A Muslim Initiative to Deal with the Current Economic Crisis
By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief
The ever worsening financial crisis has hit hard the nation, Muslims included. In January alone there were 50,000 home foreclosures. A few more thousand jobs were lost, a few more hundred families came out on the street and a few more families struggled harder to put food on their table. Some families have already packed up to leave the country as they find the situation extremely difficult.
It will take a while before the Obama plan may bring in some concrete results for an average person. Can people do something during this interim period to help each other face the crunch effectively? More importantly, can Muslims rise up to the occasion to help one another at this hour of crisis?
There are five areas where the crisis is most visibly felt.
1 Inability to maintain a job or business or a steady income
2. inability to pay rent or home payment.
3. Inability to have access to transportation.
4. Inability to have enough food for the family
5. Inability to have affordable health care
In all these areas, with a little cooperation certain concrete steps can be taken to help the needy families and individuals to overcome the difficult times. The Muslim community has sufficient human and material resources to face the challenge effectively.
Recently, when the appeal to help the victims of violence in Gaza was made, the community raised close to five million dollars. Additionally, it also helped raise some 3 million for the extension of an educational and religious institutions nationside. So a lot can be done provided we know what needs to be done.
This is what can be done for the interim and long period.
1. The community can compile and distribute a professional service directory that will enable people to advertise their skills to be used by the community and others when needed.
2. An interest free loan service can be launched to help those who are in dire need of immediate help.
3. A food and cloth bank can be established to ensure that those who are in need are served their daily food needs efficiently.
4. The existing free clinic can extend its hours to help people procure the needed prescriptions at a cheaper rate.
5. Pool zakat resources and utilize it in the most effective manner through a process of check and balance.
6. Explore state and federal resources to help people in different income categories.
In order to do all the above the community a coordination team. 1. A team of community leaders including financial experts and business owners can look into the situation. It can collect data on families being affected by the current crisis and design plans to help them individually. The team can advise people to manage their financial resources, lower their payments, or find alternative housing etc. The team can coordinate among various institutions and individuals to discuss plans to help the needy.
Obviously, things will not happen if we keep on talking about them only. Those who are concerned about the well being of the community need to provide the much needed leadership in this area. It is not the time to remain divided on ethnic, sectarian, institutional or status lines. It is time to rise above all the differences to help those who need the help urgently. With collective efforts we can all overcome one of the most difficult times in our life time.