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Published in the 1-15 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

OPINION

Is the Community being served?

By M Yusuf Khan

The Milli Gazette Online

If you are a Good Samaritan and you want to give something in kind (not in cash) to a poor Muslim in the capital city, you are up against an uphill task. It is not that there is dearth of needy people, it is just that you do not know where to find them, if you leave aside the hoard in the precinct of Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah. There again, the problem is that you don't know who among them are drug-addicts and who are truly destitutes. A friend of mine discovered this reality when he decided to move out of Delhi after living here for forty long years.

A hardened bachelor, Abul Manzur had a good export business running and hardly ever socialized beyond a select group. Secular in his views, he occasionally gave money to poor and never made a show of it. He once funded primary education of two disadvantaged Muslim students from the south but not before verifying their report cards and demand letters from the school to ensure that the money was genuinely spent. One fine day he decided to go back to Kolkata, his ancestral place where all his relatives live. He sold off his three-bedroom flat in south Delhi but did not know what to do with the six boxes of clothes and other assortment of things that he had accumulated over the years. He sought my help and we together tried to find a Muslim organization, which can help in giving away his belongings to the poor. We found no such institution. We even thought of orphanages but his clothes were a size too big for the inmates besides being western in style. Then he contacted his neighbour's domestic help, a Christian, who in turn contacted the Church across the road. The church people do collect old clothes and distribute them among the impoverished. They came promptly, thanked my friend, offered a prayer for him and took the boxes.

There is yet another case somewhat different yet it needs to be narrated to highlight the lack of concern in our society. This is the story of a man who is an Alim and also a Hafiz in one of the south Delhi colonies predominated by Muslims. He decided to earn his living by repairing watches when he completed his religious education rather than follow the usual practice of becoming an Imam, Muezzin or opening yet another Madrassa. He has a family of four. Life has never been bed of roses for him. While struggling to survive he got his two sons and a daughter admitted in English-medium schools. The eldest boy now in tenth standard has always topped in his class. The other son is doing Hifz and studying in Jamia School in seventh class and retains his position among the first five. The girl is in a government school and well above average. In a time like this when the market is flooded with cheap watches, costing as little as rupees fifty you can well imagine how lucrative the profession of a watch mechanic could be. Educating three children in Delhi is a costly affair and the strain is now beginning to tell on the middle-aged Hafiz Sahib. He was distraught when the schools asked for three months' fees for the children, as is the practice just before the summer closure. I tried asking my Muslim friends and acquaintances if they knew of any institutions or individuals who could be approached for financial help for this very deserving case. Predictably no one was able to provide a clue. Though a little late I came across a list of establishments in the latest copy of The Milli Gazette, that give scholarships to needy Muslim students for which The Milli Gazette deserves praises.

These two examples highlight the need for dedicated organizations and voluntary work in the community to collect donations in cash and kind and disburse them among the deprived. In every household there are used warm clothings and wrappings to be discarded, yet we find people shivering in their scant clothes in the harsh winter. If there are Muslim organizations already doing the selfless service of collection and distribution, they need to be more visible. People need to know them so that the donors as well as the needy can approach them. Dissemination of information is a problem even in this age. But we have our unique institution of Masjid to reach Muslims of all denominations. At the same time Muslim institutions and school authorities can be given the names and addresses of the organizations that are providing financial aid to the deserving candidates. On the one hand, we lament that Muslim boys and girls are not doing well in their studies and on the other, promising students are getting stranded because their parents cannot bear the expenses. It is hard to believe that the community is in such a dire situation that it cannot raise a couple of lakhs of rupees for a noble cause. When you hear of the reckless expenses in Muslims marriages in which the groom is flown in a helicopter to the bride's place and the legendary feast attended by thousands you cannot miss the irony. It is the direction we need, not the funds really. 

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