Feb 14 2010
A Muslim ‘Progressive’
From Progressive Islam For many, Valentine’s Day is no festival of love.
Newspapers are featuring ads for flowers and articles on various Muslims worldwide with their panties in a bunch about any holiday not explicitly mentioned in Sahih Bukhari. But in all the conspicuous consumption and harrumphing, the ones that Muslims should really be focused on get lost in the shuffle as usual. Many of the trappings of Valentine’s Day have ugly and sometimes bloody pasts that no amount of red satin can hide. The items we exchange as gifts are often produced by workers who are paid little or nothing, live in wretched conditions, and face cruelty and danger in their work. Yet in the denouncing of this holiday, even the holier than thou forgot the poor and the oppressed.
Getting flowers from companies that ensure good treatment of workers is not always easy. The bottom rung of the production chain consists of workers who may be underage, who are exposed to pesticides and lack safety equipment, in an industry that is at the mercy of nature and human emotion. Until there is sufficient demand for fair trade flowers, the blooms one orders through chain florists will sacrifice the well-being of their workers to save a buck.
Speaking of fair trade, the true story of how a large part of the world’s chocolate is produced breaks my heart. Again,children are used, and exposed to dangerous conditions, in an industry that lacks the stability of growing a staple, and can send farmers into bankruptcy with a single spore. Many of the children forced to work in cocoa plantations in Cote D’Ivoire are actually from Mali. The police files on missing children in Mali seem to grow at an alarming rate, as children are stolen so that the world can get its fix. Fair trade chocolate selections are growing, but I have yet to see chocolate confections that form the usual red-heart shaped box assortment- but like the flowers, selection and competition grows, as people demand better and more ethical indulgences.
Diamonds are forever- and the atrocities committed in their pursuit and trade may stain the earth for that long. Not only is Africa bleeding for the gems, but the proceeds from their sale further some of the most evil acts the world has ever seen. Conflict diamonds are not only linked to African (MUSLIM) rebel movements, but also Al-Qaeda, who must raise funds through secrecy, so small but very valuable goods minimize risk of confiscation while maximizing benefit. Stones besides diamonds, such as white sapphires, or colored stones, are an easy and affordable way to circumvent conflict diamonds. There are also diamonds available that are labeled “conflict-free”, but these can be tricky to be certain about.
So, why is all of this not in the fatawa blasting Valentine’s Day? Why isn’t the KSA looking into the source of the diamonds in the souk, instead of attempting to ban a color? I will not speculate, but I will point out that it is easier to harass lovers than to face down Big Business or a shadowy band of criminals. Moreover, a loving God may well be more concerned with how we treat our most vulnerable, than who’s getting flowers and why.