Collecting more than rice

When it comes to NGOs, you have to be careful who you take your bag of rice from. While I was doing a study on the IMF and its funding policies, I came across the usual stuff, like, if we could just get everyone to be like us to want to make money and have a balanced budget, the world would be fine. Yeah, that is a good idea, but when it comes to cultures, not everyone is really interested in the same things, in the same way.

By Maryam Ismail (First Person)

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Published: Thu 31 Jul 2008, 12:11 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:12 AM

Thus, everyone should live and breathe to be like those who live in the US. We all should want to have a house, a car, two kids, and a dog, or if you are into those other kinds of rights, a couple without kids and a dog. Do folks in rural Ethiopia, Western Sahara, or even Siberia have the same desire? Perhaps not.

But what about manufactured desire? I was reading the Norwegian government's web site Norad and found that will hit deals with how to distribute oil wealth for countries such as Iraq, Sudan, and other impoverished ( i.e. not really up to speed with the popular Western values) nations. I found a very interesting article 'Sex as a Development Issue'.

The article goes on to discuss how in more traditional societies, the idea of love, desire, and pleasure, is not seen as valuable and that this often leads the exclusion of other members of society.

Norway, like a few of its Scandinavian sisters has gone on record to state that they have very liberal views on sex, gender, and transgender issues. Ok, that is for them, but it is not for us Muslims and excuse me, the more traditional societies. What they are seeing as an issue is a non-issue within the Muslim world. It is in many instances not acceptable and if they want those kinds of issues, then for every person who is focused on desire, pleasure, and love as an alternative pre-occupation, give them visas and let them join you live in the land of Hamlet and the Vikings, but don't push that on us. Please.

This also goes for NGO's like Mercy Corps, Room to Read and other groups that Barry Yeoman discusses in his Mother Jones article "Stealth Crusade." This article outlines the methodologies that Christian missionaries have in spreading their message. They may be helping with infrastructure issues, like schools, clinics, and economic empowerment, but in the end, is it really beneficial? According to Fazia al-Araji, she on her blog, Family in Baghdad told how many starving Iraq refugees often go to the Christian missions that target their children with basketballs, candy, and money and videos where they have to sing some hymns and listen to sermons in order to get some rice and sugar, and there are even times when they leave empty-handed. In the inner cities of the United States, I have seen the same tactics where one organisation, World Impact, give kids a couple a dollars to go to church meetings.

In the recent past we have had celebrity conversions of Muslims to Christianity in countries where such an event fetches death sentence. However, in most cases, this is a non-event in the media and for those proselytizing, their attitude is "Jesus died for us and they can die for him." Umm excuse me? Is this a kind of alternately acceptable martyrdom?

This comes at a time where there are many Muslim charities that have been shut down or stood down, because you know, why. Still, I think that it is up to some of these countries who let these charitable organisations in to monitor them and make sure that they are there solely to help and not to push some other agendas. People have the right to be helped and not be pushed around simply because they are hungry or in need.

As for the Islamic and Muslim nations, perhaps it's for them to meet these NGOs at the door, accept their gifts and say thanks, and just like the UPS and the FedEx guys, send them on their way, because some of the stuff that they are doling out, they really don't need.

Maryam Ismail is a Sharjah-based American writer

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