Articles

A Critical Analysis of Education Systems in Pakistan

Sadly we are all only too well aware of the pathetic state of education in Pakistan. There is far too little of it for the common people. What there is of it is pitifully poor in quality. It is starved of funds and of talent. Like in so many other spheres of our national life our educational system is a political orphan, neglected by a corrupt and uncaring State. But that’s the lit of the poor. That is not much altered by the fact that there do exist some centers of excellence in the field of higher education and research in Pakistan and there are some most talented teachers to be found in some of our universities. That does not alter the poor state of education as a whole.

Children of the privileged and the powerful are well provided for. They receive an education of the highest standard. Education of the most excellent quality is provided by schools run by the various wings of the military. And look also at the products of the handful of elite schools where only the very rich and privileged can afford to send their children. This class divided system of education was initiated by the colonial regime. Given increasing needs and a limited supply of British officers, the colonial regime needed a higher level educated elite who would take up senior positions in the bureaucracy and the army. That aspect of the needs of colonial government became particularly pressing after the First World War. Special schools were created for the more privileged members of Indian society so that they could be trained to serve the colonial regime in positions of some responsibility. The Aitcheson College in Lahore is a typical example of this. There were many such. The products of these schools were the brown sahibs. We still produce them. But their numbers are relatively small. By virtue of the excellence of the privileged schools that cater for their children, the issue of national education is not one that directly affects the rich and the powerful in our country who make public policy. After excellent schooling locally they can send their children abroad for higher education. The deplorable state of our educational system is not their problem.

In a society where democracy is as yet only formal, our rulers are insensitive to the needs of the people at large. It is not that they are ignorant of our national educational needs. There is little to attract them to devote resources to this problem area. Expenditure on a progressive national education policy does not offer opportunities for rich pickings for those who drive our corrupt state machine. It is not surprising that education has such a low priority in the allocation of public funds and the making of public policy. The problem of education in Pakistan is therefore unlikely to be tackled in isolation from the wider problem of creating a genuinely democratic Pakistan where the needs of the people and not just the priorities of a small and corrupt ruling elite decide public policy.

A Nation of Clerks! What kind of education do we want to provide for our children? What sort of roles in adult life should their education train them for? The issue is not just that of having more of the same kind of education that is provided now. It is not a question of numbers and size. The problem will not be solved merely by having more schools, more colleges and more universities of the same kind as we have now.Nor is it just a matter of having better textbooks and better-paid teachers, although these too are all serious questions that must also be addressed. But there is a prior question that must be answered. What kind of people is our educational system designed to produce? What are to be the social and economic functions of the educated in our society?

We can see this better if we look at the origins and purposes of our present system of education. It took shape under colonial rule in the nineteenth century to serve the purposes of the expanding colonial state and the new emergent needs of the colonial economy and society as it began to take shape in the early nineteenth century. That was more than one and a half centuries ago. The pity is that little has changed since then, except that the quality of education has become even more deplorable. We must begin by asking: what was the colonial educational system designed to produce? More than half a century ago Nehru got to the heart of the matter when he described it as an educational system that was designed to produce “a nation of clerks”.

When the colonial conquest began the East India Company functioned as a kind of feudal lord. It simply took over the pre-existing system of government as it was under the Mughals and also its existing legal system. Its objectives and its methods were not very different fram those of its feudal predecessors. It had two main objectives. One was, like any feudal lord, to extract a maximum tripute from the cultivator in the form of land revenue. The other was to foster international trade, notably the export of Indian textiles, which was the monopoly of the East India Company. In its early years the East India Company functioned just as another feudal ruler. Therefore the system of government remained basically the same, its needs were met by the traditional system of education in madrasas. Persian, the language of the Indian elite, both Hindu and Muslim, was retained by the British as the official language. The few British Officers who were sent to govern India had to learn Persian. The existing system of law also remained, largely unchanged. It was administered by munsifs and qazis trained in traditional faw and custom. But fundamental changes in the pattern of colonialism were soon to follow as it was extended over a larger territory and also, crucially, as the form of colonial exploitation changed and a new type of colonial economy was constructed. The old system could no longer work under the new conditions.

As the nineteenth century progressed, the pattern of the cotonial economy began to change, for india was no longer to be an exporter of textiles but rather an importer of British made textiles and other manufacturers and an exporter of raw material required by the burgeoning British Industry in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. To facilitate the production and export of the raw materials. needed by Britain, the colonial government became far more interventionist. It undertook large scale projects to secure its aims. Canals were built to produce cotton to cater for the insatiable appetite of the mills of Manchester and roads and railways constructed to carry the raw materials cheaply to the new portscities which were built to meet the needs of colonial trade, such as Karachi, Bombay, Calcutta. With such wide-ranging changes in its activities both the size and the functions of the colonial government were greatly extended. The old system of education and the old judicial system were no longer adequate for its needs.

The government of india was now to be organised in a new way. English replaced Persian as the official language. English speaking British Officers, who did not speak a local language, were now to be assisted by a large number of English educated Indian clerks. They were mostly petty underlings who attended to the paper work. Some upper class Indians, the brown sahibs, were also inducted into the government, as subordinates of British officers. They were, nevertheless, invested with some authority as officers.

Under the elite at the top, the colonial regime created large armies of English educated clerks who were needed to ‘man’ government offices (few women, if any, were employed). They dealt with the bulk of the records and paperwork. Side by side with the ‘English Office’ were departments that dealt with government business in the vernacular, especially in the field of land and land revenue records, which were so important for extracting the colonial tribute.

These were to be found in the offices of the tehsildars and district ganungos along with the revenue employees in the field, the patwaris and circle ganungos. At provincial and central headquarters the secretariats expanded to a size that was unknown before. Large numbers of new government employees found a place in the expanding network of railways, public works departments, the irrigation departments and the multitude of new offices that were spawned by the expanding colonial regime. Armies of clerks multiplied. In a predominantly agrarian economy without much industry the government was the largest provider of jobs. ‘Right from the late nineteenth century Indian politics .were geared to the question of quotas in government jobs and promotion – to begin with a demand for ‘Indianisation’ and later with the ethnic shares of the available jobs and career opportunities.

As the nineteenth century advanced a new policy of ‘Anglo-Vernacular Education’ began to take shape. It was a policy that got its definitive stamp-under the ‘Committee ‘of Public Instruction’ presided over by Thomas Babington Macaulay. His celebrated Minute on Educational Policy, of 2 February 1835, is the classical starting point of accounts of the new colonial education policy in india. Generations of scholars have found the following. quotation from Macaulay’s Minute quite irresistible – though we must not allow ourselves ta be misled too much by its rhetoric. Macaulay wrote: “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern – a class of persons Indian in blood and color but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”. The velvet rhetoric of this quotation is misleading. The British were not interested in the tastes or the morals of Indians whom they set out to educate, much fess in their intellect. That is just the decorative padding of Macaulay’s Victorian prose around the central point that was at issue. The key to the new education policy lay in the desire of the colonial government to create a class of people who were to act as intermediaries or links between the align government and the common people of India. The English burra sahibs, who no longer operated in Persian, needed a large army of English educated clerks. That was what the new Anglo-vernacular educational policy was all about.

Parallel with ‘educating’ large numbers of English speaking clerks and training a few persons from a privileged and ‘loyal’ background to join the White ruling elite, there was also a need for creating a new class of Indian professionals specialists who were to draw on English education and ‘know-how’. There was to be specialized training for doctors who would practice modern medicine and engineers who were needed in. the fields of transport and irrigation. Medical and Engineering colleges were set up. But the numbers involved in this were relatively very small. The specialist needs of professional training on a relatively small scale did not create a significant base for scientific and technical education.

There was one more profession which however was different. That was the legal profession. As the colonial economy took shape and colonial commerce expanded the old indigenous judicial system was no longer adequate for ‘modern’ needs. In the early days of colonial rule, the legal system had not been materially altered. Where parties in litigation were represented by vakils, the regulations prescribed no definite qualifications for them, no precise mode of proceedings, no rules of evidence. All that was to change. The creation of a new legal system on modern lines was set in motion with the setting up of Supreme Courts at the Presidency towns. The legal practice became increasingly professionalized, the more so with the growing complexity in the scope and size of statute law and regulations and rules of judicial procedure. The Charter Act of 1833 provided for the setting up of a law commission “to ascertain and codify” the laws of India. The new judicial system was based on statute law that was expressed in English. There emerged a new profession of English educated lawyers. It expanded rapidly and was to involve large numbers.

Today the field of legal studies is an overgrown branch of our – educational system. In its size it is wholly out of proportion to our needs. It is overgrown because it is cheap and, given the way in which it is taught, intellectually as undemanding as the education of clerks. Anyone who goes to district Butchery in Pakistan will realize that there are far too many lawyers around, few of whom can hope to earn a decent living from the profession itself. Few of them are educated well, Given the fact that language is the main instrument of the law, one wonders how some of them manage their professional work, for their knowledge of English is poor. Perhaps common-sense greased by bribery makes up for lack of proficiency in the law. There seems to be a good case for limiting their numbers and raising standards for those who do go in for law.

There is a two-tier system in the legal profession also as it is in other spheres of our life. Here too we see a sharp contrast between hacks at the lower end of the profession and brilliant minds at the upper end, both amongst the judiciary and among practicing lawyers. In this sphere, as in others, we remain a class divided society where sound knowledge is the property of the privileged and ignorance is shared out among those from more modest backgrounds.

The primary objective of the colonial education policy (which we continue today) was to produce clerks, the class of tower level class of penpushers who were needed to do the hack-work in government offices. Government was the largest provider of jobs for the ‘educated’, The term ‘educated’ was to have a special meaning for it referred not to those who had acquired substantive knowledge but to those who had received no more than just formal ‘education’ and obtained the relevant diplomas certifying that they had passed examinations for the requisite degrees. Demand for ‘education’ was, and it still is, driven not by a desire to acquire knowledge but by the need to acquire ‘qualifications’ or labels that qualifies people for government jobs.It is the label that matters, not the actual education content of the course of studies. The degree, the paper qualification, are passports to jobs. Our educational system has thus become geared to the production of half-educated sanad bearers, whose diplomas as B. As or M. As or M. Sc.s are intrinsically worthless but have value as ‘qualifications’ when they apply for jobs. In the absence of a diversified industrial economy, Pakistan is among the more backward societies in the world today in which the government still remains the major employer. Dependence on government jobs is a measure of our backwardness.

Access to government jobs is, therefore, the prime objective of a very large and influential section of our population, the white collar jobs seeking section of the educated urban middle class. | have labeled this class the salaries. The term “middle class” is too wide, for that includes various groups of self-employed people whose interests are different from those of the salariat. Likewise, the term ‘petite bourgeoisie’ also has wider connotations. Hence the need for a new more precise term to refer to this class.

The raison d’etre of the salariat is to get salaried government jobs. Students are also included in the term the salariat for they are in the stage of preparing themselves to get such jobs. They belong structurally and ideologically to the salariat. Indeed students are the most militant vanguard of the salariat. This social class is salient particularly in colonized societies with a predominantly agrarian production base, in which the urban society is dominated by seekers after government jobs.

Given the relative scarcity of government jobs, the salariat tends to fracture along ethnic lines, in the drive of different sections of it get better access to the jobs. They fight for ethnic quotas in the allocation of jobs. Where members of an ethnic group are ‘better educated’ than their rivals, ie. where the group has relatively more sanad-bearing members, they will fight for allocation.of jobs by‘merit’ as against ‘quotas’. But if a quota system is in being, they will fight for a large quota for their own group. They will fight rival ethnic groups also for a larger share of places in institutions of higher education which dispense the diplomas that qualify them for jobs.

Students are the militant arm of the different sections of the salariat. good They education. know that politics of quotas has more to offer them than the substance of They are therefore not interested in the quality of education that they receive. They are only interested in the grades that they will be given. They prefer the gun to the pen. In the unfolding of the dialectics of our government-job dominated society and the diploma disease, true pursuit of education has no Place. The safariat dominates political debate in Pakistan though not state power. The unique role of the salariat is special to colonized societies with a predominately agrarian production base namely countries such as Pakistan.

Politics of the safariat and the narrow outlook and aims of our students has put its indelible stamp on our educational system as well as on our ethnic Politics. The students go to colleges and universities, but not to get an education. What they want is ‘degrees’ mere paper qualifications. They have little positive make interest in education as such. Than can produce angry reactions for fear that will examinations more difficult. All that they want are encapsulated notes that can be memorized at examination time

It is a miracle that our universities do manage, despite all odds to the contrary, to keep a few brilliant teachers and also, thanks to them, to produce a few brilliant students too. For reasons that | do not understand it seems our women perform better in acquiring a good education than men. Anyhow, all credit to such young men and women and their teachers. But, alas, there are far too few of them. On the whole the scene is pitiful. We cannot begin to tackle the Problem of education in Pakistan without first treating the diploma disease and changing the purposes for which education is sought.

In the long run the answeres in building a technologically advanced competence. and thriving industrial economy in which jobs would be available according to No businessman would wish to employ half-educated persons no industrialization matter what degrees they claim to have. But high technology based cannot come into existence without the prior availability of a pool of scientifically trained ‘manpower (both men ‘and women). No one is likely to abundance invest in high technology industries in a country where there is not already an of well qualified, scientifically trained personnel. As we stand today Pakistan does not offer an attractive base for such high technology operations. for The the only way to break through this barrier to a Prosperous future for all would be state to invest in an ambitious programme of scientific and technological education.

We are falling behind in today’s world with alarming rapidity. If we wish forward in the modern world we cannot avoid heavy investment in science and technology-based education at various levels. This is an expensive option. Schools, as well as colleges and universities, will need well-equipped laboratories and workshops. This will also call for investment in scientifically trained teaching technology Staff. If on the basis of what we manage to attract investment is science and based industries, there will be much less incentive for our highly educated and well-trained people who want to go abroad. We can see this from the experience of Southeast Asian and Pacific Rim countries which are forging can ahead learn in the field of high technology industries. There are a few lessons. that we from them. India too has done well in this respect by restricting its Concentrating military expenditure in the critical early years after independence {until 1960) and development its available resources instead on an ambitious programme of we initiated of an industrial base by building heavy industries, a programme that by its Second Five Year. Plan. That policy is now paying them dividends. {t is quite remarkable how some of the best brains from India, who have international standing, prefer to serve in their own country. That is not only because they are more patriotic. They also get more back-up than academics in Pakistan to do and they are better valued and get a lot more respect than we do in our society of bureaucratic and feudal values. They are proud and happy to serve their country. Why can we not also provide sufficient incentives to keep our best brains at home?

Educational development, therefore, should not mean for us a simple multiplication of schools, colleges, and universities on their present lines. Merely replicating such educational institutions will fail to solve anything. Providing more of the same will actually be counter-productive. That will merely pour out even larger numbers of badly educated and unemployable graduates for whom the country has little use and for whom there can be no jobs. That can only result in large scale educated unemployment which in turn will result in greater frustration and even more violent ethnic strife.

if we forego the option of heavy investment in science and technology-based education, we will not safe resources. Money that is not spent on that will, inevitably, be swallowed up by larger expenditures on police and military operations that will be needed to contain civic strife. Equally we must take account, in that equation, the loss of the benefits that will accrue from the training of a large body of scientifically and technologically trained ‘man-power (men and women) that can attract and support investment in high technology-based education in Pakistan, for it is such education that holds out a promise of future prosperity of our nation.

Virtually the same arguments apply in rural education. Traditionally the kind of education that has been on offer has provided young people in rural areas with the means to get out of the village to take up an urban job. In central and southern Punjab and in Sindh there was hostility towards such education because of the fear that educated sons would be lost to the family. Of course one must add to this the role of big feudal lords in backward areas and their hostility towards the education of peasants. But that was not the sole cause of low levels of education in those regions.

The picture has been very different in the Potohar area. There the vast majority of farm holdings are too small to provide a livelihood for the family. Therefore, traditionally, there has been an incentive to educate children. Education has been ‘functional’ for the family economy by facilitating the migration of sons and daughters to outside jobs. They are then able to send some money home to subsidize the bankrupt farm economy. Past census figures have shown a higher level of education in the poor and technologically backward region of the Potoharthan in the far richer central and southern Punjab, where agriculture is technologically far more advanced since the “Green Revolution” that got underway in the sixties and the seventies.

A change in attitudes towards education was already noticeable in central and southern Punjab. The education that is provided by schools and colleges, which is designed to produce more members of the salariat was of no use to them and they said so. They did not want to tose sons who would migrate to towns. But there was another kind of education which they were then just beginning to ask for. The Green Revolution and farm mechanization had just got underway. They wanted knowledge that would tell them how to cope with the new technology. They wanted to know how to maintain and repair their new farm machinery including tractors. The ordinary kind of education, even an ordinary science degree, was quite useless for that. They needed something different. They wanted technological education that would help them cope with the new scientific inputs in agriculture. So in the rural areas too there is a case for revolutionizing education and to move towards science and technology-based training.

Science based education should help us, to prepare the ground to build a new industrial base. It should also help our people to snap out of their primitive superstitious beliefs and supernaturalism that is so characteristic of our ideological make up. We might learn to look at the world with scientific and rational minds, in new and more meaningful ways. Standing as we are on the 15th century Catholic Fundamentalism and the Spanish Inquisition that persecuted Muslims and Jews and rational scientific minds. Our own zealots, the mullahs, are not far behind their record. The Spanish Inquisition sought to stamp out the new learning that was brought to Europe by Muslims and Jewish scholars by way of Andalusia. These scholars were the main targets of the bigots who feared the light of reason. But even the extreme brutality of the Spanish inquisition could not stop the new learning from spreading across Europe, ending its ‘Dark Ages’ and giving birth to the European ‘Renaissance and the centuries of progress that followed that. We too need a renaissance to liberate ourselves from our own homegrown brand of bigotry, and our own brand of Inquisition. One would hope that the expansion of science and technology based education would contribute to the inauguration of such a new era of enlightenment for us.

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Islam’s Potential for Development Article

The Islamic approach to development is to reconcile moral and religious values with economic advancement. The growing importance of Islam insistently demands a greater degree of understanding of this faith on the part of the West.

Islam is ascendant in Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia (where the only contest is its relative purity), and Sudan and has sole legitimacy as a political actor in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Even in Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, and Tunisia, where its legitimacy is contested, most observers would concede either the inevitability of its dominance or its eventual great importance.

The increasing political and economic importance of the Islamic nonMiddle Eastern states of Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia is part of this process. In short, in areas of the world where the United States and the West have enormous strategic interests – in energy supplies, trade, and the security of Israel – Islam is in the forefront. It is also important to stress that Islam’s most distinctive feature at present is its modernist character, not the alleged reactionary nature so often cited in the Western press and sometimes in American policy circles. In this respect, just as the religion is emerging politically it is also undergoing profound internal self-examination as it adjusts to modern political and development challenges.

Until the 1990s, the West either ignored Islam or, on the basis of long-established historical animosity and prejudicial stereotypes, opposed it. In U.S. policy and intellectual circles, a residue of this sentiment remains. Islam must be examined without preconceptions and understood as an expression of each country’s political circumstances.

In general, Westerners believe that the Islamic world is intrinsically unable to modernize or develop economically. This view overlooks the economic achievements of Turkey or, more dramatically, of Malaysia and Indonesia, whose economic growth rates are among the highest in the world.

There is indeed a particular Islamic approach to development, one that strives to reconcile moral and religious values and economic advancement, Despite similarities to the successful Asian tigers, Middle Eastern states have far weaker economies. It may well be the case, however, that Islam’s ascendancy will provide new leadership and a moral vision that will stimulate development.

The relationship between Islam and the West has been compared to that of the West and the eastern bloc during the Cold War, in Islam’s case, from the eighth century, continuing with the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, on to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the siege of Vienna in 1566, the relationship was politically polarized. Behind this polarization was an ideological rivalry. Islam recognized the legitimacy of the prophets of Judaism and Christianity and of its fellow monotheistic religions, but Christianity found it difficult to concede equal recognition. This religious difference was accompanied by the alternating political strengths of the two faiths.

When Europe was at its ebb, from the eighth to the tenth centuries, Islam was politically robust and culturally brilliant. This period was followed by European expansion, with the Crusades from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, and, in turn, the Ottoman Turkish expansion into central Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. European ascendancy became clearest in the nineteenth century, with the advent of European colonialism in Algeria in 1830. After centuries of interaction, Christian and Muslim attitudes became deeply embedded.

The intellectual development of the modern Arab world has been one of accommodation to Western culture, Arab nationalism, and, presently, the Islamic revival. This revival occurred on the heels of Israel’s military defeat of the Arabs in 1967. From a secular point of view, the defeat signified the political exhaustion and humiliation of the Arab leadership.

More important, however, traditional Muslims attributed a disaster of this scale to the displeasure of Allah (i.e., they had been religiously derelict). The response has been an increase in religiosity throughout the Middle East and the entire Muslim world. For Egyptians, this interpretation was confirmed when on October 6, 1973, a revitalized army ousted Israelis from defensive positions on the Suez Canal, while Muslim soldiers and officers saw “angels” dancing on the Bar Lev line.

The Islamic revival also had political ramifications, which have manifested themselves in two distinct ways. The first and most common is the majoritarian way in the political mainstream, in cases where the political center has been willing to compromise and accommodate to populist religious sentiment (e.g., in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and, until recently, Turkey, as well as Morocco and Yemen). In these countries, Islam has worked within the existing system. In effect, it has legitimized the political status quo, even while it worked to re-Islamize society by controlling social services, such as health, welfare, adult literacy, and so forth.

Majoritarian-reformed Islam has also come to the fore in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, but in these cases the political centre has chosen repression rather than accommodation. Moreover, in Algeria and Egypt, majoritarian-reformed Islam has spawned splinter groups of a violent nature, and these groups have monopolized newspaper headlines worldwide.

Modern science originated in the West in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the Industrial Revolution was propelled by the technological offshoots of that scientific progress. Science and technology are now “being done” in Asia as well as in Europe and North America. As the phenomenon globalizes, it is beginning to lose its original cultural roots. More precisely, these roots are undergoing a dialectal change as different cultures meet and meld.

In the Muslim world, this has meant that while the benefits of science are embraced, an effort is being made to found science in religious belief. Such diverse personages as Mawdudi of Pakistan, Sayyid Qutb of Egypt, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali al-Shariati of Iran, and Hasan al-Turabi of Sudan have embraced the progressivism of science.

The results of development are thought to be evident: Economic, political, and social improvement either occurs or it does not. This is true, of course, but the underlying principles of development are susceptible to an alternative formulation and, as a result, the objectives of development can be changed.

The Western concept of development originated in the Enlightenment, with its liberal assumptions of individualism, secularism, equality, and materialism. Development is thought to occur when individuals seek to maximize their own self-interests in a society in which religious values are personal and private. Egalitarianism is believed to be the norm, and development is thought to happen when political equality is accompanied by a just, economic inequality based on market competition.

The Islamic approach to development begins with different assumptions but still embraces capitalism. In some cases, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, very high economic growth rates are achieved. The Muslim begins by establishing that spiritual advancement is the first priority (“God does not change the condition of a people until they change their own inner selves,” Qur’an, sura Only when spiritual matters are attended to first will God reward one with material advancement. The Muslim therefore begins with the concept of the oneness of God (tauhid) and of the community of believers (umma), the members of which have a responsibility for one another. The good side of man (taskiyah) should be cultivated, which creates self-discipline against evil. This creates his well-being, or falan. The individual Muslim is seen as benefiting spiritually in terms of increasing piety and rectitude, which are viewed as the antecedents of development. In referring to the Qur’an, Qutb notes that “while the earth is subservient to you,” a balance must be sought between individual gain and the welfare of society. The specific provision of the latter is the religious mandate of zakat, or almsgiving.

The concept of tauhid also is associated with political ideals. It suggests the organic solidarity of society or its corporatism (takafaliya). Individuals are related to the organic whole by the concept of khilafah, or the vicegerency of the individual as the expression of God on earth, constituting the brotherhood of man in the sharing of this vicegerency. Therefore, man is the custodian, or amin, of God’s resources, meaning, in developmental terms, economic resources.

As a result, individuals may acquire wealth in a capitalist fashion but only with the understanding that such wealth does not belong to them but to God. Justice (adalah) requires that conditions be placed on the acquisition of wealth because the individual has a commitment to the elimination of zulm, or inequity. Related to the idea of individual responsibility and dependence upon God is the injunction against usury (riba).

The system of Islamic banking reflects these principles, Bank deposits are directly invested in business ventures on a risk basis, and the periodic is not predetermined but rather reflects business performance (i.e., it reflects losses and gains). In summary, Islam creates a conservative political culture that (1) sets moral and ethical developmental goals; (2) uses the past as a guide to the future; and (3) subordinates the individual to the requirements of the group and community.

The corporatist nature of religious belief and society is also reflected in political development. A strong state is assumed, which at a minimum is expected to maintain order to permit the maintenance of religious practices and collection of taxes, Society itself is modeled on the ideal of the solidarity of the patriarchal family. The expectation is that decisions will be made top down. While this appears to be quintessential authoritarianism, the reality is more complex.

Islamic corporatist society is one whose ideal of solidarity is maintained by the value of consensus (imaa). Individuals should seek to subordinate themselves to the opinions of others by a process of shura, or consultation. Factiousness (hizbiyya) is to be avoided. The practical effect is that informal consultation takes place constantly, and when an election takes place, it is neither a matter of “one man, one vote” nor necessarily of alternative choices. Instead, it is more likely to be a case of one group, one collective vote” and the expression of affirmation rather than of conflictual choice. Therefore, Islamic “shuracratic” democracy stands in sharp contrast to the conflictual pluralism of the democratic principles of the Enlightenment.

The question has been asked at the World Bank, “Why not the Middle East?” In the 1960s the Middle East and East Asia had similar per capita income figures, but today figures for East Asia are 10 or more times those for the Middle East. Further concrete evidence is that East Asia has gross domestic product growth rates of 9.2 per cent (World Bank Annual Report, 1996), the highest such rates in the world. These contrast with a rate of approximately 4 per cent or the Middle East and North Africa. The question is particularly interesting because the Asian tigers (for example, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, and Malaysia) are also societies that emphasize cultural and religious values and possess organic, corporatistic societies and strong states.

If the label of corporatism is applied to both groupings of states, what might explain East Asia’s developmental success? Perhaps the most noteworthy difference is that Asian leaders employ the conservative values of their cultures to construct a developmental vision. This vision emphasizes not only the moral values of cooperation and mutual responsibility but also economic improvement.

In addition, the Asians call for self-sacrifice on the part of their workers, based on the principle of mutual responsibility:

The workers will lift productivity to new heights and achieve enviable savings rates in exchange for assured employment and provision for their basic needs. The value of social equity underlies the system. Asian corporatism is mobilizational corporatism. Middle Eastern corporatism is unmobilized.

The Middle Eastern state, prior to the current rise of Islamism, has been one whose leadership has divided its attention between the unresolved conflict with Israel and its own for moral and productive purposes, it has repressed and exploited them. The Middle Eastern corporatist state represents the political and economic status quo.

In addition, it has failed to construct the efficient, Asian-style civil service that makes it possible for the state to plan industrially and work cooperatively with large-scale private industry. Also, the Asian state uses 20 percent of its government expenditures on education, compared to about half that in the Middle East ( World Bank Development Report, 1995). As a result, the Asian worker quickly adapts to new technology, and Asian engineers are able to put their own innovative stamp on modernization and development.

Islam’s progress is so dramatically important that it compels close examination of this religion of one billion adherents. Until now, the Middle East has had at best a tepid record of economic development. The corporatist similarities of the countries of Asia and the Middle East are as striking as their dissimilarities in economic performance. What appears to be missing in the Middle East is the moral vision that is culturally present in the Confucian and Islamic societies of Asia. Nevertheless, the ascendancy of Islam in the Middle East suggests the possibility of a renewed cultural and developmental beginning.

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Life After Death in Islam Article

The question of whether there is a life after death does not fall under the jurisdiction of science, as science is concerned only with classification and analysis of data. Moreover, man has been busy with scientific inquiries and research, in the modern sense of the term, only for the last few centuries while he has been familiar with the concept jurisdictions death since times immemorial All the prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless The very fact that all the prophets of God have dealt with this metaphysical question of life after death so confidently and so uniformly – the gap between their ages being thousands of years – goes to prove that the source of their knowledge of life after death as proclaimed by them all, was the same ie Divine revelation. We also know that these prophets of God were greatly opposed by their people, mainly on the issue of life after death as their people thought it impossible. But in spite of opposition, the prophets won many sincere followers.

The question arises: what made those followers forsake the established beliefs, traditions and customs of their forefathers, notwithstanding the risk of being totally alienated from their own community? The simple answer is: they made use of their faculties of mind and heart and realized the truth. Did they realize the truth through perceptual consciousness? Not so, as perceptual experience of life after death is impossible.

Actually, God has given a man, besides perceptual consciousness, rational, aesthetic and moral consciousness too. It is this consciousness that guides man regarding realities that cannot be verified through sensory data. That is why all the prophets of God while calling people to believe in God and life after death, appeal to the aesthetic, moral and rational consciousness of man. For example, when the idolaters of Makkah denied even the possibility of life after death, the Qur’an exposed the weakness of their stand by advancing very logical and rational arguments in support of it.

“And he has coined for us a similitude, and has forgotten the fact of his creation, saying: who will revive these bones when they have rotted away? Say: He will revive them Who produced them at first, for He is the Knower of every creation, Who has appointed for you fire from the green tree, and behold! you kindle from it is not He Who created the heavens and the earth, able to create the like of them? Yes, and He is indeed the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing.” (36:78-81)

At another occasion, the Qur’an very clearly says that the disbelievers have no sound basis for their denial of life after death. It is based on pure conjecture:

“They say, ‘There is nothing but our present life; we die, and we live, and nothing but Time destroys us.’ Of that they have no knowledge; they merely conjecture. And when our revelations are recited to them, their only argument is that they say, ‘Bring us our fathers, if you speak truly.’ (45:24-25)

Surely God will raise all the dead. But God has His own plan of things. A day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and then again the dead will be resurrected to stand before God. That day will be the beginning of the life that will never end, and that Day every person will be rewarded by God according to his or her good or evil deed.

The explanation that the Qur’an gives about the necessity of life after death is what the moral consciousness of man demands. Actually, if there is no life after death, the very belief in God becomes irrelevant, or even if one believes in God, that would be an unjust and indifferent God: having once created man and not concerned with his fate. Surely, God is just. He will punish the tyrants whose crimes are beyond count: having killed hundreds of innocent persons, created great corruptions in the society, enslaved numerous persons to serve their whims, etc. Man’s having a very short span of life in this world, and this physical world’s too being not eternal, punishments or rewards equal to the evil or noble deeds of persons are not possible here. The Qur’an very emphatically states that the Day of Judgment must come and God will decide about the fate of each soul according to his or her record of deeds.

“Those who disbelieve say: The Hour will never come unto us. Say, Nay, by my Lord, but it is coming unto you surely. (He is) the Knower of the Unseen. Not an atom’s weight, or less than that or greater, escapes Him in the heavens or in the earth, but it is in a clear Record. That He may reward those who believe and do good words. For them is pardon and a rich provision. But those who strive against our revelations, challenging (Us), theirs will be a painful doom of wrath.” (34:3-5)

The Day of Resurrection will be the Day when God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy will be in full manifestation. God will shower His Mercy on those who suffered for His sake in the worldly life, believing that an eternal bliss was awaiting them. But those who abused the bounties of God, caring nothing for the life to come, will be in the most miserable state. Drawing a comparison between them, the Qur’an says:

“Is he, then, to whom We have promised a goodly promise the fulfillment of which he will meet, like the one whom We have provided with the good things of this life, and then on the Day of Resurrection he will be of those who will be brought arraigned before God?” (28:61)

The Qur’an also states that this worldly life is a preparation for eternal life after death. But those who deny it become slaves of their passions and desires, make fun of virtuous and God-conscious persons. Such persons realize their folly only at the time of their death and wish to be given a further chance in the world but in vain. Their miserable state at the time of death, and the horror of the Day of Judgment, and the eternal bliss guaranteed to the sincere believers are very beautifully mentioned in the following verses of the Holy Qur’an:

“Until, when death comes unto one of them, he says, ‘My Lord send me back, that I may do right in that which I have left behind! But nay! It is but a word that he speaks; and behind them is a barrier until the day when they are raised. And when the Trumpet is blown there will be no kinship among them that day, nor will they ask of one another. Then those whose scales are heavy, they are successful. And those whose scales are light are those who lose their souls, in hell abiding, the fire burns their faces and they are glum therein.” (23:99-104)

The belief in life after death not only guarantees success in the Hereafter but also makes this world full of peace and happiness by making individuals most responsible and dutiful in their activities.

Think of the people of Arabia. Gambling, wine, tribal feuds, plundering, and murdering were their main traits when they had no belief in life after death But as soon as they accepted the belief in One God and life after death they became the most disciplined nation of the world. They gave up their vices. helped each other in hours of need, and settled all their disputes on the basis of justice and equality. Similarly, the denial of life after death has its consequences not only in the Hereafter but also in this world. When a nation as a whole denies it, all kinds of evils and corruptions become rampant in that society and ultimately it is destroyed. The Qur’an mentions the terrible end of ‘Aad, Thamud and the Pharaoh in some detail.

The tribes of Thamud and Aad disbelieved in the judgment to come. As for Thamud, they were destroyed by the lightning, and as for Aad, they were destroyed by a fierce roaring wind, which He imposed on them for seven long nights and eight long days so that you might see the people laid prostrate in it as if they were the stumps of fallen down palm trees.

Now do you see a remnant of them? Pharaoh likewise and those before him and the subverted cities. They committed errors and those before him, and they rebelled against the Messenger of their Lord, and He seized them with a surpassing grip. Lo, when the waters rose, We bore you in the running ship that We might make it a reminder for you and for heeding ears to hold. So when the Trumpet is blown with a single blast and the earth and the mountains are lifted up and crushed with a single blow, then on that day, the Terror shall come to pass, and the heaven shall be split for upon that day it will be very frail. Then as for him who is given his book in his right hand, he shall say, ‘Here take and read my book! Certainly, I thought I should encounter my reckoning.’ So he shall be in a pleasing life in a lofty garden, its clusters nigh to gather.

Eat and drink with wholesome appetite for that you did long ago, in the days gone by.

 “But as for him who is given his book in his left hand, he shall say: ‘Would that I had not been given my book and not known my reckoning! Would that it had been the end! My wealth has not availed me, my authority is gone from me.'” (69:4-29)

Thus, there are very convincing reasons to believe in life after death. First, all the prophets of God have called their people to believe in it. Secondly, whenever a human society is built on the basis of this belief, it has been the most ideal and peaceful society, free of social and moral evils.

Thirdly, history bears witness that whenever this belief is rejected collectively by a group of people in spite of the repeated warning of the Prophet, the group as a whole has been punished by God even in this world.

Fourthly, moral, aesthetic and rational faculties of man endorse the possibility of life after death. Fifthly, God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy have no meaning if there is no life after death.

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Blasphemy Vs Freedom of Speech

It is well-known that for centuries, the Anglo-European colonial powers have carried out an ongoing crusade in an attempt to dominate the resource-rich lands of the Muslim countries.” One front in this offensive, now spearheaded by the United States and the Zionist regime, is the denigration of Islam, the Holy Quran, our Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Muslims in general through the intentional dissemination of lies, slurs, misinformation and other propaganda. This campaign, which naturally has led to widespread anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, is fiercely denied by the Washington regime.”

Adding to a long list of rapes of the dignity, life and the rights of humanity by the Euro-American-Zionist bloc is the recent offensive, anti-Islamic U.S.-made propaganda film “The Innocence of Muslims”. Offending not only the Holy Prophet (S), Islam and Muslims but also casting doubts upon the Divine revelation of the Holy Quran, this crude film is the latest attempt by the enemies of Islam to discredit, demean and disgrace the True Religion of Allah.

Here is a partial list of some insulting anti-Islamic acts in Euro-American countries, all of which the West staunchly defends under the ruse of “freedom of expression”:

  • 2012 – The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo publishes cartoons that insult Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
  • 2012 – The September 24th issue of Newsweek features a photo of a crazed, rage-filled turban-bedecked protestor who “represents the mainstream of Islam”;
  • 2011 and 2012 – “Reverend” Terry Jones burned copies of the Holy Quran in Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A.;
  • 2008 – Fitna, a film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders charged that the Quran teaches hate, and Islam encourages acts of terrorism, anti-Semitism and violence against women;
  • 2007 – Swedish artist Lars Vilks participated in an art exhibition themed “The Dog in Art” with a derogatory depiction of the Prophet(S);
  • 2006 – German activist Manfred van H. received one year of probation for mailing toilet paper stamped with “The Holy Quran” to mosques and the media;
  • 2005- Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed twelve derogatory cartoons of the Prophet (S);
  • 2005- The Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet reported celebrity preacher Runar Søgaard’s lewd comments about the marriage of the Prophet (PBUH);
  • 2004 – Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali created the 10minute film “Submission” about violence against women in Islamic societies;
  • 2002 – Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Doug Marlette published a drawing showing Prophet (PBUH) driving a truck equipped with a weapon; “
  • 2001 – Time Magazine printed an offensive illustration insulting both the Prophet (PBUH) and the Archangel Gabriel; and,
  • 1996 – Three radio disc jockeys entered a Denver, Colorado U.S.A. mosque disrupting morning prayers with a live broadcast.”

A reflection of the moral cesspool from which it emerged, the 14-minute promo for the movie posted on You-Tube July 2, 2012 is filled with vicious and slanderous insults to Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) ranging from affronts to his (PBUH) noble ancestry to accusations of violent behavior. The clip suggests that the Holy Qur’an, instead of being a revelation from Allah, is a mixture of subversions from the Jewish Torah and the Christian New Testament.

Demonstrations condemning the film have taken place in a large number of countries throughout the Middle East and around the world including the UK, Belgium, France, and Australia. Conspicuously absent from the list is the United States. Washington makes decisions on protests and demonstrations. based on a simple criterion: Does the demonstration in question advance U.S. geopolitical goals and interests or not? If the answer is in the affirmative, then the demonstrators are fully defended by the Washington -regime and lauded for expressing their views, and if not, the demonstrators are condemned as a “mob”. “thugs” or “religious fanatics”.

An outpouring of Muslim frustration and anger, accumulated after many years of injustice and oppression by the West, and triggered by this vile film, has regrettably turned some protests – violent. According to most media outlets, demonstrators incited to violence by Islamic extremists attacked U.S. Embassies.. in several countries, resulting in at least 50 deaths. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three staffers were killed in Benghazi on September 11 and three others at the American Embassy in Tunis were killed September-14. However, other sources indicate that the attack on the American Embassy in · Benghazi may have been in revenge for the June death of Libyan Al-Qaeda. leader Abu Yahya al-Libi, since Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri had called for such an attack. Stevens was Washington’s envoy to the Libyan rebels in 2011 to “support a democratic transition”, that is, to oversee a regime change.

The Wall Street Journal, which must be viewed with the same skepticism as was Pravda at the height of power of the former reported that the film was produced by an Israeli-American named Sam Bacile. A real estate developer and Islamophobe, Bacile called Islam “a cancer” during a phone interview and claimed to have raised $5 million from Jewish donors to make the film. Knowledgeable cinematic sources question the $5 million figure, saying the amateurish film appears to be a low-budget production.

Countering the Wall Street Journal account is a CNN report stating that Israel denies Sam Bacile is a citizen, and may even be a non-existent person. Likewise, Klein stated that Sam Bacile was the producer’s pseudonym and he did not know the producer’s real name, Corroborating his statement are documents filed with the Screen Actors’ Guild that show the producer’s name as Abenob Nakoula Bassely, a Coptic Christian. In fact, it was Egyptian-American Coptic Christian Morris Sadek who first drew attention to the film in a post on an Arabic language blog. Mr. Sadek, who is also an anti-Islamic activist, sent a link to the 14-minute trailer in an email to journalists around the world promoting an September 11 event organized by “Reverend” Jones.

Determining who is really behind the film has proven difficult, since its permit, which contains this information, has been pulled from public examination by the FBI apparently at the request of the U.S. State Department due to national security concerns. This, along with the Wall Street Journal report, the CNN rebuttal, denials by Israel and the call by General Dempsey to Jones suggests possible involvement of the U.S. Government and collusion with the Zionist regime in the production of the inflammatory anti-Islamic flick. One commenter writes, With Russia openly accusing the West of using Al-Qaeda as their direct, militant proxies in Syria and beyond, this latest attempt to purposefully provoke and incite Muslims across the Arab World is an attempt by the West to reestablish the perception that the U.S. and Israel are at war with sectarian extremists, not partnered with them.”

Regardless who from among the Euro-American crusader powers is behind the film, we Muslims have every right to be enraged over such a blasphemous affront to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (S), and have a duty to decry this evil. Fortunately, Egypt has boldly taken the lead by issuing warrants for the arrest of Pastor Jones, Morris Sadek and six others allegedly involved in this plot on charges of defaming Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Dual Standards of western nations is nothing new or unknown to the world. It is a fact that how differently and strictly they deal with situations that harm their own’ beliefs but they will show utter disrespect for situations that hampers Muslim beliefs.

Under the umbrella of “Freedom of Speech and Press”, the west will allow any kind of content regardless of how disrespectful it is for Muslims or how much hatred and unrest that content could cause in Muslim world. But the content (can be video, drawing or images) will not be removed because doing so will curb their “Freedom of Speech”, for which west is so proud of.

But, same “West” will get so seriously involved and provoked if topless pictures of their princess are published somewhere because such acts are considered shocking, disrespectful, crossing the line, absolutely shameless and particularly indecent to the Royal Family. Same west will in fact take such a publisher to court in the respect of their monarchy to get the publisher fined and possibly the imprisonment too for the disgrace that he/she has caused for their Royal Family. And by the way, all this will never come under “Freedom of Speech and Press”.

Just to clarify, before we move forward, we are not advocating the publication of pictures. But rather we wanted to make a point that publication of such pictures is being challenged legally, despite all the slogans of “Freedom of Speech and Press” that are chanted by the west.

Talking specifically about the movie, which mocks islam and Holy Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H). YouTube said that this video in question doesn’t violate its community guidelines and will not be removed from the website, despite the fact that White House had itself to request the Google, the parent company of YouTube, to reconsider whether the video had violated YouTube’s terms of service or not.

Just to add, YouTube’s Terms of Services or community guidelines, under which the website operates, are available on the web. We will pull a section from these guidelines for your review here: We don’t permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity). YouTube community guidelines further explain the term “Hate Speech” as following:

“Hate speech” refers to content that promotes hatred against members of a protected group. For instance, racist or sexist content may be considered hate speech. Sometimes there is a fine line between what is and what is not considered hate speech. For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation, but not okay to make insulting generalizations about people of a particular nationality.

So apparently, as it seems, over two dozen deaths and millions of Muslims protesting over the video clip is not considered as a “Hate Speech” and YouTube (or Google) isn’t really convinced that video is spreading hatred amongst the humanity.

However, the same company, i.e. YouTube, removed a series of 10 animated movies just earlier this year which it thought came under “Hate Speech” and guess what, these animated videos were about Holocaust Denial.

There are countless other examples available when YouTube removed video clips because it were hurting their own beliefs, despite they allow “Freedom of Speech”, meaning that anyone could say, draw or paint anything.

Just to add here, there are laws for Holocaust Denial in at least 20 countries (including Israel) where you could be charged for denying Holocaust. Even in United States, local state laws can be used to prosecute blasphemy and Holocaust Denial.

So anything against Holocaust will come under “Hate Speech”, or anything against the Royal Family will be rated as indecent but anything against Muslims will come under “Freedom of Speech and Press”.

What kind of a world we are living in, I leave it to you to decide. The argument put forward by the liberal-secularist is that freedom of speech necessarily includes the right to offend Islam and that Muslims should be mature enough to accept these insults.

The Muslim argues it is well understood that freedom of speech is not absolute and that exceptions are routinely made in the case of blasphemy. Why then do these exceptions not apply to Islam and its prophet?

The right to freedom of expression has been articulated both in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, it is well understood that this concept is not absolute.

The covenant states that restrictions are imposed. in “respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “for the protection of national security or of public order”. Even within the United States, the most liberal in terms of freedom of expression due to the First Amendment of its constitution, defamation and censorship laws do exist.

In other words, there is a fine balance between the freedom of speech and the freedom to offend. Freedom of speech is curtailed if it dishonors unjustifiably or if it can cause harm to the wider public. The Muslim would argue that the West often fails to reach a just balance when dealing with Islamic issues.

There are many examples that highlight this inconsistency. The most obvious are the rights afforded by Western societies to those who deny the Holocaust.

Holocaust deniers, putting aside one’s personal revulsion at those who seek to cast doubt on this historic tragedy, are not given the right to express their opinion across 17 European nations where such activities are considered a crime.

The EU further advocates an optional maximum term of three years in jail to all member nations for denying or grossly trivializing crime Holocaust. In this case, the West in general has taken the position that denying the Holocaust is an abuse of speech, which is criminal or borders on criminal behaviour.

Muslims would question why there is such a restrictive stance on Holocaust denial while. blasphemy against the prophet is deemed a “human right”.

There are more contemporary examples. In the past week, an advertisement in Britain showing a pregnant nun eating ice-cream was banned for having “mocked Roman Catholic beliefs”. One could wonder whether the same judgment would have been made had it been Islamic beliefs in question. One could also question why a 19-year-old Muslim teenager in Britain was charged and convicted last week because he posted on Facebook a sentence about soldiers that was considered “derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory”.

To add insult to injury, the French, who recently allowed their media to mock the prophet, ironically banned the democratic right to protest against these very cartoons.

To a Muslim this smacks of hypocrisy and duplicity. Muslims would argue that when it comes to freedom of speech, the West applies a of standards for Muslims that it uses to cater for its own cultural sensitivities. It shows the concept is not applied equally in Western jurisdictions.

The Islamic world must admit that its reaction to the-insulting video and cartoons was unacceptable and contrary to the prophet’s teachings. But there are also questions the West has to answer.

Western society has used freedom of speech as a moral bludgeon against Muslims, criticizing them as being uncivilized for their apparent inability to adhere to the same values as “free societies”. Yet the West has double standards when it comes to interpreting the same values it claims to uphold.

This inconsistent and perhaps biased application of this value only compounds the hurt Muslims feel when the prophet of Islam has mocked This perspective towards understanding the reaction of Muslims towards recent events has long been overlooked.

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Challenges of Muslim World & Solutions

The Muslim World, as its stands today, is characterized by paradoxes and contradictions. We have Muslim nations that are resource-rich but economically poor and weak. Despite the bounty of Allah SWT, the majority of the Muslim masses live in poverty, amidst plenty for a selected few.

In the last 100 years, we saw the Muslim Ummah tumble from the heights of the Ottoman Empire to, at one stage, becoming colonial servants of non-Muslim masters. Towards the end of the last century, we did witness the liberation of Muslim countries, one by one, from the shackles of colonialism, culminating in the independence of the Central Asian Muslim Nations. We have seen the gradual economic improvement of some of the Muslim countries, and the dependence of the world on the mineral and natural resources of Muslim nations.

And yet, despite our newfound independence, and despite our divinely blessed resources and natural abundance, we continue to be a disparate assortment of third world countries.

Some comparative figures will indicate how really weak we are. Latin America and Asia have shifted away from reliance on exporting natural resources towards manufacturing and services. The Middle East, however, still depends on oil. Today, the United States imports about US$5 billion worth of manufactured goods and farm products from the twenty two members of the Arab League, Afghanistan and Iran combined. This amount is equivalent to 50% of the imports of the United States from Hong Kong alone. The combined non-oil exports of Middle Eastern and North African countries is about US$40 billion per year, which is lower than that of Finland. For all the talk of diversifying away from oil, Saudi Arabia has only two main exports: crude oil and related gas based petrochemicals. Together, they comprise 80% of the total annual revenue of the country.

The population of Middle East is young and growing, having doubled to 300 million from 170 million in 1990. Meanwhile, its place in the world economy has shrunk. In 1980, Muslim countries in the Middle East controlled 13% of world exports and received almost 5% of direct investments. Today the figures are barely 3% of world exports and 1.5% of investment. In short, the Middle East has a growing share of the world’s population and a shrinking share of its economy. The unemployment in the Middle East averages about 20%, and young people are entering the labour force faster than jobs are being created. During the 1990s, the sluggish economy and joblessness also led to an increase in poverty. Some 30% of the population lives on less than US$2 a day.

Economic prosperity and development go hand-in-hand with a certain amount of individual freedom. It is about creating an environment where people can participate in deciding their economic and social futures. It is about creating opportunities for everyone to pursue their hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, in much of the Muslim World, the people generally do not have a voice in the development process that touches their lives. This is true particularly for women.

Knowledge-related economic activity is an important measure of development. The Middle East and North African countries have the lowest score in the world with regard to the number of websites and internet users, the most basic indicators in the global knowledge economy. A recent survey also revealed that the Middle Eastern countries have one of the worst scores with regard to the reading habit. Apart from religious books, a large section of the people do not read any knowledge-based books or articles at all.

Since the early 1980s, much of the Muslim world is suffering a crisis of identity, as the crumbling of the Islamic Civilization in the modern age has left Muslims with a profound sense of alienation and injury. Challenges confronting many Muslim nations – failures of development projects and the inability to respond effectively to the Israeli belligerence have induced deep-seated frustration.

The present dire state of the Ummah, undoubtedly a tragedy, could, however, also turn out to be a hikmah for the Ummah, if it can renew, once again, our search for a New Order based on Islam. The renewed quest for our destiny should make us more conscious of our ideological and historical identity, and should bring us back to the original source of our success – Islamic beliefs and values. Deriving spiritual and intellectual strength from our rich Islamic traditions, we have the potential to climb out of the dark abyss that we now find ourselves in.

We have seen in history that periods of crises often blossom into periods of creative thinking. Today, as the post-1945 world order appears to be crumbling, we could be again in such a period of crisis and creativity. To move forward in unity towards a period of peace and prosperity, as well as physical and spiritual well-being, particularly in the vastly complicated world of today, with its inherently anti- Islamic bias, we need to think outside the box and initiate changes, some of which would be more in the nature of revolutionary rather than evolutionary. The task at hand is, undoubtedly, difficulty, but if we set our minds and hearts to it, and display a new freshness in our thinking, we should be able to meet the challenge.

We have only to look back into our own past, where a small group of people in Medina who, despite being surrounded to the North, West, and East, by mighty superpowers, were able to courageously spread Islamic influence across three continents. Surely, our task is much easier compared to challenges, which the early Muslims in Medina faced. We still have with us today the same source of inspiration and wisdom that launched the Muslim Empire. While we are materially and physically poor, our moral principles and spiritual strength are fairly intact. What we need now is the will to unite and act decisively to regain our dignity.

It is clear that we the Muslim Ummah must once again rely on ourselves. Many attempts in the past have been made to unite the Muslims politically. We have formed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as a forum and platform to have a common voice. Yet, when one of OIC members is attacked by some external force, we can only watch helplessly. Indeed, the OIC has not been able to move beyond being a talking-shop because the Muslim Ummah is not united and does not appear to have the political will or the mechanism to strengthen itself.

One solution to our predicament is trade, which was always the cementing factor between Muslim countries even from the earliest days of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. While the armies opened the way through military and political conquest, it was the traders and trade routes that maintained and bound the ties between nations. Furthermore, the Muslim Empire was self-sufficient in every respect, spices from the Malay Archipelago, textiles from India, musk from the Middle East. Practically anything that was needed could be sourced from within the Islamic Empire.

To disable the Muslim Empire, the West knew that it had to begin a systematic process of disintermediation. Instead of going through Constantinople and the Middle-East, Europe started to trade on its own with the Far East and India by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. The British, Dutch and Portuguese “trading” ships sailed into the region, heavily guarded by warships to “trade” with the East, as an early manifestation of gunboat diplomacy.

In so doing, they achieved a double success. Firstly, they disrupted the trade relations between the Far East and the Middle-East, and secondly reduced the wealth, importance and significance of the Middle East as the centre of a vibrant trading system, strategically located on all the major trading routes. This strategy of course extended to other parts of the Muslim World, as well as the Non-Muslim World, such as Africa and China.

As the West grew in material wealth, they also grew in military might. They used the new found scientific methodologies not for peace but to build better ships and more destructive weaponry in order to dominate unsuspecting weaker nations. Through the oppressive force of colonisation, they also dealt a deadly blow to the Islamic education system.

The balanced and creative approach of Islamic education was killed off. The spirit of Islamic learning was replaced by a sanitised “non-threatening” approach. Gone was the inquisitiveness to learn of God’s creation and sciences; gone was the boldness to create and innovate for the betterment of mankind. Since the soul of Islam itself had been extracted out the equation; the study of the physical sciences was soon equated with materialism by colonised Muslims, resulting in a general aversion to the sciences.

Through systematic propaganda and disinformation, the Muslim’s respect for his own religion and brotherhood was destroyed. All references to Islam’s glorious and rich historical and cultural heritage were replaced with Western Civilisation’s historical successes, with the objective of creating a sense of inferiority among the colonised Muslims. To confuse and distort the true unity of the Ummah, multiple names were created for Muslims: Moors, Moghuls, Saracens, Mohammedans. Where possible, the colonisers sowed seeds of discord among Muslim groups. They exaggerated differences between different schools of thought in Islam. They fanned the flames of animosity and provided us with the necessary arms to kill each other.

Through this systematic dismemberment of Muslim countries, the unity and the potency of the Muslim Ummah had been weakened. By the turn of the 20th century, Muslims had been materially and spiritually weakened, cut from each other both economically and militarily. Muslims were powerless to help each other.

In summary, the Muslim Ummah has been weakened through four major fronts:

  • Economic weakening through the intermediation and control of trade;
  • Destruction of the balanced approach of the Islamic education system, which had always stressed on the indistinguishable blend of both material and spiritual knowledge;
  • Weakening of Muslim confidence in Islam and the brotherhood of Islam through propaganda and misinformation; and
  • Militarily weakening the Muslims by discouraging Muslim military alliances

and instead creating artificial enemies among each other.

Having identified the method in which the Ummah was systematically divided and weakened, it is quite possible that we can reverse the process and once again reunite and strengthen the Ummah through a rebuilding process. This process would include re-establishing trade and Islamic financial and economic systems; restructuring the current education system by infusing it with Islamic pedagogical or learning methods that encourage creativity and curiosity: rebuilding morale among the Ummah and reconstructing a Muslim view of the world; and rediscovering the legendary Muslim military genius. We need to keep reminding ourselves self-sufficiency is not impossible. In terms of labour, the 1.3 billion Muslims account for at least 20% of the world’s population. The Ummah live in a compact and contiguous block stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans (The Muslims occupy a strategic geographical position occupying the central regions of the earth with some of the most fertile and resource rich lands. Major air, sea and trading routes pass through Muslim territories. Certainly, the Muslim world can once again be self-reliant. All we need is the will to do it and the commitment and stamina to see it through.

In Islamic history, we have seen that trade not only united Muslims, it was also a very important means of spreading Islam. It was perhaps no accident that the Holy Prophet s.a.w. was born in Makkah, a major centre of trade in the Arabian Peninsula at that time. When Islam took root in the Arabian Peninsula, trade was the main vehicle for dakwah activities for the spread of Islam from Andalusia in Spain to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and to the Malay Peninsula. The volume of trade among Islamic countries, before the Western colonization began, was indeed at a very healthy level.

It was through traders that Yathrib learnt of the new faith called Islam, thereby opening the way for the Hjira and establishment of Medina. During the Caliphate era, apart from conquered lands, Islam was spread by the good words and deeds of the trader, or by mubalighs that the traders brought with them. So strong was the bond between trade and Islam that when the Ming emperor of China wanted to establish trading relations with this region, he sent a Muslim, Admiral Muhammad Cheng Ho, to open the way.

While it is true that, at a political and strategic level, having a central Caliphate was a point of unity for the Muslims, on an everyday and business level, it was trade that mainly formed the bonds of unity between Muslim communities. And the backbone behind the ease and continuance of trade was a common currency, based on gold and silver, the dinar and dirham. We had, in fact, a powerful de facto trading block.

Thus, today, although many people may associate the lack of political unity with the lack of unity among the Muslim communities, one may also point out that the lack of unity among the Muslim communities is due to the fact that we have stopped trading with each other as much as we used to during the zenith of our Muslim Civilization.

The total exports of the OIC countries in 2000 was US$50.7 billion of which US$52 billion (10%) was to other OIC countries. The total imports of the OIC countries in 2000 was US$406 billion, of which US$ 56 billion (13%) was from other OIC countries. In terms of total trade, the figures imply that we trade about 8 times more with non-OIC countries than with OIC countries. As a result of the hurdles left by our colonial invaders and masters, we find ourselves today trading through Europe or through some third non-Muslim country. We note that for much of history, the Middle East was the commercial and intellectual bridge between Asia and Europe. It was among the most cosmopolitan regions of the world, the birthplace of religions and alphabets and the repository and laboratory for knowledge of all fields. Today it is painfully clear that the main roads of international trade have by-passed the Muslim Middle East.

If we can begin to trade among ourselves, without using the Western countries as intermediaries, we can bring about greater prosperity to the Muslim nations.

One effective way of increasing intra-OIC trade is by way of the gold dinar mechanism, that has been proposed by Malaysia, and discussed in a number of international forums. Under the proposed gold dinar mechanism, the domestic currencies will not be replaced, at least not initially. The domestic currencies (e.g. Ringgit) will continue to be used for domestic transactions in the respective countries.

The gold dinar will be used only for external trade among the participating countries. Initially, the gold dinar may not exist in physical form. It will merely be. defined in terms of gold. For example, if one gold dinar is equivalent to one ounce of gold, and the price of one ounce of gold is say at US $300, then the value of one gold dinar will be US$300 or equivalent in other currencies, on the basis of the prevailing exchange rates.

The actual settlement for trade can be by way of the transfer of equivalent amount of gold. It will not be a physical transfer of gold from one country to another, but a transfer of beneficial ownership in the gold custodian’s account. Where it is not possible to transfer the gold, payment can be made by way of an equivalent amount in other acceptable currencies, but this should be the exception rather than the rule.

According to conservative estimates, there are at least USD 1 trillion of Middle Eastern, mostly Muslim-owned, funds sitting in Western financial centres (New York, London and Switzerland). There is about US$700 billion of Saudi money in the United States alone. Some of the Middle Eastern funds in the United States have now been frozen, The Muslim world has within it countries with large capital surpluses as well as countries which face acute capital deficit. It is, therefore, our collective duty to build bridges to intermediate the flow of funds among the Muslim nations.

As part of our effort to attract at least some of the funds that are sitting in Western banks to be invested in the Muslim countries for productive purposes, we need first to analyse the mobility of these funds, i.e. we need to understand the pull and push factors that motivated these funds to be move to the West in the first place. The pull factors are quite clear: the West provided a better infrastructure for investment, in terms of rule of law, level playing field, ease of doing business, investment opportunities, range and sophistication of products, privacy and security and freedom in lifestyle.

The push factor was that the Muslims with surplus funds did not have confidence in their own countries or regions in terms of the safety (let alone profitability) of their investments.

Some of the previous pull factors have now been reserved. Some funds, identified as charities for example, are most vulnerable to asset freezing. Others, however, are already well integrated and entrenched, such as investments by Al Walid and Al Fayed, and would most likely not be mobile. Most investments would be somewhere in between.

To organize the flow of capital from surplus to deficit countries within the OIC, we need to find a formula, which would ensure that the investors will have the confidence that their investments are safe and profitable. In order to do this, we need a few centres within the OIC to act as a point of intermediation between the investors and the potential recipients of investments. The investors’ risk will be against the intermediaries only.

The countries, within the OIC, which can start-off as intermediaries are Malaysia, Bahrain and Dubai (United Arab Emirates). Other OIC countries will be included as they develop their financial system. The following factors are necessary for any country to qualify for the role of intermediaries:

Wide range of products to meet varying risk-return appetite – from very conservative to high risk

  • A good system of rule of law
  • Adequate infrastructure – physical and business
  • Competitive cost of doing business Good business ethics
  • Protection of privacy and secrecy
  • Allow freedom in lifestyle and culture

To facilitate and accelerate the process of investment and capital flows from surplus Muslim countries to deficit Muslim countries, an important element would be the development of a viable Islamic financial system. This is because the Western financial system of maximizing short term profit is, in the long run, crisis-prone and results in unnecessary social pain and destruction of wealth during the boom and bust cycles.

Consider this: the economy of the United States has significant structural imbalances and yet it continues to be considered a strong economy. The answer to this paradox lies in the role of the US dollar as a reserve currency and as a petro-currency. The role as a reserve currency and the role as a petro currency do overlap to some extent, but for purposes of clarity, we will explain them separately.

World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that the US dollars can buy. The world’s interlinked economies no longer trade to capture a comparative advantage; they compete in exports to capture needed dollars to service dollar-denominated foreign debts and to accumulate dollar reserves to sustain the exchange value of their domestic currencies. To prevent speculative and manipulative attacks on their currencies, the world’s central banks must acquire and hold dollar reserves in corresponding amounts to their currencies in circulation. The higher the market pressure to devalue a particular currency, the more dollar reserves its central bank must hold. This creates a built-in support for a strong US dollar, which in turn forces the world’s central banks to acquire and hold more dollar reserves, making it even stronger. This phenomenon is known as the dollar hegemony.

As the international reserve currency, the US dollar has assumed the role of fiat currency for global oil transactions (i.e. petro-dollars). The United States prints hundreds of billions of these fiat petro-dollars, by issuing Treasury bills and bonds without any backing of wealth, made possible by its unilateral departure in 1973 from the Gold Standard of the Bretton Woods System. These dollars are then used by nation states to purchase oil/energy from OPEC producers (and other non-OPEC producers as well). These petro-dollars are then recycled from OPEC back into the United States, via Treasury bills or other US dollar denominated assets. In essence, global oil consumption provides a . subsidy to the economy of the United States.

The US dollar’s dominance as a reserve currency, as well as currency for world trade, particularly oil trade, is all that permits the US Treasury to sustain the nation’s massive deficit, as it can print inflation free money for global circulation.

We need to formulate a strategy to remove the role of the dollar as the international reserve currency, as well as its role as the petro-currency. The following is suggested:

  • Muslim nations must instruct their central banks and large corporations to convert the bulk of their US$ holdings into assets denominated in Euro, and perhaps even yen.
  • The OPEC countries must take action to denominate the oil trade in Euro, instead of denominating it in US dollars.
  • The Muslim nations must attempt to use Euro as the currency of denomination when they trade among themselves.
  • The Muslim nations must persuade Europe to denominate its trade with Muslim nations in Euro, and persuade Japan to denominate its trade with Muslim nations in yen.

The four measures suggested above could serve as an effective short-term measure but, in the longer run, we need to evaluate the whole concept of the management of external reserves. In the context of the present international financial architecture, the way the instrument of external reserves functions is extremely unjust to all nations, except for the countries whose currencies qualify as external reserves. This system has a strong bias toward instability and is crisis prone. It forces countries, other than the reserve currency countries (mainly United States) to accumulate increasingly large amounts of foreign exchange reserves. This money, which is mainly invested in US Treasury Bills, finances the over-consumption of the United States.

The US Treasury bills currently offer a yield of less than 3% p.a. while the return on the investment by many developing countries in their own economy could be between 10% to 20% p.a.

We have a very peculiar system in place the theory is that rich countries should be sending capital to poor countries, but under the current system, it is the poor countries that are sending capital to the rich countries.

On a macro-level, this system of external reserves results in a deflationary bias, given that the income that is not spent increases by US$ 150 to 200 billion a year. The only offset to that deflationary bias is the progressively higher consumption of American consumers.

Let us look at this mechanism from the viewpoint of developing countries. The central banks in these countries are the custodians of external reserves. An important factor that leads to the accumulation of external reserves.

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