The Politics of Class

Mohamedarif Suleman – Nairobi, Kenya

Suffering from the vagaries of a class society, our community today is divided well amongst three classes.  There’s the ultra rich, the thriving middle class, who are increasingly reaching for the top slot, and those that are in economic crises.

Yes what you are reading is not necessarily a chapter from a Karl Marx book, where the lesson of communism is taught.  The eternal struggle of classes that he preached may be a reality, but the world has taught us that the ideology does not work.  This is the state of affairs of a Khoja society we are talking about.

The ultra rich and those tagging along in this group are very dear to the community, since they provide the bulk of the finances that committees yearn for in order to take charge of a people’s socio-economic prospect.  It is true that we cannot do without this class.  But while some are true contributors and sincere sponsors, most are unfortunately out to exhibit their prowess in society.  Giving large donations and then reminding everyone that “I donated it”, is a culture well ingrained and deep rooted.  But it must be accepted as well that their display of arrogance and wealth is the only way they can remain distinct from the mass of that society.  Then come the fast-paced community middle-class, which unlike its economic (that of Marx) counterpart, is a dull and detached class of people that resent the “first class” because they are snobbish and show offs, and abhor the third class (yet to be discussed) since they comprise of  fanatics and the have-nots.

That brings us to the last class of people, who are very important to society because they form the bulk of participants in any function or forum.  They have little voice or political leverage and are usually denominated as traditionalists whose only role is to give a vote to the leadership.

A lot of the readers may find this particular interpretation of classes as very provocative, while an equal number might find this article a true picture of the current state of affairs.  What you think, matters less because it is the time of reckoning, and you must be prepared to call a spade, a spade.

Sandwiched in this three-way bread-and-filling situation is, usually, the leadership.  Again, a lot depends on where the leader originates from, which class to be specific.  If he belongs to the first category, then it is pretty easy for him.  He just has to keep all the parties happy.  Perform religious activities to please the third raters and show development projects to delight the rich.  But his peace will be subject to the ease with which he can say yes to the demands of put forth by the sponsoring class.  The moment he says no, regardless of the merit in question, there is a great fall out of support, and those who promoted him yesterday will do everything necessary in their power to stop him.  Their formula is a bit complicated though.  Their cause has got to be justified.  It has to have a certain tinge of legitimacy attached to it.  The only way this is possible is by swaying the third vote.

If the leader belongs to the middle class, rough seas await him, and uneven shores receive him.  It is pretty rare nowadays to have a leader outside the first class due to the numerous pressures involved in leading a community.  This then eliminates the need for a from a third class.

Alas, what must be understood is that each one of us is a leader, and we inevitable belong to one of these classes.  Should we not genuinely put aside our differences and rise to the bigger ideal of unity and togetherness? Should we not consider ourselves as equal when we join hands to recite Dua Wahda on Fridays? Should we not be wary of the ultimate fate that awaits each one of us, rich or poor? Should we not become more Muslim in our dealings than engage in petty politics in the pursuit of fame?

While the onus definitely lies with the leadership to set the ball rolling, it would be fair to say that the members of any society are crucial in the transformation that we have thus far been paying lip-service to.

About the author

Mohamedarif is a marketing professional and educationalist with a penchant for writing as a hobby since childhood. As he experimented writing about sporting events at first and then current affairs, he quickly developed a skill for observation of his environment and began to write on reform topics, especially in connection with the community. To further feed his pursuit of writing, he founded several newsletters and bulletins at his school and at the Husayni Madrasah in the 1980's, all the time learning from others already in the field not just about writing, but also about pre-press and production processes. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Knowledge Magazine in 1995–1996. A decade later, importing a flurry of ideas into his new home, Nairobi, he first founded a two page community newspaper then became a regular writer of the Friday Faculty before establishing the Community on Friday, a fully fledged Madrasah magazine in 1996. And while his writing at the community continued, he simultaneously started writing for a business weekly, pairing in with his newfound role as a marketing professional. During his time in Nairobi, he wrote several speeches for sitting chairmen and presidents while also giving some himself, developing his concurrent role as a public speaker and trainer.

With changing times and a decrease in advertising sponsorship, as well as a fall in overall readership, Mohamedarif transformed this publication into an electronic blog. Thus was born the Community on Friday in its present format.

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