Muslims in Support of Marks & Spencers (or maybe not)

A few days ago i was sitting in the Mosque, just after one of the prayers, having a conversation with some fellow worshippers. If you had seen us you might have described as a black Jamaican, two white Englishmen, an Eritrean and a Sudanese. Of course that is all irrelevant, as is the fact that we were talking about the historical significance of Ethiopia, or the fact that we were joined by a man of Bangladeshi origin. However, it just helps paints the picture and give a sense of anticipation.

The latest addition to the circle added his own input to what he knew about about Ethiopia (quite a lot as it happens) and then steered the conversation to what was foremost on his mind. he was concerned about some Muslims preaching hatred of the kuffar (non-Muslims). he felt that we should appreciate the good that is dome by countries like the UK and USA in terms of the aid they give to poor countries. I acknowledged that some humanitarian aid is of course very useful. Of course he couldn’t have known that some time back I delivered a lecture on the very topic of the negative impact of foreign aid on African countries. In a nutshell, my argument was that governments that rely on aid (often called “hand over of natural resources bribe money”) then have no need to rely on raising revenue from the people of the country so therefore do not invest heavily developing the infrastructure of the country. This means very little development of roadways, markets, manufacturing, telephone networks or the internet. In contrast, a lot of money is spent creating government jobs for supporters, (so a huge civil service), gifting mining contracts to friends of donor countries, and a huge army to protect the income stream.

Our sixth man then went on to condemn those that suggest Muslims should boycott Marks & Spencers (huge department store/supermarket chain in the UK). Supporters of such an action suggest that either all or a significant chunk of M&S’s Saturday takings are sent to support Israel, or in particular, to support the exploitation, brutality and “murder” of Palestinians by jews. No doubt we will all have our views one way or another on all parts of that statement and I offer no proof one way or another in this article about what that company does with “it’s” money.

Back to the sixth man. His contention was that such a boycott was ill-advised because M & S offer very good quality food, clothing and other products for sale at very reasonable prices, so where else was one to go for such service?.

Many people of my generation would have been staunch and active supporters of boycotting South African goods in protest against the apartheid regime in that country.Of course the difference was that, at least on the face of it, the UK and other governments supported at least some action against the regime (despite all the backdoor dealing that was really going on). Today, however the UK, USA and other governments bend over backwards to turn a blind eye. Yet the actions carried out and the brutality inflicted by Israelis on Palestinians is second to none, as they continually take barbarity to another level.

My reply to our companion was not to suggest that Muslims should (or indeed should not, boycott Marks & Spencers). The point I made was that for a number of reasons Muslims should indeed think about where and how they spend there money. I also pointed out that if the pillar of Zakat were implemented properly it would result in huge cash flows from the richer to the poorer Muslims in the UK. It would empower communities and lead to a whole host of social benefits. I made a point of pointing out that helping communities and individuals abroad is a great and noble act of sadaqa/charity that should continue, but that if we call it Zakat we are denying the true nature and practice of one of the great secrets Allah has given us.

The other point is of course that Palestinian Muslims are now becoming a minority. It is the shia who seem to be in control as well as large christian factions. Indeed it is the Muslims who seem to be suffering most across the Arab world despite appearances.It is hard for a non-Muslim to grasp the fact that Tunisian, Iraqi, Algerian, and Syrian governments could really be Anti-Muslim. In fact it’s hard for many Muslims to grasp that.

The truth is that our Creator, Allah, has given the Muslims all the answers to today’s problems, but we have to recognise it, want it, and as much as possible put it into place. It is precisely this attitude that the sixth man showed that has taken the deen away from the land of the Arabs.

Now, what we really did not get into was the concept of the Islamic/Open market in a community, but perhaps another time. The key thing is that whether individuals make the choice or not to be selective about where they spend their money, there is a much bigger picture to think about which is NOT about the convenience and price of my nylon underwear or ready made fish pie. It is about Muamalat

Success is only by Allah.

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