In fact, if your looking for that, check out (shameless self-plug here) and Zahra was writing about something innovative here at Muslamics. On this Blog Action Day you have plenty to read about poverty, but I have more to share with you.
Look I spent my life being raised on this notion that we help the needy, feed the poor and assist those we can not through our prayers. Poverty has been an ageless social problem, one that never seems to go away.
In fact with our current social/economic crisis, more people are joining the welfare rolls, seeking housing assistance and cramming the shelters, the statistics are out there- Long Beach, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz have designated RV Parking for people who are living out of their cars because they lost their homes or could not afford the rent hikes.
What made poverty important to me as an American Muslim was not just the religious obligation, but the fact that my parents raised me with this belief that America was the greatest place in the world. To think that America in this day and age, with such great wealth (well had such great wealth not certain about that now given the meltdown) has an estimated 1 million people homeless is inconceivable. What is worse is that an elite education institution like the University of California system employs people at levels of poverty with no health care, wage increase or other benefits is shameful. We have a corporate structure that takes advantage of our federal welfare system and keeps its employees well under the federal poverty level in order to avoid providing health care (Walmart). Going as far as suing a women to get a portion of her settlement from the accident she was disabled in (she went on disability and then won a settlement from the car accident) is not the America of my childhood, or the America my parents spoke to me about.
There is a huge disconnect. But poverty in America is manageable, though unimaginable to me, compared to poverty that is experienced in the rest of the world. I do not want to get into statistics, rather I want to share a trend I read about that was not only disturbing to me, it was also shameful. BBC had an article on "Desperation Behind Pakistan's Kidney Trade" and it reminded me about some of the other stories I read in a course I took at UCSD covering trade and criminal activities.
I am sure things like this were happening before the present time, and like prostitution it is probably a result from a need to survive , however, prostitution and all its other forms- slavery, child sex trade, child jockeys etc- can be greatly minimized by alleviating poverty. What makes me cringe is this idea that poverty has gotten to such great heights with the current market meltdown and the huge spikes of food prices, that people- in a dignified way- are resorting to selling their own organs in order to allow their families to survive is a testament for the failure of "capitalism" to answer the problems faced since the demise of "communism".
A question for me, though I am in no place to judge, is what qualifies "poverty" for a person to contemplate such desperate methods to survive?
Amjad relates how he is desperate, and how his creditor insults him day in day out badgering him for the money he borrowed to help pay for medical expenses during his mothers illness:
"I don't have any other options," he says. "My family can't help me. The government doesn't help me. What can I do?"
Amjad is one of many poverty-stricken Pakistanis driven to desperation by the recent escalation in the prices of food and oil, caused by the global food crisis and the coalition government's inability to provide sufficient state-subsidies.
There is so much that can be said on this point, but what suffices is this, very simply- Muslims, come back to Islam and the answers we need are there. Wishful thinking it is not. I simply do not see any other solution besides this. We can do all the short term food drives, donations, government lobbying, but at the end of it, there needs to be a fundamental shift and change that is massive in nature to readjust how we approach these issues. Humans need to be first, corporations are entities created as a legal "being" and yet they always take precedent over the needs of humanity.