Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Muslims Selling Alcohol To Muslims - The Blow Up

Here's a small article I wrote about Muslims seling alcohol to Muslims.

Muslims Selling Alcohol To Muslims - The Blow Up

I know it seems shocking to many Muslims, especially those who are "new" to the religion that there are Muslims who would sell liquor to other Muslims or even sell liquor at all, but it's true. I went through this shocking revelation myself not long after I had taken shahadah. "How could another Muslim selling alcohol when s/he knows it's haram?" The question is not why would they (though, fairly, it is a good question) but rather, why do we put them, meaning foreign or ethnic Muslims, on such high pedestals? We, as American Muslims, and here I speak for those like me, converts, have had a long history of putting "ethnic" Muslims on very high pedestals - expecting great things from them, when in fact, they're not better or worse than any of us. The decisions that led them down the road to come to America, to hide out, or perhaps "sell out", is akin to what led us, American Muslims, to Islam. We all wanted a better life. But before I white wash this too much, let me get down to the nitty gritty.

In an article I recently read on MSN, it spoke of Muslim on Muslim violence over the selling of alcohol in Muslims neighborhoods. Specifically, Muslims attacking, vandalizing and striking out against other Muslims who are selling liquor in their neighborhoods. As I mentioned above, this is not a new phenomenon. In my thirteen going on fourteen years of being Muslim, I have prayed, sat next to and eaten with Muslims who have or still do sell liquor. We pray at the same masajid (mosques). We attend the same janaza' (funerals). We live and die with one another each day. As a matter of fact, many of the buildings that were used as masajid were funded by Muslims who sold liquor - they were the only Muslims with money; without them, many of the masajid may have closed down. I am by no means defending these people. Just looking at the story from all sides.

Being from Detroit, I am all too familiar with a liquor store on every corner and a church on the other. You can buy alcohol in most stores for cheaper than one could by any kind of food item. And if one does that math, it is a profitable enterprise, albeit at the cost of a community’s life. Black people in urban areas are surrounded by poison. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Fast food (should check cashing be thrown into this sycophantic group as well?). And that's the legal stuff. Not to mention drugs and prostitution. So when you have a group of people who come into these areas only to siphon off what little remains in terms of resources, yes, it is enraging. In the article, it states, "West Oakland, a predominantly black and poor section of the city where the vandalism took place, has 69 stores selling alcohol, 28 above the maximum number acceptable under a state standard that prescribes no more than one store for every 2,500 residents, according to anti-poverty group Urban Strategies Council." The anger of black peoples in these areas should be easily understood. Easy access to drugs and alcohol exacerbates an already epidemic problem of violence and abuse in our urban areas. So for many blacks, not just Muslims who are black, these foreigners are looked at as parasitic. But toss religion on the flames and it's a whole new fire.

Our contention with them is and should be a moral one. As moral people, we have every right to say, "this is wrong". "We do not want these kinds of poisons in our neighborhoods". We must take our cause to the source, in a moral and legal way. Vigilantism will solve nothing. The young men, in the aforementioned article, attacked a storeowner with lead pipes, destroying property in his store. This will do nothing to detour the man from selling liquor. Worse comes to worse, he'll just pick up stakes and move his shop and start over somewhere else. And while his insurance covers his damage the young men will be arrested and face possible jail time. More black youths in the penal system. A loose-loose situation.

My advice would be to work the legal channels. Boycott his stores. Try educating your people and your neighborhoods on the ills and the effects of alcohol. In other words, try some da'awah. Da'awah should not just entail Fire and Brimstone speeches about the Hellfire and Wrath of God, but "inviting to the good and forbidding of the evil". I feel their anger and frustration but going about it in a violent way will solve nothing. Wa Allahu 'alim.

10 comments:

Aaminah said...

Salaams. Nice. It's not so surprising to me that Muslims would, and in my opinion, NEED, to speak up against other Muslims who are selling alcohol and doing other open haram acts. It definitely affects our communities, our own neighborhoods and families. But such violent means are not Islamically correct, nor do they win anyone over. I understand the temptation to vigilantism, but it doesn't really accomplish much in this kind of situation except to make all Muslims look bad.

Marqas said...

Aaminah. Thanks for checking in. It is not surprising and that's the whole point. We need to move away from putting certain people on certain pedestals because of their lineage or what language they speak or what country they hail from. Instead, we need to focus on creating our own voice - making our way in this world, that in sha Allah, will be pleasing to Our Lord. May we learn from our mistakes and misgivings.

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izzymo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marqas said...

Izzy. Salaams. I'm glad you caught this. I do hope that there may be a few that'll either read what I wrote and come to that conclusion - the conclusion that one's origins do not determine the level of authenticity for one's Islam. That we will no longer look to the East but within Ourselves for Our Own Solutions and Our Own Validations. Islam is here. It's just time for us to decide we're gonna put own own stamp on it.

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izzymo said...

Powerful article Marqas,
I guess the reason why we don't speak up is because there is this assumption that if you come from a Muslim country, your practice of Islam is more authentic, even if you do things that are grossly unIslamic. Some people might say, "Who are to question my practice, I'm from ______." But hitting on this subject may give others the courage to call a wrong for what it is.

Sorry man, but I had to edit my comment! But what I fear is that right-wing conservatives and their agenda against Islam will use the Muslim liquor store owner as proof that Muslims as a whole are social pariahs. Even though many African-Americans know better, it could further the gap between poor Black Muslims and the overall Black American community.

Marqas said...

Here's a comment I left on my blog regarding this topic. You can read all the comments here.

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Abdul-Halim V. said...

I really like the way Marqas put it.

"we will no longer look to the East but within Ourselves for Our Own Solutions and Our Own Validations. Islam is here. It's just time for us to decide we're gonna put own own stamp on it."

That's the stage we are at now it seems.

But in the future, it will always be a balancing act. If we get too "local" then there is the risk of moving away from Islam. But if we get too "global" it means following the interpretations of people who don't understand what people "here" really need.

Anonymous said...

As an Black American whose father is Sudanese and whose mother is West Indian, I find it refreshing that there are Muslims who want to deal with the issue of decaying communties and the hands of pariahs. I travel back and forth to my repective homes and I must say the situation is no different there either.

Marqas said...

This has been a really good discussion. In what you said though, "But in the future, it will always be a balancing act. If we get too "local" then there is the risk of moving away from Islam. But if we get too "global" it means following the interpretations of people who don't understand what people "here" really need.

I think we/you have to be too careful or perhaps redifine what we mean by "too local" because, in my case, I'm a local yocal!! I mean, I'm from here and I really ain't goin' no where. I would make the argument that if anything, we need to get more local. It's gotta be from here. It's gotta work here. Don't think that I'm being harsh towards you - not at all. And thanks for stoping and leaving comments. Salaams.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Maybe I should have picked a better word than local. But I had in mind groups like the Five Percenters who don't follow historical Islam and say things like "Harlem is their Mecca".

You may say that you are "local yocal" but if someone dropped you in the middle of some Chinese Muslims or somewhere in Malaysia, once you got over whatever language difficulties there were, people would at least recognize that you were Muslim.