Is Your Clothing Ethical?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Manufacturing apparel is still a labor-intensive process, so wages are a large part of the cost of making clothing. Big name manufacturers of mainstream clothing provide cheap alternatives, but often do not pay their workers the basic wage for survival, causing massive protests and widespread unrest. It’s often not simply even a matter of low wages, but also of child labor, exploitation, and terrible working conditions. Unfortunately, this is not the exception, but rather the norm in the industry.
At SHUKR, not only is our clothing Islamic, but it is also ethically produced.
Our clothing is manufactured in our factory in Jordan. Jordan's labor laws guarantee more rights for workers than perhaps even some advanced industrial nations. The standard workers rights that we are familiar with in the West – pay (sick pay, overtime, minimum wage), working hours (rest breaks, maximum working day), disciplinary action, equal opportunities, unionization, health and safety, minimum working age, etc. – are all enshrined in Jordanian labor law, and observed at SHUKR’s factory.
The principles of fair trade and Islamic business ethics in general, go hand-in-hand. The term “fair-trade” conventionally refers to the wide-ranging socio-economic movement which works to address inequalities in the conventional trade system. This is a broad movement, with many goals and guiding principles, and Islam’s perspective on it has many nuances which require experts to elaborate upon. From our limited perspective, there seems to be a good deal of overlap between most of the core principles of fair trade and the teachings of Islam, in particular, three of their main goals:
1) To achieve greater equity in international trade and alleviate world poverty
2) To seek the fulfillment of workers rights in the developing world
3) To promote environmental sustainability
In terms of the first goal of equity, it is well-known that social justice is one of the hallmarks of Islamic teachings.
In the Holy Qur’an, it is mentioned that “God loves those who are fair and just” (49.9) and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, forbade iniquitous economic practices that led to monopolization or unfair market advantage. Islam’s emphasis on fairness and justice also spills over into a concern for fulfilling workers rights, the second main goal of the fair trade movement. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, famously said that the worker should be paid his wages before his sweat dries and once, in a touching incident, compassionately kissed the hands of a laborer who showed him his rough hands due to his hard work. Finally, as for environmental sustainability, Islamic teachings are rich in guidance, because we believe that God has given humans the trust of stewardship (khilafa) over this earth, a sacred trust that we are accountable to God for. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said that “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves” (Muslim).
We find that Islam’s intrinsic moderation – balancing the physical with the spiritual – and its emphasis on the honor of all of God’s creation, teach Muslims that sweatshop labor and production are despicable practices, rooted in an excessive concern for worldly gain at the expense of noble human beings.
When you wear SHUKR, you can be sure that your clothing is ethically produced. We are completely against sweatshop production and pay our workers above-market wages that allow them to support their families in dignity and comfort. Though many stores may offer less-expensive alternatives, is the cost worth it?