Muslims Selling Alcohol in Harlem
February 8, 2007 § 18 Comments
I live in Harlem and I have faced many Muslim corner-store and liquor-store owners – many of them from Yemen – about selling alcohol in the community. The excuses that I have heard are weak and unacceptable for a Muslim, excuses like:
“The Yemeni Business Committee allows the selling of alcohol to non-Muslims…”
I’m not sure how true this is, but I doubt there is any validity to these claims at all. Its frustrating because my neighborhood has a small number of Muslims (West Africans, African-Americans, Yemenis and Palestinian) and two small storefront Senegali masajid that have a very small influence on the community, practically none at all. The majority of the community of Harlem is non-Muslim African-American and alcohol consumption is a very big part of their overall daily activity. And those opposed of the non-Muslim African Americans may complain privately but do not publicly voice any resistance in my neighborhood. In other-words its big business for these store owners.
Similarly on the Left-Coast, a community of Muslims faced the same problems and took action. Imam Zaid Shakir led a movement in California to rid the community of stores selling alcohol as reported by NPR,
“Activists in Oakland, Calif., have long fought the concentration of liquor stores in their communities. Now they have new allies in Muslim groups who say Muslim owners of these liquor stores are hurting the neighborhood and violating religious principles.” (P. Bartolone, NPR)
I personally feel violated by the liquor stores and over the years I have gotten pretty angry at these brothers for selling alcohol in our neighborhood. So much that it is difficult for me to greet them with as-salaam. Their stores – which are conveniently located in the center of the community and situated across from a middle-school – become a hang-out for local youth and hoodlums alike, meanwhile my wife and children are subject to crossing the path of these men standing out in front of the store everyday (though I will admit I have seen them show a greater respect toward covered women).
Nevertheless, throughout my time in Harlem, I have never seriously considered taking forceful action against these men but something must be done. If only there were more Muslims in Harlem, perhaps I should begin a campaign against this kind of conduct by Muslims in our neighborhood, insha’allah.
What do you think?