How sad the images are ! It is as if we were looking at the past, at the Biafra famine of the 1970s. Almost half a century later, it is as if nothing has changed ; as if we have learned nothing beyond pious UN resolutions. We were told that one of our main objectives in the new millennium was to put an end to famine around the world. Yet we are far from that goal. The basic human right of having enough to eat to survive is still a dream for millions of African people today.
Our Somalian sisters and brothers in humanity are in urgent need of help today. Their strategically located country has gone through recent painful experiences and ordeals. Where is the justice in the face of this unjust fate ? What has gone wrong in Somalia ? After poverty, unrest, civil war, and the takeover by radical factions (acting for or against Islam), we have reached the final stage : extreme poverty that is killing millions of children, women and old people. In our living rooms, even while fasting and waiting for our food to be served, we stare at the heartbreaking pictures. How is it possible ? Is this our world ? The people of Somalia are waiting for our hearts to open, for our consciences to awaken. Shame on us if we fast in order both to come closer to God and to get a taste of poverty, while showing complete disregard for the poor and the starving of our planet !
Somalia needs our solidarity. It would be good for us, as Muslims, to rethink the way with deal with zakat, sadaqa and even the slaughter of sheep during Eid al Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice). This would be a way of reminding the faithful that there can be no faith without concern for the poor. The point is not only to show solidarity by assisting the needy, but also to show respect by helping people become autonomous and free from others’ charity.
These are exceptional times. Muslims should take the lead by paying their zakât (purifying social tax) and their sadaqat (voluntary alms) to organizations that promote projects in the countries like Somalia. It should be both emergency support and long-term commitment to social services, schools, local development projects, etc. In two months, the greatest Islamic festival will take place. Instead of slaughtering millions of sheep, Muslims are allowed to send an equal amount of money to Somalia to feed the starving. These individual and small-scale ways of supporting the people of Somalia are not going to change the situation, but they do offer a humanly and spiritually vital means of personal involvement. They gave a sense of human communion and individual commitment that should nurture the life of dignified women and men throughout our fractured world.
The Somali people do not need our charity however. As we are mobilizing to help them to survive, we should turn towards our respective governments and ask them not only to assist the country now (by sending few million dollars or food), but also to act in a responsible way with viable long-term strategies. What is unfair about the situation in Somalia is not the fate of its people, but our continued and unjustifiably passivity and acceptance of an inhuman economic order. It is too easy to blame “their destiny” and to weep over “their fate.” What is wrong is a global system within which rich countries throw away thousands of tons of wasted food while others are starving to death. Instead of useless UN resolutions, and fine words of solidarity, we need to undertake serious reforms of the economic order, radical reform.
People are celebrating what some analysts call the “Arab spring.” Arabs are freeing themselves from political dictatorships and years of alienation. It would be good to see, as a response to the plight of Somalia (and so many other situations of extreme poverty), Westerners freeing themselves from a mindset that takes such poverty (and their own prosperity) for granted. How refreshing it would be to witness a “Western fall,” where the hearts and the souls of the rich raise to the basic human awareness that tells them that their wealth is a shame if it is acquired through the undignified treatment of two thirds of humanity