I’m not much of an Islamic scholar (understatement) but my thinking was that a component of Ramadan (the Islamic discipline of fasting during daylight hours for a lunar month) was to give you thoughts, perspectives and raise empathy towards the poor. If that is one of its aims then how do people feel when they are hungry surrounded in complete opulence and greed that is Dubai?
I had feared my transition from South Sudan to Dubai would be a little bumpy and it is proving that. One square kilometre anywhere in this city represents the end of polio or the budget to provide critical humanitarian aid to South Sudan for the coming starvation season and it shows the choice that someone would rather prosper for a few than help many. I don’t put all the blame on the UAE as it is servicing a demand that should not exist.
I’m joining the first day of Ramadan and fasting and I know that when I fast or do Live Below the Line or whatever associated with not filling my stomach on a wants basis it takes off a few layers of lenses and opens me to more life, humanity and equality.
That is why I’ve always admired Ramadan and the sacrifice Muslims make for a full lunar calendar that nothing shall pass their lips during daylight hours. There is a lovely charity aspect and social justice integrated into Islam that I have connected with Muslims though in many places but not knowing the religion well enough I don’t see how the extreme wealth in Dubai is permitted on the basis of what Ramadan and ultimately Islam is trying to achieve (as is the case with Christianity and other similar ‘businesses’).
I know all religions have parts (or the whole) of hypocrisy, and personally I do too since I am writing this post from the air-conditioned environment of a luxury hotel to use their free wifi! But I know an hour before the sunsets in around 3 hours from now the deep hunger in my stomach and the sense of privilege that resonates and translates into aspiring for equality will be blunted when I look around me and see development based on greed, not based on need. How do the locals and foreigner live here in wealth when the poor still remain and anything/everything they do is directly related to the environmental degradation of the planet – with no exceptions?
My transition from the developing world into the developed world is always much rougher than the opposite. I find understanding, resilience, humanity and life when I interact with extreme poverty and only feel anger, disbelief and absolute shame in extreme wealth. Luckily my reason for being in Dubai is speak on behalf of the world’s poor and not necessarily ask for help but to work towards preventing wants beyond needs. I do this not with finger pointing, moral bashing or guilt trips but offering a positive alternative that we can be ‘richer’ when giving, sharing and interacting as an effective global citizen to create Teaspoons of Change.
To put it politely I totally despise Dubai and everything it represents and that is a reflection in more of the west than the local culture who is supplying the demand. I feel that if the people I met in Bentiu Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp in South Sudan who offered me their only cup of tea and biscuits for the day recently, knew this existed they would simply ask – why? why so much when others have nothing? To me it makes me feel completely and deeply ashamed, desperate and embarrassed knowing both of these worlds and what humans are capable of without any compassion for others.
So whether it be Ramadan, Sunday church service or your next online purchase of an unnecessary want (as I also do from time to time), I beg you to consider others and how you might feel you had been born in rural South Sudan and knew at the same time there was a fucking indoor ski hill in a shopping mall in the desert with daily temperatures of 40°C.
I think ends my session on the psychiatrist’s couch via this blog for today – thank you.
On top of my begging I do invite people to want to make positive change and the wonderful connection and fulfilment it brings. I won’t label you a cold-hearted bastard for going snowboarding in Dubai (since I already did that 7 years ago here!) instead what I will do if offer small Teaspoons of Change in your personal choices, decisions and actions that will have a positive impact on people and the planet!
- Website: http://teaspoonsofchange.wordpress.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teaspoonsofchange
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tspoonsofchange
- Global presentation tour in 2015: https://goo.gl/MjrJIC
- Australian presentation tour Oct-Dec 2015: https://goo.gl/y8RkB5