Thursday, July 29, 2010

15-12-2004 - Closing Speech at the International Conference on Poverty in the Muslim World and Communities

15TH DECEMBER, 2004

CLOSING SPEECH OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON POVERTY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD AND COMMUNITIES – PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS HELD AT THE BANQUET HALL ON THE 5TH FLOOR, INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY MALAYSIA, GOMBAK , KUALA LUMPUR MALAYSIA AT 7.45 PM. ON 15TH DECEMBER, 2004

Assalaamu ‘alaikum Warahmatullaahi Wabarakaatuh.

Yours Excellencies,
Fellow Scholars and Experts,
Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to the closing ceremony of our international conference on poverty in the Muslim World and communities..

These two days have been very taxing days for all of you and I am sure you have enjoyed and benefited from the exchange of ideas over the period.

Yesterday morning, during the opening ceremony, the Second Minister of Finance read the speech of the Hon. Prime Minister in which he said that Malaysia has reduced the number of poor people in the country from more than 50 percent to about 5 percent during a period of 30 years. That means from 1974 to 2004.

Being an elected representative of the ruling party, from 1974 to 2004, I can claim to have been a close observer of this development, and probably a minor participant, in the various programs for eradicating poverty.

PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE AGRICULTURE AND RURAL SECTOR

If you ask me to elaborate on a single idea, in the poor rural and agriculture sectors, that leads to the reduction of poverty, it is the paradigm shift from a product oriented agriculture to a people oriented agriculture.

PRODUCT-ORIENTED AGRICULTURE SECTOR

Government officials often talk of growth in the agricultural sectors.

This growth implies:

- an increase in rice production
- an increase in the tonnage of fishes caught
- an increase in rubber production
- an increase in oil palm production
- an increase in fruits and vegetables production
- an increase in pepper production
- an increase in the production of meat such as mutton, chicken and beef,
- an increase in flowers production

In the non-agricultural rural sector one talks of

- an increase in textile production
- an increase in handicrafts production

Rice, fishes, rubber, palm oil, fruits, vegetables, spices, meat, flowers, textiles and handicrafts are all products.

But an increase in the production of all these products does not necessarily mean that we are alleviating poverty. There might be less employment but higher income for fewer people involved and it is far from sorting out the problems of poverty.

PEOPLE-ORIENTED AGRICULTURE SECTOR

As such we shifted from product oriented agriculture to people oriented agriculture.

We were then interested in

- the fishermen and not just the fishes
- the rice growers or the padi planters and not the rice or padi harvested
- the rubber tapers and not the tonnage of rubber
- the oil palm plantation workers and not the production of palm oil
- the farmers and not the vegetables, fruits, flowers, and pepper harvested
- the breeders and not the meat produces
- the workers and not the textiles and handicrafts produced


THE NEGATIVE EFFECT OF PRODUCT-ORIENTED AGRICULTURE

A nation, with increased agricultural production, for export, could earn a lot of foreign exchange to be used for buying weapons, while the people – farmers, breeders and fishermen could remain poor.

After all these products could be increased in production by the use of fertilizers, tools, equipments and machineries, supplied by investors, without necessarily benefiting the people involved in the production of agricultural products.

In fact the increase in agricultural production could mean a reduction in employment if modern methods are being used that do not need many workers.

In the fishing industry, for example, bigger boats and better fishing nets could catch more fish even when the numbers of fisherman are reduced.

In the husbandry sector, with modern management methods, more animals are reared by less breeders.

A product-oriented approach to agriculture and other rural activities could lead to a wider gap between the rich and the poor.

PEOPLE-ORIENTED ORIENTED AGRICULTURE

However, with people-oriented approach, which we called in RISDA as ‘ looking at the man behind the tree’, that is the rubber tapper rather than the rubber tree, poverty will be staring in our eyes.

We could than plan our programs to eradicate poverty and in the process we could increase the production of our agricultural products.

A COMPREHENSIVE LOOK AT POVERTY

While looking a poor man as a whole we would see

- poverty of the minds
- poverty of the ears
- poverty of the nose
- poverty of the mouth
- poverty of the soul
- poverty of the body
- poverty of income

Poverty of the minds needs education for the poor.

Poverty of the eyes needs flowers, clean and beautiful ( though modest ) houses in pleasantly landscaped environment.

Poverty of the ears need music, songs and good advice

Poverty of the nose needs scented flowers, perfumes and clean odour

Poverty of the mouth needs tasty and quality food and utterances of useful advice.

Poverty of the soul needs religion.

Poverty of the body needs health, sports and recreation.

Poverty of income needs the ability to produce marketable goods and provide marketable services.

EXAMPLES OF ACTIVITIES FOR THE ERADICATION OF POVERTY

For the minds - education (knowledge and the the profession)

- oratory competition for our students in order to identify andcultivate them, with oratory ability, to become future leaders

For the eyes - landscaping (flowers and drains)

Improving our environment through Inter-village, inter-departmental, and inter-mosque landscaping competition

For the ears
- Farmers’ symphonies (melodicas for children and other instruments for ex-soldiers)
- Patriotic poems were slowly replacing our agro-based poetry
- The introduction of patriotic songs instead of love songs which lulled us away

For the nose - Get rid of your foul odour

For the mouth - Courses in international cooking (every country has its own special and delicious dishes)

For the soul - Islam (schools, colleges and universities)

For the body - Healthy food – Fish & Rice and not Rice & Fish

- Cleanliness (being dirty is not part of being a Muslim – we should not insist on halal food but the halal food should also be clean.)

- Walking clubs

For income - Producing Marketable Products (Capital, Quality Production, Transportation, Outlets etc.)

Providing Marketable Services (Salesmen, cooks, traditional massues etc.)

BEWARE OF POLLUTION

However, in our effort to eradicate poverty, with planning at the macro level and implementation at the micro stages we must be careful in ensuring that everything is done in line with the teachings of our religion.

I am aware that Muslims today are very excited about Islamic Banking, Islamic Finance and Islamic Economics, because the Jews, the Christians and the Freemasons are also crazy about them.

But we should not be naïve as to believe that the Jews, the Christians and the Freemasons are interested in our religion. Most of the time, the Jews and the Christians in banking and finance are not even interested in their own religions. The Freemasons, on the other hand are against monotheism itself.

They are just interested in deposits from the more religious Muslims. We don’t have to quarrel with them but we must be aware of their motivation.

I am sure that they are opposed to Islamic Banking if it is to be a bank of the type which the late Ahmad Al Najjar instituted in Mit Gmr, Egypt and closed by the government in 1951. That Islamic Bank was trying to guide the Muslims, not just to get the deposits but to improve the Islamic economic way of life.

We should be aware of this fact and not quarrel over it.

Brothers and sisters, with this thought, as the basis for the work, that we have implemented, in one way or another, over the past 30 years, I close this conferece.

Let us make du’a to Allah s.w.t. that the ideas deliberated in our conference will be a systematic beginning to a long journey, at eradicating poverty, for the Muslim Ummah,

Our Jihad, in the past, has always been successful when Muslims fight against Muslims, let us now refocus our Jihad on a battle against our common enemy, which is poverty.

Thank. You.

Wabillaa hi taufik Assalaa mu ‘alaikum.

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