The Quran on those who Exploit

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

“WOE UNTO THOSE who give short measure: those who, when they are to receive their due from [other] people, demand that it be given in full – but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due! Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead [and called to account] on an awesome Day – the Day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds? “(Quran 83: 1-6)

I have been thinking a lot about these verses, and wondering about production around the world. There is an expectation that when we buy commodities in North America, we pay the full price – no bargaining, no compromise. Companies make billions off of this. But how do they reward those who make their goods? They pay them meager wages, barely enough to live on. They often don’t even pay their North American workers enough or give them benefits (think Walmart). During the market crisis, heads of corporations paid themselves millions in bonuses, while the common citizen paid the price of their company bailouts.   God in the Quran addresses these sorts of people by the use of the word ‘wail’ ( وَيْلٌ), the definition meaning ‘woe unto you’ or ‘destruction, ruin, or doom unto you’ and they are later in the same chapter promised Hellfire. Exploitation, even on a small scale, is a very serious offense in the Quran. Are we a part of this? Do we even care?

I remember a few years ago MSA National was giving a scholarship to Muslim students from Chevron-Texaco. I wrote them a long letter explaining that it makes no sense for those who believe in Islam and its truth to accept money from a company that has raped (I didn’t use that word exactly) parts of Nigeria (along with other places in the world, but I used Nigeria as an example) and has put almost nothing back. How can we as Muslims be a part of that? The outer forms of worship (prayer, fasting, etc.) mean nothing when we’re accepting money stained with the blood of those who were exploited for oil.

I never received a response. This may be overly cynical to say, but I don’t think many Muslims care about exploitation as long as they don’t see it, don’t hear it, and don’t think about it. Looking Muslim and acting Muslim as well at following religious ritual is enough. This example was of a group simply accepting money from a major oil company, but many are directly involved in these dealings. Even on a small scale, cheating on business deals is a norm among many I’ve observed.

God curses those who exploit others, and those who are unfair in their business transactions. Ritual is not enough, if we do not make sure our actions are fair and just, we’ll be answerable to Him for what we’ve done to others.

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?

Why G20 Protest?

September 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the days before the G20 summit in Toronto, much of the local debate centered around the right to protest/the right of the police to keep the area safe and clear. Many observers who were not involved were completely unsure of why people were even protesting, and simply dismissed protesters as troublemakers with an ambiguous set of causes. Though I agree that a few who showed up were simply troublemakers, the majority of the protesters had every right to be there and had very valid reasons for doing so. There were a large number of individuals representing different groups with specific aims, but I’d like to post an description from the G8/20 Toronto Community Mobilization website in the hope of giving a general picture of why thousands (around 10,000) showed up to protest:

The so called ‘leaders’ and bankers of the twenty richest countries are meeting in Huntsville and Toronto on 25-27 June 2010 at the G8 and G20 Summits. They are meeting to make decisions that will result in more exploitation of people and the environment. They want to ensure that the systems that increase colonization, wars and displacement are maintained. In direct resistance, we are coming together to create a just world that puts people before corporate and elite profit.

The Toronto Community Mobilization Network is collaborating for change in Toronto and in the world.  Join the process; everyone is a part of this work.

The network is a collection of Toronto-based organizers and allies, that will use the fleeting moment of the G8/G20 meetings in Toronto in June 2010 in Ontario to come together and share the work that we do every other day of the year.  We will build the momentum for a movement for Indigenous Sovereignty and Self-Determination, Environmental and Climate Justice, Migrant Justice and an End to War and Occupation, Income Equity and Community Control over Resources, Gender Justice and Queer and disAbility rights.

With power and vision, people of colour, indigenous peoples, women, the poor, the working class, queer and trans people and disabled people will create and lead alternatives; will decide for themselves; will transcend the systems that oppress them and keep them from talking to one another.

Source: http://g20.torontomobilize.org/getinformed

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