Tunisia: Muslims ‘dying’ to find work
Inept and corrupt rulers deny Nagi and Mohammed a future
So what made 24 year old Tunisian Nagi Felhi climb an electricity pylon and touch live cables sending 30,000 megawatts hurtling through his body? The answer is probably somewhere in his last words “no for misery, no for unemployment”, a sentiment that 26-year-old unemployed graduate Mohammed Bouazizi understood very well. Mohammed wasn’t one to sit on his hands and do nothing he used his initiative to earn his living (rizq) setting up a fruit and vegetable stall in the city of Sidi Bouzid, 165 miles south of the Tunisian capital, Tunis.
Sadly Mohammed’s story would have a similar ending to that of Nagi, on 17th December 2010 Mohammed was brutally beaten by Tunisian police and the produce on his stall confiscated. His crime was not having the correct permit, the loss of his only source of livelihood in a country with rampant unemployment (14% official rate, probably double that unofficially) pushed him over the edge and he doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire outside government offices, he eventually died of his injuries on the 5th January 2011.
What Mohammed did sparked protests across Tunisia which have been raging for the last three weeks, it was amidst these protests Nagi took his life 6 days later and scores of others were killed following a government clamp down. Mohammed’s plight had become the rallying call for the poor and oppressed of Tunisia for so long trampled upon by the failure of free market economics and the disregard of the ‘democratically’ elected dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali did what all Machiavellian politicians do he visited Mohammed in hospital, a photo opportunity not be to missed. Ben Ali who has ruled for the last 24 years has a track record of curtailing the rights of the Muslims in Tunisia, in 2006 he banned the Hijab persecuting any Muslim woman who opposed his ban.
On 5th January the protests spread to Algeria where demonstrations against the rising price of staple foods such as sugar, flower and cooking oil saw three people killed. Algerian authorities echoed Ben Ali claiming the protests had nothing to do with food but were simply criminals going on the rampage.
Despite empty promises from the Tunisian government that 300,000 new jobs would be created there seems to be no end to the protests. On 10th January all schools and universities in Tunisia were closed indefinitely, the move was triggered by student protests in Tunis against police violence which killed 14 people over the weekend.
The story of Mohammed Bouazizi is not only symbolic of the struggles of the young unemployed in Tunisia and Algeria but of the Ummah in general across the Muslim world. It is not uncommon to see well-qualified graduates doing manual labour jobs in Pakistan, Egypt and Syria.
Muslim rulers obsessed with stuffing their personal offshore accounts would rather give permits for foreign multinationals to come and exploit the Muslims than give a fruit vendor the right to earn a living.
The deaths send a ringing condemnation of failed pseudo-capitalism in Tunisia and Algeria despite economic growth in both counties they still fail to meet the basic needs of the average person.
The corrupt rulers in the Muslim world can never solve the dire situation of high unemployment and rising food prices. People like Mohammed Bouazizi need to be given the hope to contribute to Muslim society; this can only come with the return of the Khilafah.