29 October 2008

Irony of South African Muslims

How ironic is this- Sami Yusuf is hosted on a national tour of South Africa by a ‘Shariah compliant’ investment fund. From what I hear his concerts were awesome- I like Sami Yusuf too- saw him at Wembley in London performing for a 10000 strong crowd. And the 1400 odd year old debate on whether music in permissible is now on almost every blog, Facebook group, dinner table and ask-a-mufti session!

Reminds me of the sad story about the grandson of the Prophet of Islam- a person from the region where the terrible atrocity occurred, was discussing the Shariah ruling of the blood of a mosquito with a scholar, and was told something like: ‘You, who comes from the people who brutally tortured and murdered the beloved of the beloved of God, now while the blood of the Prophets grandson is still flowing in the streets, you are more concerned about the blood of a mosquito!’

Do you see the irony? South African Muslims, those that come from a middle class bourgeoisie background, in the wake of a global financial crisis, are busy with discussion on the music, while the show was hosted by an institution that belongs to the global economic system! South African Muslims, who some say are ‘the very same people that REPRESENT inequality and injustice’, are more concerned about the blood of a mosquito!!

Could the similarities be any more obvious and shocking! And what is most surprising, is that the only discourse now if from those very (ifta) institutions that supported Western Capitalistic Economy initiatives under the name of Islam, without at all qualifying their support, without realising a long term vision; it is them who are now speaking about ‘Losing The War Against Allah’! Do we know which side of the war we are on?!

To quote some advice from a friend, ‘We need to realise that Muslims, like you and I, serve to perpetuate inequality in the world though our lifestyles and through our deviation from the principals set down by the Prophet of Islam.

Why do we eat when our neighbours go hungry? Why do we live in expensive homes in cities where people have no homes? Why do family's and communities not co-operate to fund each others homes and businesses? Because of the USA and ''capitalism''? Its amazing how people fail to see the failures in their own behaviour and put the blame on everyone else.’

28 October 2008

Syrian drought exacerbates food crisis

Syrian drought exacerbates food crisis

Syria, a country that is usually self sufficient, now finds itself importing wheat from other countries for the first time in 15 years. The country is trying to cope with the effects of the worst drought in 40 years. Farmers and villagers in the east of the country are worst affected by the poor rainfall of the past 2 years, according to Abdullah Mawazini, the Public Information officer with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Damascus. People are leaving the countryside and heading for the city, looking for food and jobs. Beside causing other social issues, the long term effects of this migration is expected to further affect agricultural production.

The government is involved with plans to deal with the crises and has already distributed aid to around 29 000 families. ‘We cannot do anything with the help of the government’, says Mawazini, ‘and the work is also more strategic ac the governments knows the people and the areas and provides us with some lists of beneficiaries.’

Basic commodities are government subsidised and bread is prepared in government bakeries and prices regulated. ‘Bread is very symbolic’, says Mawazini, so people will not tolerate increases in bread prices. Hence the ongoing global food crisis has not affected the price of some basic commodities for Syrians. But the increases in fuel prices has caused significant increases through transport costs and related expenses.

Robin Lodge, Regional Public Information Officer with WFP, is based in Jordan but was in Damascus this week and answered the following questions:

The global food crisis is being felt throughout the world to varying degrees. The current drought in Syria obviously makes the issues more severe. How does this issue affect the region within which you work?

The countries in this region are defined as low to middle-income countries. You are unlikely to see starvation, although there are some areas with "alarming" malnutrition rates. The figures for severe acute malnutrition are for the most part within levels defined globally as "acceptable". Food insecurity, however, is a considerable problem, with many of the poorest living on less than two dollars a day and struggling to provide themselves and their families with sufficient food. The soaring food prices over the past year have meant that many such families are being pushed over the brink and regularly going short of food, or having to give up other services, such as health and education, to be able to afford food. It has also pushed many people who were hitherto able to provide for themselves into the vulnerable category. And while global prices have come down recently, this has not yet been reflected at the level of the market.

What exactly is at stake and how serious is this?

People's livelihoods are a stake. Growing discontent can also lead to violence and extremism. Governments are finding it harder to afford the food subsidies they are providing as social safety nets, yet any efforts to reform the subsidies is likely to provoke further discontent and violence. It is very serious.

How is the situation being exacerbated, if at all, by financial crisis worldwide? - The United Nations recently appealed for $20 million to help one million people in Syria cope with the drought. Do you anticipate a delay in financial assistance requested?

The effects of the financial crisis are twofold. First of all, it limits the ability of the countries in the region to provide social safety nets and secondly, it may inhibit donor governments from continuing to provide the desperately needed support to organisations like WFP. Our costs are going up every year, but we anticipate a harder struggle over the coming months to raise funds.

Could you comment on how different the situation is to Kenya's drought, and other places in the world suffering from drought and food shortages at the moment?

The drought is in Syria and Iraq too. But the main difference is one of scale. In developing countries like Kenya, where many of the poorest are living on the edge of survival, the effects of drought can be catastrophic. Here people are better able to withstand the effects, although humanitarian interventions are still required and urgent.

Is this a long term situation or do you anticipate better weather or planning to mitigate the consequences going forward?

I certainly do not anticipate better weather in the foreseeable future. But we can mitigate the effects with better preparedness, so we are not taken by surprise. Our colleagues at FAO are working on developing drought resistant seeds.

Besides the immediate funds sought, what else is needed in this region?

We are constantly working to improve and streamline our operations to bring down the costs. In many cases, we are looking at cash or voucher systems as opposed to food deliveries, particularly in urban settings, where food is available, but people do not have the funds to buy it. Such schemes also help to reduce our costs, as they obviate the need to pay for shipping, handling, storage and distribution.

Do you expect that this could become an emerging trend in developing countries?

I fear that, without huge investment in agriculture in the developing world, this trend is to stay with us. Specifically on the food prices issue, however, even the world's leading economists - who know far more than I do about the issue - are reluctant to give long-term forecasts.
A version of this article was published by the Industrial Organizational & Labour Studies Research Unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

13 October 2008

Email from Mrs. Aishwarya Rai

I'm so lucky:) See who emailed me!

On Sat, Oct 4, 2008 at 10:41 PM, Mrs. Aishwarya Rai wrote:

Salam alaikum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh, Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem,

Assalamo Alaikum,

Wasalaam to you,and how are you doing?. My intention
of contacting you is to solicit your assistance for a
project, which will be mutually beneficial.
Though I know my decision to contact you is to a large
extent unconventional, the prevailing circumstances
necessitated my action. I am Aishwarya Rai,from India.
I am married to Late Mallam Mustafa Rai of blessed
memory was an oil explorer in Libya and Kuwait for
twelve years before he died in the year 2000. We were
married for twelve years without a child. He died
after a brief illness that lasted for only four days.
Before his death we were both devoted Muslims. Since
his death I too have been battling with both Cancer
and fibroid problems. When my late Husband was alive
he made a huge deposit in millions of US dollars.(I will
tell you the amount as we proceed).

Recently, my doctor told me that I have only six
months to live due to cancer problem. Though what
disturbs me most is my stroke sickness. Having known
my condition I decided to donate this fund to either a
Muslim organization or devoted Muslim individual that
will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct
herein. I want this Muslim organization or individual
to use this money in all sincerity to fund mosques,
orphanages, widows, and also propagating the word of
ALLAH and to ensure that the society upholds the views
and belief of the Holy Quran.The Holy Quran emphasizes
so much on ALLAH'S benevolence and this has encourage
me to take the bold step. I took this decision because
I don't have any child that will inherit this money
and my husband relatives are into some radical
Organizations and I don't want a situation where this
money will be used in an Unholy manner. Hence the
reasons for this bold decision. I know that after
death I will be with ALLAH the most beneficent and
the most merciful. I don't need any telephone
communication in this regard because of my health,
because of the presence of my husband's relatives
around me always. I don't want them to know about this

With ALLAH all things are possible. As soon as I
receive your reply on: Email:mrs.aishwarya_rai@rocketmail.com
I shall give you the contact information of my Lawyer
and other important information where the money was
deposited. I will also issue a Will to my lawyer
authorizing him to assist you receive the said fund
have being willed to you and a copy of such authorization
will be forwarded to you.

I want you and the Muslim community where you reside
to always pray for me. My happiness is that I lived a
true devoted Muslims worthy of emulation. Whoever that
wants to serve ALLAH must serve him in truth and in
fairness. I will not stipulate any precise amount to
reward you, as it will have to be on pre-negotiated
terms, based on your level of involvement. Please
always be prayerful all through your life. Any delay
in your reply will give room in sourcing for a Muslim
organization or a devoted Muslim for this same
purpose. Until I hear from you by email, my dreams
will rest squarely on your Shoulders.

May the Almighty ALLAH continue to guide and protect

Allah Hafiz.
Mrs. Aishwarya Rai.