To Uncle Sam, with Love

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Economy Views: 4652
4652

Every year around this time the same emotions stir up in the pit of my stomach. Yes, it's tax season, and yes, I am one of those who ends up owing taxes. But it's not the dread of separating from my cash that upsets me. After all, I'm a believer and I know that Allah is the provider and sustainer, so it's really Allah's money in the first place-I'm just turning it over to Uncle Sam, or Aunt Samantha if you prefer. No, what really bothers me is that any portion of that money will be used to shed the blood of my brothers and sisters abroad--or here for that matter--or deprive them of their livelihoods.

Actually, I'm well aware that I've been partially funding the oppression of my fellow human beings throughout the year from my payroll taxes. The task of filing taxes somehow brings this reality home. I know also that my taxes do not only fund the purchase of arms. No, they occasionally pay for children's artificial ones after their real ones have been blown to bits. And yes, I will grant that a portion of every tax dollar does go to good causes like social programs, education, roads, disaster relief and even legitimate peacekeeping. But I am not blind to the fact that the ratio of good to bad uses of my tax dollar is steadily getting worse, with the Pentagon budget at something like $800 billion. As Allah reminds us in the Quran, there is good and bad in everything, and in the case of my tax dollar it's more like, the good, the bad, and the ugly (corny reference to Clint Eastwood movie, sorry).

So if I'm aware that my tax dollars are misspent, then what am I doing paying my taxes? Well, no offense, but like many of you I'm a bit gun shy (in my case cowardly) when it comes to exposing my family to hardship resulting from fines or imprisonment. And as a Muslim, I'm supposed to follow the law of the land. So there! Quit pestering me about where my money goes. I'd rather not know. But I do know. We all know, and hence the dilemma. Some might argue that we are absolved from blame because we are not the ones misusing the money. Well, in that case, why to we prefer to give food to the alcoholic rather than money? Is it for fear that we will purchase drink? Can we be blind to where our taxes go, when they amount to thousands in some cases, yet be vigilant about giving a pan handler a mere dollar?

At the risk of sounding un-American, I urge us to open our eyes and acknowledge that we have choices. Yes, Allah commands respect for the law and frowns on chaos and anarchy, but He also forbids oppression and compels us to enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil. Besides, questioning the status quo is very American. Henry David Thoreau, a Massachusetts native and author of the seminal 1849 essay Civil Disobedience, said it well: 

Must the citizen ever for a moment... resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. ... The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right... Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.

A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain... all marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed... 

They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? ...a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, [men] laid out alive and standing, and already...buried under arms with funeral accompaniment... Others--as most legislators, politicians...serve the state chiefly with their heads... and... are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few--as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers... serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it...

I quarrel not with far-off foes, but with those who, neat at home, co-operate with, and do the bidding of, those far away, and without whom the latter would be harmless...There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the [Mexican] war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them; sit down with their hands in their pockets, and say that they know not what to do, and do nothing; who even postpone the question of freedom to the question of free trade, and quietly read ... the latest advices from Mexico [or Iraq], after dinner, and, it may be, fall asleep over them both... 

They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait... for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret. At most, they give up only a cheap vote... It is not a man's duty... to devote himself to the eradication of any, even to most enormous, wrong; ... but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and... not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see... that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. I have heard some of my townsmen say, "I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico--see if I would go"; and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute. The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war...

Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform... What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn... I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one...

I think that it is enough if they have God on their side, without waiting for that other one... I meet this American government, or its representative, the State government, directly, and face to face, once a year--no more--in the person of its tax-gatherer...and it then says distinctly, Recognize me; and the simplest, the most effectual...mode of treating with it on this head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to deny it then... I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name--if ten honest men only--ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefore, it would be the abolition of slavery in America.

For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it... Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place today, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less despondent spirits, is in her prisons... on that separate but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her--the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor...

If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. When I converse with the freest of my neighbors, I perceive that, whatever they may say about the magnitude and seriousness of the question... the long and the short of the matter is, that... they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience to it...

When I came out of prison... I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbors and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right... that in their sacrifices to humanity they ran no risks, not even to their property; that after all they were not so noble...and hoped, by a certain outward observance and a few prayers, and by walking in a particular straight though useless path from time to time, to save their souls... I do not care to trace the course of my dollar, if I could, till it buys a man a musket to shoot one with--the dollar is innocent--but I am concerned to trace the effects of my allegiance...

If I could convince myself that I have any right to be satisfied with men as they are...like a good Mussulman (sic) and fatalist, I should endeavor to be satisfied with things as they are, and say it is the will of God.

Okay, so his views on Islam were not on point, but unbeknownst to Mr. Thoreau many of his thoughts were very much in line with Islam, which teaches us to take action, and struggle for justice even if we place our wealth and lives at stake. What Mr. Thoreau was advocating is Jihad, or struggle for the sake of Allah. While I am not recommending that we all stop paying our taxes (that would be much too risky and irresponsible, to place our livelihoods in jeopardy), I do think we have to confront our choices as Muslims and conscientious human beings. We can stay here and go to jail for not paying taxes, or we leave this country for another one where less of our taxes fund war and oppression. 

It is foolish to pretend that any nation uses its tax revenues exclusively for good causes, but I can think of ones that do better than the US (I'm afraid there aren't too many Walden Ponds left where one can seclude oneself like Mr. Thoreau and live off the land without paying taxes). Or we can stay here and help change this country, you say? Maybe. But what if someone asked you for $100 and told you $1 will go to teaching the youth, $2 will go to helping the sick, $3 will go to helping the poor and the rest would go to killing your brothers? Would you engage him and attempt to persuade him to spend the money more justly? or would you take your money and run?

I don't know the right answer. I pray that Allah will lead us to the straight path and forgive our trespasses. Much more to say on this, but I just received my TurboTax CD and can't wait to give Uncle Sam his due.

Daoud Ali is founder and Editor of Al-Mizaan newspaper (www.al-mizaan.com), a Muslim paper serving Western Massachusetts and beyond. You can contact Daoud Ali  at [email protected].


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Economy
Views: 4652

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Older Comments:
NARJIS FROM USA said:
salaamu Aleikum
I totally agree, (who wouldn't?), and I can tell you that Muslims are not the only ones questioning where their tax-$$ go. To that end, many american, non-muslim men and women have been jailed, arrested and harrassed, because they have outright refused payment of taxes. Thousands of people do feel the need to do more that just talk and think about it:
www.peacetaxfund.org is one effort, that supports the right to voice ones' opinion and works for legal change. The jihad is difficult, risky at the beginning and takes a long-time, but the more individuals and organizations join in the effort, the stronger will become the voice for right and justice, regardless of what faith one claims: in ALLAH SWT Eyes life is Sacred, and the destruction thereof is wrong. period.
SAMWA (San Antonio Muslim Womens Association) is a supporter of the PeaceTaxFund Initiative.
2005-04-10

MUSA MUHAMMAD DANDIKKO FROM NIGERIA said:
Assalamu alaikum,
Iam duly in support of your article, but the problem is that we muslims are problem to ourselves in the first place.
Don't we believe in what Allah said when He promised us victory if we are obedient to him.
2005-03-05

JHAAMAL FROM U.S.A. said:
Sometimes you must eat a little crow to get what you want! These insane fools that rule are being shown for what they are! So, by taxing every one they create a following of hate which will swell up to weaken them and by their own graces remove what ever power they dreamed up they have been giving by god!

Praise be to ALLAH
2005-03-05

M.A.SA'IDU FROM NIGERIA said:
AssalamuAlaikum
I want to add to this rite-up,we all are in the same problem world wide,we are all either directly or indirectly helping thje Dajjal's set-up and Government by this services.
We have only one option to to stop or anwser Allah's intorogations in the day of jugement,or simply join network to also help our brothers there by food, money and many more.
2005-03-04

MITZY DOBERMANN FROM INDIA said:
Very well written. Good reference too... if there was an alternative to paying taxes.......!!! Alas!
The only alternative would be to vote in peace -loving people to power... not war hungry, selfish & lowlife scum as have been elected to prime posts in the USA.
People who care for people and other lifeforms, are the people we need in power... with real compassion, not media gimmickry... when will the people of America learn to see the real person under the hype drummed up for presidential candidates? When will they vote a good man to their prime post? May Allah make it happen soon, for the safety & security of all mankind, Ameen
2005-03-01

KAREN HELSING FROM UNITED STATES said:
I'm sick of America's greed, arrogance, & contempt. I'm concerned about the trend toward taking away peoples' civil rights. The Romans gave up their civil rights to secure themselves against the Barbarian invasion: it didn't work. The Germans let Hitler take their civil rights for security against Communism. The result was the holocaust & after ww2, the Eastern half of Germany became a Soviet satellite.
2005-03-01

ZEENAT ISMAIL FROM TANZANIA said:
I am in total agreement
2005-03-01

SAHIB R FROM USA said:
How is the American tax system any better/worse than any other in the world? At least here, we can choose. Most, if not all (especially homeland countries), other countries with our ability and might would try and conquer the world.
2005-02-28

WARSPITE FROM USA said:
I knew someone would quote from the Book of the Spoils! No matter the context I must see that one sentence construction 20 times a day. Enough-find another Sura plz.

What makes you, Oh American Muslim, so special? Why are you different from the teeming millions of your countrymen? Answer: you are not.

If you have a problem with how your tax dollars are being spent-and who does not?-stop bemoaning the current state of affairs, and do something about it. Unlike so many of the wretched nations where a citizen has no voice, let alone the right to express it, in this country, not only do have the right-you have the responsibility-to do so.

Exactly how do you expect the collected wisdom of the diverse American Muslim Community to influence the direction of your homeland? Osmosis? Not going to happen that way.

Organize. Write. Influence. Plan. Stop complaining, study and act. It is easy to convince us that there is a problem: harder to share that knowledge.

One idea though. Might want to forget all the intercine sect division among ourselves, imported and implanted. Asking a lot you say? Indeed. But imagine how much more effective it would be if communities were not broken up here based on former location, sect, ideology and practice-important- maybe-to us, but a roadblock to our influence and success.
2005-02-28

SALWA FROM USA said:
Very well said.
2005-02-26

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Over the years I have noticed that whenever two or three Americans are gathered together and publicly refusing to pay their taxes then martyrdom for one or more is usually forthcoming. I mean that seriously and in the hope of saying so with good intentions.

As to whether or not martyrdom might satisfy debts - owed to those other than Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala - I do not feel qualified to say (one way or the other). Granted it might seem like a good idea to avoid holding others accountable for debts less than the sort for which we ourselves have been forgiven, perhaps in case those who forgave us were able to hold us accountable after all.

Wassalaam warahmatullahi. Wabarakatuhu.
2005-02-26

H.A. FROM YATHRIB said:
Patriotism = paying taxes.

If you do not pay tax, you are a terrorist and part of the axis of evil and not a freedom-loving person.

AND, if you are cheating on your taxes, a WAR would be waged on you soon...
2005-02-26

ZAHIR FROM UK said:
I disagree with this article where the writer is in doubt as to what Allah has to say on his predicament. The writer if he so wished can do a number of things if he consults the Quran and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet(pbuh). His allegience to a pseudo-concept, a nationalistic ideal which neither exists nor suffers to take not a jot from anyone, only that which the writer makes himself feel he owes to it. Thus he is mislead by it and strays from the Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem. I work for a charity and have worked out a regime with my workplace that I do not pay taxes on my earnings. It gives me less to live on but living in a country which will not suffer anyone to go hungry, you'd be surprised how people will change the system for you when you tell them you cannot suffer it (to see your brothers being murdered). Fear of Allah should be greater than the temptation for the life of the world. Forgive us for our tresspasses is a Chritian concept in which it has come to mean knowingly commiting such acts. Yet Allah does not forgive those who think of commiting an evil and are already getting their 'painted forgivenesses' ready for him. And remember you plot and Allah plots and know Allah is the best of plotters.
2005-02-25

KARIM FROM FRANCE said:
And beleive me dear Brother (and also brothers and sisters) on the big Day, The Day of Judgement, All of us we will be asked and be held liable at a certain degree.
May Allah guide us, forgive us and led us to his Mercy
Oua Essalamou Alikaoum
2005-02-25

BROTHER ISLAM FROM EAST OAKLAND GHETTO(U.S.A.) said:
This is why MUSLIMS are confused as to who to serve THE SHARIA or "greco/roman western democracy).

I really hate to be the one to "bust your bubble",
your tax dollars are helping the slaughtering of MUSLIMS.

..
2005-02-25

A MUSLIM FROM ALLAH'S (NAME OF THE ONE CREATOR) UNIVERSE said:
Even though labor slavery ended in USA, there are other forms of slavery that still exist. To mention some:

Paying interest that is charged for basic needs (like a small house) is a form of financial slavery (The lender made his money with the help of the poor. By making others work and get paid cheap. The poor had to agree due to their financial need at the time of accepting the job offer).

Slavery of women takes place everyday in strip clubs by perverts that allow themselves to go there because the law allows it. Well, guess who made the laws? Yes, there are men strippers too. Freedom of expression should have limits.

Slavery of professional employees at companies that threaten with layoffs on a yearly basis (if not monthly) is there.

Slavery of illegal immigrants that are allowed in (yes the US that went to the moon can close its mexican borders if it wished to) still exists (no health benefits with torturing uncertainty of the future and fear of getting caught at work... as examples). And the rich go around happy that they are increasing their money. Remember that you have to increase your money and friends, else you fail on the long run.

Suggestions:
Stay in USA and keep on pushing for what Allah swt says is just. HIS laws, and only HIS, are just because HE designed us and knows what system is best for us. Many people feel what is wrong in the current system and try to make a change. Help them do that.

Contribute to Islamic religious institutions (so that you get a tax deduction).

Vote democrat not repblican. It is the republicans that usually go to war with your tax money. They (parties at war) should use swords not bombs as not to hurt the innocents by mistake. Also, this would make tax payers pay less money for war. Also, I cannot imagine people(at war) using nukes to fight in the future. So it is better to use older weapons. New war treaties should start soon. And soldiers should get training and be held accountable fo
2005-02-25