Monday, March 10, 2008

Profiting off of misery (continued)

The Stores and Restaurants

Chicago is not the only place where Muslim immigrants have set up convenience stores. I’ve lived in South Florida, the Twin Cities, Ohio, and in Southern California. I’ve also visited other cities where I’ve seen the same thing. Sometimes Pakistanis or Indians own the stores, other times it’s Arabs. I’ve even met a few Turkish immigrants in corner stores. (And I’m excluding non-Muslim store owners like Koreans). Whatever the ethnicity of the Muslim immigrant, one thing was clear to me- there are Muslims who are making a profit off of selling haram to people in historically oppressed communities. Rather than using their presence in the community to empower people, give dawah and build alliances they are taking advantage of people, exploiting them and mistreating them all in the same breath. And even if they don’t mistreat people in terms of the way they interact with them, Muslim store/restaurant owners are selling Black and Chicano/Latino people products that they wouldn’t even eat, drink or use themselves. How Islamic is that? It shocked me to see Palestinians participating in this nonsense. After all, every Palestinian Muslim I’ve met has talked about the oppression of their people and the need for me, as a Muslim, to lend my voice to their cause. How can some of them turn around and exploit people in my community when they know what it feels like to be oppressed? And then they expect people to be sympathetic to their cause? I’m just sayin’…

As a result of the way they’ve been treated in the ‘hood, some Black people have come to despise Arabs, Indians/Pakistanis and/or Muslims. After 9/11 and the subsequent targeting of Muslims (esp. immigrant Muslims) many people in the Black community had little to no sympathy for them. (Us?) I’ve heard my own family members or friends of the family say as much. “Now they know what it’s like to be treated like us” was the common response I’d hear. Though I try to explain that it’s unfair for them to blame all Arabs, SE Asians or Muslims for what a few individuals are doing, I know how difficult it is for some of my family members and friends to see it that way. The only contact they have with Arabs (who they usually see as Muslims whether they are or not) has been through the corner stores and fast food restaurants. I cannot completely blame them for the way they feel even as I try to connect the mistreatment of Arabs, SE Asians and Muslims to the larger struggle against racism.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

A friend of mine called me from the west coast. She had something very exciting to tell me; a diverse group of Muslims (including immigrant and second generation immigrant Muslims) were formulating a plan to approach the Muslims who were selling haram and exploiting the people in predominately Black and Chicano communities. The group was going to give the owners a choice- stop selling haram or they would be shut down. The store owners would not find any support in the Muslim community. They would be boycotted. (My friend told me that she’d heard a similar movement was taking place in Chicago).

I couldn’t believe it! For years African-American Muslims had talked about it amongst ourselves. I’d heard about different groups of people (from specific neighborhoods) approaching store owners in New York and Philadelphia. The only missing piece for me was for immigrant and second generation immigrant Muslims to step up to the plate. I’d been in masjids where wealthy store and restaurant owners were proudly accepted into the community. People knew how they made their living but no one said anything. They even contributed to the masjid with their haram money! But now my friend was giving me hope.

So I suppose that is what needs to happen. As Muslims we cannot simply shake our heads and say, “how unfortunate.” Or worse, live in a state of denial. We have a responsibility to speak out against the injustice that Muslims are committing against other people. I think we will find that different cities and communities are at various stages of development in regards to this issue. Some people need to start by “outing” Muslim business owners who are committing the wrong. No more protection, acceptance, denial or burying heads in the sand. It might mean venturing out into poor communities to witness the harm they’re doing. Some people, who are aware of what is going on may be at the stage where they have enough people to support the cause and can approach Muslim store and restaurant owners about their behavior. The bottom line is that I want to see something happen and I want to be a part of it...

15 comments:

Charles Hassan Ali Catchings said...

Salaam sister,
Its interesting you've mentioned this. As I comment here, I am penning about our misconception of what 'Muslim Issues' are and it all started because of Abdur-Rahman and Tariq's post on the murders in Israel. I grew up in 'broken windows' cities and I can tell you, that what you've cited is why I can't get my Dad to come near the mosque. I know Allah makes Muslims but I wonder how many people withhold their inquiry into Islam because of the whack stuff they see Muslims do. For years we have been expected to lend a voice to the voiceless overseas but a lot of people have been pretentious about Muslims' activities in America. Hell, even in St. Kitts and Jamaica I've seen plenty of Arabs from Syria and the territories clowning. What you didn't mention but I see it whenever I go home; a lot of these guys pimp the girls and run more than just haram business, they run outright illegal businesses. We need to take this to Mr. Baisden, Tavis....somebody. In my opinion, we'll have to partner with Black non-Muslims who believe in the cause to get more support. I tried speaking about this when I was in Illinois at a mosque and was told it was a no-go and that I needed to remember that they were my brothers. Uhh, yeah, so are the Black people and the rest of humanity.

Jamerican Muslimah said...

Charles,

Dang! How could I forget to mention the fact that some of these corner stores are fronts for prostitution, drugs, and gang activity? Shame on me!!! You're right and I've seen it. Some of the stores have been shut down by the feds and their owners deported after serving lengthy prison sentences.

Tariq Nelson said...

Outstanding post sister. I agree with you (and Charles) 100% that it is time to stop being silent about this. These guys are making their way into the small black towns in Mississippi and control the entire small economy there (all three stores in the town of Como, Mississippi are own by guys like this)

They sell lottery tickets in spite of the fact that the lottery is ILLEGAL in Mississippi

Anonymous said...

Excellent posts sister, this ties into the article from Tariq about Palestine. I am from northern California so I grew up with the Yemeni Liqour Cartel. It is past time to finally pull the skirts off these people and let the chips fall where they may.
Ma3salaama
AbuJamal

muslimahlocs said...

as salaamu alaikum sister. here are links to a few articles about the protests held by the mostly sunni muslims. you can also find articles @ the alleged vandalism, abductions and physical violence against the yemeni alcohol peddlers that were attributed the the noi and "black muslims".
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7217584
http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=8ffabb92ffcab1f1e289887e45fcf43f

you know one of your favorite imams (imam shuaibe) has been very involved in this project. oakland is a lot like chicago in many ways. the masjid that i consider home is right accross the street from a liquor store owned by people of muslim descent.

Sister Seeking said...

“It was no secret that some of the store/restaurant owners slept with women or girls in the neighborhood. After all, they’d hit on us constantly. They’d make rude, sexual comments to us. I’d seen young girls pushing a stroller with a half “A-rab” baby in it.”

This information is very disturbing to me!

I am particularly alarmed by this statement:

“Or girls in the neighborhood. After all, they’d hit on us constantly. They’d make rude, sexual comments to us. I’d seen young girls pushing a stroller with a half “A-rab” baby in it.”

How young are we talking about here? Younger than 18 years old? The last time I checked, engaging in sexual activity with a minor is rape, and at the very least child molestation—which means men who do this should be registered as sex offenders.

Based off what I read, it’s clear these young girls were already in substandard living conditions, what about the financial support for these “half A-rab” children? Or are they forced to rely upon the “system”?

In my humble opinion this needs to dealt with before anything else- including the selling of harram goods and products.

Children must always come FIRST! That includes non-Muslim children too. It includes ALL children regardless of their ethnicity, economic level, and YES BEHAVIOUR.

I’m sure I’ll be accused of “overreacting”, and only caring because the children are black- but I don’t care. The fact that the men are Arab, Pakistani- or what ever else is irrelevant to me. What is disappointing is if these so called Muslim leaders and their organizations are aware of this and don’t step up to protect the children.

Jamerican Muslimah, I’m afraid this part of your message will fall on deaf ears because of the “can’t talk back” attitude in our community.

Children come FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Salaam
Sister Seeking

Jamerican Muslimah said...

Thanks Tariq. Are you serious?They're in Mississippi now? How are they getting away with the illegal lottery? If I'm not mistaken that would draw federal attention...

AbuJamal, I've heard about the Yemeni store owners. I take it they're the subjects of the links muslimahlocs posted.

Thank you for that muslimahlocs!

sisterseeking,

Unfortunately sometimes the girls aren't 18. Sometimes they're 16 or 17. Society doesn't seem to care because the girls are poor, Black, and live in forgotten neighborhoods. Who knows what they're family circumstances are like. I'm sure the girls end up on public assistance.

They're not always underage though. I remember one woman coming to masjid saying she was interested in Islam. It got really quiet when we found out this Arab dude had given her two babies but they weren't married. (I don't think they'd even talked about it). I asked a friend of mine what eventually happened to her and she told me they had broken up. And I'm asking myself, how did he have her up in the masjid and no one bothered to approach him about what he was doing. If she was Arab you know it wouldn't have happened that way...

Charles Hassan Ali Catchings said...

Sister Seeking,
I can tell you where I'm from the ages of the girls dip to 13 and 14. In fact, I was just there last August and I got into an argument with my Dad and sister because they just didn't see how horrible this issue is. In a city with 23 liquor stores, 20 of them are Arab-Muslim or Desi-Muslim owned! Sometimes the cats that get the girls pregnant hire them for less than minimum wage and pay the girl under the table so she can still get public aid in abundance. To the hoodrat, it looks like he is doing her a big favor. They run all types of scams, even hiring dudes to break open railcars for goodies and they sell them in their shops. And some of these guys that sell everything under the sun, get the stuff from flea-markets and jack the prices up more than department stores. The consumers are at wits end in some cases because all the other businesses have left the areas close to their homes (white-flight) so if they can get some beer, play the lotto, smoke some weed, get Enfamil, and some cold-cuts all at the corner store instead of using 5 gallons of gas at $3.20 per, thats what they are going to do. This is why I am a fan of the NOIs Do-for-Self mentality. These people have to create opportunities for themselves. We can shut them down eventually but then you'll see people subjugated on a another level. For example, more and more brothers are renting mall kiosks and employing these same folks mentioned above. Now it isn't haram but I don't think I'm gonna see any of the 'bloggers' holding down the kiosk any time soon.

Jamerican Muslimah said...

Charles, you know what you're right about the girls being younger than 16 or 17. I just remembered a case I saw when I worked in the court system.

There was a 50-something year old Pakistani store owner appearing before the court on attempted criminal sexual conduct charges involving a 13-year old girl. She came by his store one day and he asked her to help him with something in the back. When she went back there he pounced on her. Fortunately she escaped before he managed to do more than kiss her and fondle her. As a result of the attack the girl's grades started slipping, she was scared to go outside, and she had reocurring nightmares. While he was out on bail, something happen to him though. Karma was waiting for him. About a month later I saw the same store owner on the evening news. Some guys attempted to rob his store and he was stabbed in the shoulder several times. (He didn't die though).

For the record, he was shunned in the Pakistani community and disowned by his family.

Sister Seeking said...

“We need to take this to Mr. Baisden, Tavis....somebody. In my opinion, we'll have to partner with Black non-Muslims who believe in the cause to get more support. I tried speaking about this when I was in Illinois at a mosque and was told it was a no-go and that I needed to remember that they were my brothers. Uhh, yeah, so are the Black people and the rest of humanity.” –Charles

Charles, this is a wonderful idea! After the way I was treated when my mother passed away, I gave up, seeking any decent assistance for anything in the Muslim community. Networking outside the Muslim community, and involving the media will be a good first step, I think. In my mind, I see the non-Muslim community, especially the elite black community, having more resources. KWIM? We forget, we have some awesome people in the non-Muslim black community, who can truly flex their “political” muscle. We don’t half to rely on the immigrant Muslim community organizations.

“Sometimes the cats that get the girls pregnant hire them for less than minimum wage and pay the girl under the table so she can still get public aid in abundance.”-Charles

It’s such a tragedy… Mainstream Muslim organizations constantly tout the
“ Women and children have rights in Islam” slogan when dealing with non-Muslims, but look at this? Anybody that treats women, and children like this is not my brother in Islam. The rights of the children born in these arrangements have been completely violated according to any school of thought in our sacred law. I believe that our sacred law does put children first, and the people who sit on these fiqh boards should be outraged!

“There was a 50-something year old Pakistani store owner appearing before the court on attempted criminal sexual conduct charges involving a 13-year old girl.” Jamerican

I’m glad to hear that. These men need to be registered as sex offenders IMO.

Tariq Nelson said...

Jamerican:

I don't know how they get away with it (I assume they are paying of the 2 police officers in town) This is why I can't see why people think we should look the other way on this crap.

muslimahlocs said...

as alaamu alaikum
yes, the links are about the mostly yemini liquor store owners in the bay area. and can you believe that they even have an association (the yemeni american grocers association?). maybe that makes them feel more legitmate? and it's not just liquor...they have smoke shops, sell pork and lottery tickets, etc.

muslimahlocs said...

oh, sorry to leave another comment but i forgot to mention that imam zaid talked about this at the rawdah this weekend. and then they use the $$$$$ to build a masjid in the suburbs and donate to CAIR, etc...even though folks know how they made their money.

Sister Seeking said...

Salaam Alaikum Jermican:

When these groups get ready to out these people, maybe the could reach out to the young girls in these neighborhoods by teaming up with Mocha Moms and the Boys And Girls Club Of America. Just a suggestion.

Salaam

Zeynab said...

Salaam!
This is an OUTSTANDING post; you really come at it from all sides: race, gender, religion, etc. Barikallah!