11 November, 2008

The Business of Charity

A few years ago, I met a man who said he was going to start the most profitable business of all; as he seemed so sure of himself, I was very interested and curious and so I asked him what that business would be. He said: he would start a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) in Tanzania; I still could not understand how that would be 'most profitable' as I understood such organizations were out to help and assist people and not to make profits. In short: he told me that, as NGOs receive financial donations and assistance from many, he would make 'lots' of money if he managed the NGO 'properly'; as I was slowly digesting and understanding what he was saying, I was so shocked and upset that I could not say much, except to remind him that he was a Muslim and how could he do that.

Well, with the recent disastrous rains and floods here, I had several occasions to witness or learn of how some people make enormous sums of money out of other people's tragedies and miseries. They actually seem to celebrate and rejoice in such situations; it's sickening and makes me very ashamed of belonging to the human race. Happening here, and knowing that it's Muslims doing this to their own fellow Muslims and countrymen, makes it even more disturbing. What is even more shocking, is knowing that some of these parasites are those who pretend to be 'muthawa'as' - here, used to refer to the 'very religious' people; what Christians would call 'saved'.

It's now estimated that the loss caused by the floods and rains here in Hadhramaut and in Mahra, is a billion Dollars and more; for Yemen, this is huge. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected, most: lightly - like me, and some: very badly. Hundreds have lost their lives and thousands have completely lost their properties or livestock or cultivated lands or means to earn their livelihoods. Both the central and local government have tried to do as much as they can to help and take care of those affected; international organizations, neighboring and other countries have pledged millions in aid. But for all this assistance to get through and help those affected, it needs people; it needs trusted, sincere people to take care of that.

And that's where the problem is. Some, or should I say many? - of those entrusted to distribute the aid and assistance, are simply there to 'do business' and 'make profits' for themselves. Driven by greed and their corrupt minds, they are least concerned about the very sad plight and conditions of those affected. As almost every one here is a Muslim and says the five-times-a-day prayers that all Muslims have to perform, I keep wondering how such people can be so selfish and greedy without any concern at all. I believe: any Muslim who truly and sincerely performs prayers five times a day, would never do such cruel things; a true Muslim would be - merciful, helpful and always reaching out, not only to fellow Muslims but to any one in need of assistance; especially in such tragic circumstances.

And there are those who are trying to benefit in another way from this tragedy: they pretend that they have lost every thing and do too need assistance. I understand that many people who have received assistance, have done so, by simply pretending that they have been badly affected; some have even claimed to have lost every thing, when they haven't at all. There are many of such, now, who are living in the shelters provided for those who have been left homeless; they receive free food, free bedding and they believe that they would have houses built for them later. How can people cheat, be so selfish, be cruel, greedy and such hypocrites - in such a way; especially, people who claim to be Muslims? Incredible.

When such a tragedy hits, it's hard to know who are good, sincere and honest people who can be entrusted or trusted; because every thing has to be done immediately and fast. There simply is no time for checking and vetting. It's they, the people who have been entrusted with the responsibility of distributing or overseeing the aid and assistance and for those trusted and believed for receiving the aid and assistance - to be, if not good and responsible Muslims they can at least be humans. Noble, caring and merciful human beings.