The Autumn Statement 2012: Punishing the poor for the excesses of the rich
In strained economic circumstances, welfare benefits are being withdrawn with increasing frequency
The excesses of the financial sector triggered the financial crisis in 2008. Over four years later, Britain, as with much of the western world, is deep in stagnation weighed down by debts and deficits. Yet paying the price for the economic crisis are not those who caused it but the poor, needy and vulnerable.
This was underscored in no uncertain terms by the 2012 Autumn Statement. Cuts in welfare benefits form the main plank of reducing the government deficit because those relying on the state for financial assistance are seen as the underserving. Although the political and ideological under tones of the right are unmistaken, the various measures outlined in fact betray systemic failure.
The Government extinguishing previous commitments, enshrined in legislation, on benefits, pensions and taxation underline that capitalism, whether right or left leaning, does not guarantee the welfare of its citizens. Under capitalism therefore welfare is not a right but privilege. Thus for those truly in need survival becomes a lottery based on the whim of a political class largely out of touch with needs of the vast majority of the people.
In increasingly strained economic circumstances, welfare payments and benefits are being withdrawn with increasing frequency and it is the poor and needy, whether old or young, that are suffering disproportionately, despite the mantra of we are all in it together. There is no equivalence, moral or otherwise, between a wealthy individual losing some tax relief on a £1m pension saving plan and a needy person losing a few valuable pounds in tax credits to supplement his below standard of living income.
That is why in Islam looking after the needs of the poor and needy is a right, enshrined in the Shariah. The right of a person to secure his sustenance is a non-negotiable duty upon the Islamic state which cannot withdrawn for political or economic expediency.
Allah (SWT) say:
“And in their wealth there is a right acknowledged. For the needy and destitute.” [Al-Ma’arij: 24-25]
And He (SWT) say:
“Alms are only for the poor and needy…a duty decreed by Allah” [At-Tauba: 60]
In fact the Shariah has assigned a special tax, Zakat, specifically for looking after the needs of the poor and needy. This is an annual levy of 2.5% on all of the wealth of all the Muslims.
Furthermore, in Islam there is no under tone of the underserving needy while the Shariah truly acknowledges that we are all in together, unlike the mantra in the west, in the saying of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him):
“Any community, whosoever they are, if a person among them became hungry, they will be removed from the protection of Allah the Blessed, the Supreme”. Narrated by Imam Ahmad.