By Akhmad Kusaeni
Some observers have charged that rich Muslim countries have not done enough to help fellow Muslims affected by the tsunami. The oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf, for example, are doing too little to aid tsunami victims in Aceh, Indonesia.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country. It was also the most severely devastated by the wave. Nearly 100,000 of the victims of the December 26 catastrophe were Indonesian Muslims.
But, statistics say we get aid far better from non-Muslims friends than from our Muslim brothers. President George W Bush announced $350 million in the U.S. initial aid, sent the USS Abraham Lincoln into Aceh, including helicopters, and C-130 transport plane. Bush also sent hundreds of tons of pre-packaged emergency aid and supplies, and deployed some 14,000 American troops to help with the recovery and cleanup.
The U.S. helicopters flew at least 30 sorties, delivering 60,000 pounds of water and supplies, from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln along a 120-mile stretch of Sumatra Island’s ravaged coastline.
Now, look at what our Muslims brother doing in the midst of calamity. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the richest nations in the Islamic world, donated a paltry $10 million each. The United Arab Emirates donated some $20 million to relieve the suffering of their Islamic “brothers”. Qatar has promised to donate $25 million. Bahrain would give $2 million. Egypt’s contribution so far is $104,000.00.
Of disturbing note to me is that most Muslim countries have committed zero aid. Where is the rest of the Islamic world? Where are our brothers in faith? There are fifty-seven Islamic nations, and the world’s biggest Islamic nation is the one that took the hardest hit. But it is the United States –the world’s largest donor nation to tsunami victims in Aceh—that is grabbing all the headlines for being “stingy”.
Who is “stingy” anyway?
The Kuwaiti newspaper “Al Qabas” sparked a firestorm last month when it said the country deserves its reputation for stinginess, in light of the small amount of aid contributed to victims of the tsunami disaster in Asia, especially in Indonesia, a member of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
The newspaper noted that more than half of Kuwait’s labor force is made up of worker from Srilanka, India, Indonesia and other countries affected by the catastrophe. They are largely responsible for the country’s economic success, but the newspaper argued, few Kuwaitis seem to care.
Immediately after the editorial appeared, the government upped its aid contribution to the tsunami relief effort from 2 million dollars to $10 million. But, still, this amount of aid is nothing if we compare with donation comes from non-Muslim Europeans and Americans. Here are the statistics of aid to tsunami victims in Asia.
U.S.A = $350 million
Australia= $764.5 million
Germany= $660 million
Japan= $500 million
Norway= $183 million
Britain= $95 million
Sweden= $75.5 million
Even, private American company like Pfizer donated $10 million in cash and $25 million in drugs. (That is more than oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined). And, Formula One Champion Michael Schumacher donated $10,000,000! How generous our non-Muslim friends are.
On the other hand, where is the jihad against the tsunami from our Muslim brothers? It has been a month now since the earthquake and tsunamis that struck Asia. But still no appropriate actions from OIC and Arab League. Thousands Muslims died in Asia and yet Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is silent. Will the news of mass suffering in Indonesia inspire Islamic world to encourage Muslims to help? I am asking once again: where is the jihad against tsunami?
We have to admit that the United States and European countries are better skilled at communicating with the media and their own citizens, which gives them a higher profile internationally. Like a beauty queen contest, non-Muslim donor countries compete with each other to donate the highest amount of money for tsunami victims.
Of course, there is no such a thing as free lunch. There will always what Indonesian proverb says “Udang di balik batu”. The American government, for instance, has directed its troops and naval forces to Aceh. No doubt, this act of apparent benevolence was likewise colored by genuine political concerns as well.
The Americans know very well that at the moment the image of the U.S. is at an all-time low in Indonesia. The U.S. government tried its best to win over the hearts and minds of the Indonesian Muslims. Washington needs to show that Americans are not anti-Islam and willing to help the victims regardless their religion.
The huge aid effort for tsunami victims in Aceh gives American and European a chance to improve its image as caring and generous friends. Unfortunately, Muslim countries are failed to gain something from tsunami diplomacy.
One of the main criticisms of many Muslim countries is their lack of communication. There is tradition among Muslim people that when they give donation with the right hand, their left hand should not know that noble act. Charity is not something to be shown publicly. Donation is a matter of personal and not to be told to other. Only God knows.
Dr. Farish A. Noor, a Malaysian political scientist and human rights activist, explains another reason why Muslim countries doing “too late and to little” in the wake of tsunami catastrophe. He said, Washington’s “War on Terror” in Southeast Asia has obstructed many Arab and member of OIC donors who find that they cannot donate to Aceh for fear of being accused of funding ‘radical Islamist groups”.
Is that so? Wallahu alam bisawab!
(Akhmad Kusaeni is a graduate student at the Ateneo de Manila University, Phillipines)