Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Donation Collecting Acrobats

May 1, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Round the year, the visitors of various categories keep coming from Pakistan to the United States and other affluent destinations around the world. The individuals, the troupes and the groups arrive here either for showbiz programs or for collection of funds for the religious causes, for social projects and humanitarian missions that they claim are aimed at the welfare of the downtrodden and unprivileged sections of the society.
There are multitudinous sects whose leaders and arch preachers travel to the Western Europe and more particularly to the United States for charity, donations and for funds to run and sustain their widely publicized charitable organizations and public welfare societies that are ubiquitous all over the globe.
The political bigwigs also come from time to time for raising both the membership and donations. The mystics, the shrine holders, the holy figures known as Pirs and saints too undertake odysseys and collect pile of money from their overseas devotees.
Some of these NGOs and philanthropic organizations claim to provide dowry for the weddings of the brides and bridegrooms of the families that cannot afford such huge financial undertakings and in many cases the marriageable girls remain without being settled in married life.
Now we have seen here many showbiz celebrities and religious luminaries showing up in hugely attended congregations with lavishly served dinners. Their entire emphasis is on mustering funds for relief to the impoverished, building a mosque in Pakistan, funding religious seminaries, embellishing the shrine of a dead saint or mystic, or teaching the reading of Arabic. Some of these demagogues can sing the religious hymns with captivating melodious voices. In their florid sermons they overwhelm the faithful with allurement of paradise and fright of the hellfire.
Their appearances are replicas of the centuries old religious stalwarts with bushy long beards, flowing robes and a turban or cap over their heads. Not only that they impress their overseas audience with their sartorial elegance but also with the divine messages and good tidings of living in paradise in the hereafter for donations that they exhort them to offer generously.
These are all well played gimmicks and charades that these acrobats specialize in. They collect money in the name of God, religious, social and community service. But back home they forget or set aside by design of what they had pledged so solemnly in front of the expatriate fellow citizens.
The donation collecting bands that come to the foreign green pastures to graze once or twice in year are accorded enthusiastic ovations and extravagant receptions.  Some of these guys are professional mafias for swindling money. The obvious reason is that instead that the number of the poor and resource-less should decrease and the graph of poverty should scale down, the situation shows reverse trends.
The hosts of such visitors conduct the donation collecting functions either at the mosques or in posh hotels. On such occasions they circulate literature detailing soul-stirring humanitarian causes and high sounding social welfare missions that would have left no needy or poor person in the community either in the United States or in Pakistan.
Prior to giving them more donations, the immigrant communities should look into the bona-fides of these visiting individuals and the groups and ensure that they have translated their past promises into concrete reality with regard to the community service.
In Pakistan’s context one dollar means nearly a hundred rupees in Pakistan. If someone can raise, for instance, one hundred thousand of dollars in one visit, he would have made ten million rupees in Pakistan’s currency which indeed is a very fabulous and hefty amount.
In Pakistan, several pop singers and showbiz artistes have placed themselves on the path of serving the poor and marginalized sections of society. They profess to allocate their earnings for the altruistic missions. Some of them have launched relief schemes such as houses for the shelter-less, free healthcare, food supplies, clothing, household items, free schoolings for the children of the poor families and helping the female victim of domestic violence. Some of them claim to provide water, power, paved access roads and pavements in villages where there remains mud or dirt all over.
The People’s Party government too initiated a mammoth program of providing cash assistance to the poor families in Pakistan through the so called, “Benazir Income Support Program”. But as usual, there are a thousand flaws in this otherwise a spectacular scheme that could ensure food and clothing to the hungry and the underdogs of the society. Reprehensibly, the chunks of the huge reservoir of funds are milked by the mighty and the office bearers from the chairperson to the lowest levels.
The program is patently obscure from the public oversight and as such its enormous funds can be easily misappropriated. False and forged lists of the recipients are wide in circulation and money is gobbled in their names by the people in charge of the distribution in a transparent manner.
There are countless complaints that speak for the loathsome reality that the stupendous funds allocated to this highly publicized mega sized income support program are being misused and hugely diverted to the undeserving people, mostly the political supporters and party workers.
Big chunks of the funds are reported to be devoured by such people as party office bearers, MNA’s and MPA’s. This fraudulent distribution of the state funds to the wealthy and influential or touts and thugs cannot be checked by any means as the distributors and custodians also partake in this easily available windfall bounty.
Both the public and private humanitarian and benevolent schemes and lofty welfare plans seem mostly to be either lip service or merely ploys for self-enrichment by the crafty individuals and groups.  The poverty still stalks Pakistan and most of the people still hanker for one single meal.
The distinguished visitors like Rahat Fatah Ali Khan are not swindlers nor do they collect foreign exchange for some non-existent or spurious welfare schemes. They are professional singers who by their unique performance and awesome entertainment get the return that is due to them.
Within the United States, the local religious groups and conglomerations keep holding the functions and donation dinners for either building mosques or to fund a social welfare outfit or NGO. These organizations some of whom are one man show are purportedly meant to feed the hungry, provide healthcare to the sick and give funds to those who cannot make their both ends meet.
In almost every mosque in Dallas and Texas where I reside, there are frequent unending appeals for donations and charity to run the mosques. Besides more mosques keep coming up for which a sizeable budget is indispensible. While building of mosques and maintaining these houses of God are virtuous and noble endeavors, very little is being done for community service especially for those who do not have enough earnings to pay their bills and eat comfortably.
The health care bills are staggering and beyond the reasonable limits for most of the immigrants to pay. There is a battalion of doctors who are good Muslims. With the exception of one or two they never thought of providing free or less expensive treatment to their less resourceful co- believers.
 Then the Muslim communities are divided along regional, linguistic and ethnic lines. The Muslims from the Middle East remain aloof from their counterparts from other parts of the world. The mosques are treated not as abodes of God but property of particular ethnic community or sect. I have yet to see a homogeneous interaction or solidarity between the Muslims with different regional or national background.
A Spanish female who converted to Islam some ten years ago and is married to an Egyptian Muslim told me that 75 percent converts to Islam in the United States revert to their previous faiths. The reason she outlined was that embracing Islam results mostly getting oneself excommunicated by the family, rejected by the relatives besides being cut off from the society that predominantly professes the Christian faith.
But when, after being motivated by the stunning and impelling demagogy of the Islamic preachers, they enter the fold of Islam, there is hardly anyone coming to their succor by way of either financial support or taking care of their material needs even for the barest minimum living.
Faced with isolation, alienation and social abandonment, and deprived of even courtesy calls or interaction by the fellow Muslims, they leave Islam in complete dejection and under overpowering frustration. No one from among the Islamic NGOs and the humanitarian associations is available to even listen to the heart breaking woes of these new converts to Islam. The indigent, neglected, caste away, jobless, ailing, people with immigration problems and target of racial or religious discrimination finally cannot sustain their fervor for Islam and agony of misery and forsake it.
It is praiseworthy and even is a religious duty to disseminate Islamic virtues and teachings to the non- Muslims. But it is equally vital to help the converts to Islam in all possible manners for their survival because they are cast off by their families and religious circles. There should be special committees to take care of those who embrace Islam so that their sacrifice is well rewarded and they do not retract from the new religion.
These committees should establish special funds to provide food, shelter and other necessities of life to the needy till they are economically self reliant. The Muslims with businesses should provide them the jobs on preferential basis. But regrettably no attention has been given to these most urgent and pressing priorities, which could be instrumental in keeping the new Muslims within the fold of Islam and motivating others to join it.
The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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  1. I am not much into reading, but somehow I got to read lots of articles on your blog.

  2. Useful info. Hope to see more good posts in the future.