February 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

In honour of today’s (Feb 1st 2011) Million Person March in Egypt, I would like to express my support for the people of Egypt as they continue their struggle for the basic civil rights and freedoms they’ve long been deprived of.

Many of us here in the West look on in awe and admiration as a nation rises up after years of repression under a military dictatorship to claim justice, liberty, and democracy for their people. We should remember that we have the power to support them from where we are: they need our prayers, and for us to share information on their plight with those around us. They need us to pressure our governments to support this just cause, and for us to write to newspapers and media to address any misinformation and deliberate political spin that takes away from that cause for the sake of Western interests in the Middle East.

People of Egypt, may God bless you with the strength and courage to continue in your struggle.
May He aid you in these difficult times, and may He grant you success.
Ameen.

Adbusters: “Ramadan Xmas”

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Ramadan Xmas”
By Sarah Nardi

Source: Adbusters Magazine
http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/87/ramadan-xmas.html

Most of us, whether we’ve experienced it directly or not, are familiar with the idea of a comedown. A comedown is what happens when a drug, usually a stimulant, begins the long, painful process of withdrawing from your system. As the euphoria of the high begins to wane and the anxiety washes in, you suddenly start to feel dizzy and disoriented. The drug, previously situated between you and reality, is wearing off and, as it goes, you’re left to navigate the void created by its absence. That means going through the process of reconnecting to yourself, to your body’s natural rhythms and your mind’s natural pace. And when it’s finally over, you’re left feeling listless, lifeless and blank … the soaring high replaced by a crushing melancholy.

That’s how I feel every year after Christmas.

Once the cheer I’ve been mainlining since the day after Thanksgiving dries up, I’m left with an emptiness I can’t quite describe. There’s nothing like the sight of Christmas decorations after the holiday has passed. Walking into a room strewn with yuletide detritus is like returning to the scene of Bacchanalian excess the morning after, when all you’re left with is a headache and a vague sense of shame. The thought of candy, cookies, credit cards – consumption in any form – invites feelings of guilt and disgust. I can’t wait to eat a salad, go to the gym. I vow never to go to the mall again. I just want to get clean. Coming down from Christmas – reconnecting to my body’s natural rhythms and my mind’s natural pace – takes days.

I doubt I’m alone. Most people seem a bit pallid and disconnected, not quite themselves, in the days following Christmas. It’s as if we’re all trying to traverse the void that the holiday, with its attendant excess, has left in its wake. But what if we were to introduce some elements of Ramadan into our celebration of Christmas? Muslims, during the month-long observance of the Islamic holiday, abstain from eating, drinking and sex during the daylight hours. The practice of fasting is meant to teach patience, humility and restraint. It is meant to inspire empathy and appreciation. It’s a way to achieve “God-consciousness” and repent for past sins and misdeeds. Above all, fasting is meant to bring one closer to one’s spiritual self. By denying the body, practitioners are strengthening the soul and the mind. It is an exercise in discipline and meditation that, once completed, should leave one feeling more connected, more whole.

Westerners have a long tradition of borrowing from other cultures to temper an immoderate nature. Yoga brings us calm, Tao brings us balance – so why not look to Islam for a bit of restraint? Maybe we can begin this year at the height, rather than the depths, of self.

Winter Made in Canada

November 29, 2010 § 2 Comments

Since I determined in the summer that I would try my best to buy clothing made in Canada, the USA and other countries that have protective labour laws, I’ve avoided buying much.  I did end up at H&M because I’d been given gift certificate for my birthday. I’m not sure how I feel about shopping at H&M. Their website has a whole section devoted to corporate responsibility that explains the steps they are taking to make the company more sustainable, as well as their involvement in improving worker conditions using the company’s financial power and influence. I’m still pretty skeptical about H&M’s claims, but I wasn’t going to let the gift certificate go to waste!

Other than that, I’ve avoided buying clothing. One reason for this is the realization that I have way too much stuff already. The other reason is that I was afraid of the commitment I had made. I made the commitment in the first place not only because supporting companies that avoid sweatshop labour  (like American Apparel) is important, but for me simply knowing that the clothing on my back was not made by a woman or child who was abused and exploited while working in slave-like conditions is important for my mental and spiritual well-being. My purchasing power may not change the world, but like I’ve written in earlier posts, I do believe that all of this goes back to my responsibility to God, the Judge of all things. However, although I’m not a big shopper, I do love nice clothes and I’ve been afraid of entering the mall only to fall in love with clothes that were off limits to me because of my resolution.  Therefore, I’ve simply stayed away. It has been a good thing so far because I’ve saved money I’ve earned and thought a lot more about my consumption.

Then winter hit. I have a winter coat but it’s not warm enough for the dropping temperatures. I couldn’t put it off any longer; it was time for a trip to the mall. I know that God blesses good intentions, so I set my intention to do something good, and put my trust in Him that he would guide me to what I needed. I then laid out a plan in my head: I would only shop at the stores that had items that were made in Canada, and if I couldn’t find anything there, I’d go to H&M as a last resort. I knew three stores, Le Chateau, Tristan, and Jacob, manufacture some items in Canada so that’s where I would start.

I made the mistake of going to the mall on Saturday, the day after Black Friday (the official beginning of Christmas shopping season) and people had come out in droves for the Christmas shopping pilgrimage. I became frustrated within minutes of entering the building, but knew I had to get this coat or freeze this winter. I first went to Le Chateau and was surprised to find that half of their large winter coat selection was made in Canada. I tried things on, but didn’t like anything I tried on. It frustrated me because I couldn’t believe that I would be this superficial as to pass up these coats for the sake of fashion! I decided then to check out the other stores and return later to resolving this internal dilemma if need be. The other stores didn’t in fact have any ‘made in Canada’ coats, and I couldn’t even find anything I liked at H&M. I was ready to (temporarily) give up on my resolution at this point and get a coat from any other store.

But I realized I was being stupid, and that it would be better to go back to Le Chateau and just pick something; my principles are so much more important than fashion! This time a store clerk helped me, and suggested I try a particular coat. He told me he really liked how it looked on me, and then it dawned on me that it was the first coat I’d tried on when I got to the mall. It did look good, I don’t know what had prevented me from seeing that earlier.  Before I could change my mind again, I purchased the coat and headed home.

I wondered about this frustrating trip and thought to myself, “If I had just bought a coat at Le Chateau in the first place it would have saved me a lot of trouble.” My experience may seem like no big deal, but it’s important to me because I learned a few things about sticking to my principles. I was also so proud of myself because, while others at the mall lost themselves in the race to buy the latest products that are commonly mistaken as the keys to happiness and fulfillment, I had set myself apart by setting out only to buy something I needed that was manufactured by workers that were fairly paid for the items they made. I also didn’t fail by buying another coat I liked a lot better (I did like other coats a whole lot better than the one I purchased, but they were made in China) resisting my own mental slavery to fashion.

I know that the One sees into my heart and I pray that His witnessing the good I tried to do will lead to my happiness in His happiness with me.

Bansky Intro on the Simpsons

October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Intro on the Simpsons by British graffitti artist, social activist and painter Bansky (www.banksy.co.uk/) satirizing the  entertainment industry’s choices to outsource the production of its merchandise, and the use of cheap sweatshop labour. Apparently the segment was inspired by reports of the show outsourcing much of its animation to a company in South Korea.

I Am Free…?

October 9, 2010 § 5 Comments

Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too-all his life long. The mind that judges and desire and decides-made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions… Suggestions from the State.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Ch. 2

Every time I drive into the city, I am struck by the incredible number of billboards that line the roads as I drive into the downtown core. Once upon a time I was able to observe to beautiful lake to my right, but now that view is blocked by a cluster of waterfront condos that have turned the public space into corporate profit. Now my eyes are drawn to the left, to the wonderful billboards that educate me on where I’m lacking in my life: how imperfect my body necessarily is, how behind the times all my current electronics are, how much TV I’m missing, and the things I must buy in order to correct all of these problems that are keeping me from my true happiness and satisfaction.

I am constantly bombarded by advertising wherever I go and there seems to be no escape. Everything – everything – can be made into an ad. I often don’t know what to do with myself when I’m in urban centres because my mind is overloaded with these messages that make me feel that the magic of life is in what I buy. I wonder what it’ll be like as these centres expand and if there will truly be places to escape. I wonder what this constant bombardment is doing to my brain: Do I make proper choices or am I fooled into doing what I’m being told to do and fooling myself into thinking I have real control over what I do?