Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Poverty Pimps"

Poverty pimp or "professional poverty pimp" is a pejorative label used to convey that an individual or group is benefiting unduly by acting as an intermediary on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged, or some other "victimized" groups.
Those who use this appellation suggest that those so labeled profit unduly from the misfortune of others, and therefore do not really wish the societal problems that they appear to work on to be eliminated permanently, as it is not in their own interest for this to happen.
The most frequent targets of this accusation are those receiving government funding or that solicit private charity to work on issues on behalf of various disadvantaged individuals or groups, but who never seem to be able to show any amelioration of the problems experienced by their target population. Some even suggest that that if profit were eliminated as a factor, greater steps in the alleviation of the oppressive situations could begin to truly occur. wikipedia

You know the neighhood programs to help the poor that never seem to do anything but fatten the pockets of those that run the programs!

There is a wonderful article in this months Mother Jones magazine, how to get rich off the backs of the poor, "Poverty Barons".  While it spotlights the thousands of fast money loan shops and tax preparation shops in the poorest of neighborhoods, charging astronomical interest rates, fees and percentages of ones own money, targeting the low income and disparate amongst us. I would like to focus on the "Muslims" that come into our poor neighborhoods with the same ambitions.  You know them they open tobacco shops, gas stations or rental centers, selling lottery tickets, ciggeretts, pork or in some cases cheap alcoholic drinks, suggery sodas and all other kind of unhealthy paraphenalia. Tying the poor into unmanagible contracts for goods that they almost never own and certainly cannot afford.

All of this is to make quick unbelievable profits from limited financial investment and is never intended to benefit the population it serves. Many of these people have only come to this country, speaking little english to exploit the poverty cash cow.  Way back when, I can not remember a foreign Muslim comming to the hood to give "Dawa" or ever remember seeing Muslim women wearing "hijab". The first mention of Islam in my neighhood was from the nation of Islam and Malcom X.  In my early days of Islam we sewed our own clothing to get the look we wanted to represent our new faith, some of those styles have become popular fashion statements, no doubt copied from our early designs.

Nowadays, we can see Korean, Vietnemise, Italians and all sort of ethnic groups comming to the "hood" to get rich quick!  It seems like a pattern, depress the neighborhood, let property value drop and then sweep up in government set asides for a win fall profit. Same old game played again and again.  It seems to never stop and no one is trying to put an end to this shameful tactic of profiting off the backs of the working poor, who earns only $16,000 to $25,000  a year and truly live from pay check to pay check.

To add insult to injury lets add to this sad senerio count in the number of poor that enter the penal sytem for no other reason than they cannot afford an attorney and what you have is a system, hell bent on keeping a certain segment of it's population below the poverty line as an economic source for the unscrupolous business minded individuals that happen to be in position to benefit, not that they are smarter but are more willing to put moral values aside to make money.

A new image is emerging, "The Peddlers of Islamic Ilm", all sort of money grabbing opportunities packaged as the must have experience of sitting with or enjoying the company of someone annointed with the divine lineage of our beloved Prophet (saws) or one who has sipped from such a cup all at the cost of our hard earned money.  Don't mis-understand me I am all for Islamic Education but what I have seen over the years is a growing industry built on the gullibility of mainly western Muslims, who thirst for that all inspiring "Islamic Enviornment."

We no-longer save for Hajj and Umrah, we hear chatter about the next conferance, or event that allows us to sit with the scholars and learn from them.  How much learning does it take to pray 5 x's a day, fast during the month of Ramadan, pay your Zakat, make Hajj once in a life time and say there is but One God , Allah and Muhammad is his last prophet (saws).   Its true, learning Arabic and memorizing Quran are full of blessings but most of us have little time after working and providing for our families, out of our shreaking income, to do anything more than keep up with the fundamentals of our religion.

This too becomes problematic in todays time of economic down turns, we need to have lectures on how to survive these stressful times and make extra income, not taking more of that disappearing income to attend high cost Islamic events , no matter how meaningful or well intended the organizers of these events are, they too are looking more like " Ilm Pimps", may Allah forgive me, but this is my opinion and I pray that there will be some day Islamic conferances on keeping healthy and fit, money management, survial skills, building Muslim elderly communities, how we can come together and raise the economic status of all Muslims world wide. Wa Allahu Alim

Just a dua of mine


Let us celebrate the poor,
Let us hawk them door to door.

There's a market for their pain,
Votes and glory and money to gain.

Let us celebrate the poor.

Their ills, their sins, their faulty diction
Flavor our songs and spice our fiction.

Their hopes and struggles and agonies
Get us grants and consulting fees.

Celebrate thugs and clowns,
Give their ignorance all renown.

Celebrate what holds them down,
In our academic gowns.

Let us celebrate the poor