Current Bangladesh Time: 5:18:28 PM (Wed)

Conservative Muslims and Die Hard Socialists Feel Vindicated by the International Financial Crisis

Dr. Sami Alrabaa

Waleed Al Tabtaba’i, a leading member of the Kuwaiti Parliament, writes in Al Watan daily (26.9.2008), “Japan and Germany are studying the Shari’a’s economic and financial theories with a view to applying them. All these countries are not Islamic, nevertheless, they have realized, willy-nilly, that the only solution to their problems is Islam. The devastating financial problems flooding the USA and the whole world have made it clear that “riba” (usury), on which non/Muslim economies and finances are based, is “haram” (sinful) and this what Islam has been preaching for 1400 years.” Indeed, the German public, and maybe the Japanese, is increasingly interested in knowing more and more about Islam, certainly not to learn about Islamic economic theories, but rather to find out why some Muslims are so radical. Still, I am not aware of anybody who has discovered “economic and financial theories” in Shari’a and therefore was proposed for a Nobel Prize. The only “theory”, if you ever could call this a theory, is “Zakat”; meaning Muslims have to give 2.5 of their wealth to the poor, which is voluntary, a kind of donation or alms, and which eventually many Muslims do not deliver. Islam also warns people not to take interests or give any. That is riba, (usury).

Hasan El Issa, writes in the Kuwaiti Al Qabas (September 17, 2008), “Especially in Ramadan, people donate much money for the poor. Around 27 Muslim charity organizations collect money in Kuwait to allegedly help poor Muslims around the globe. According to the Central Bank of Kuwait, they collected in 2007, a total of more than KD 600 million ($ 1.8 billion). Already in 2006, the State Department ordered freezing all the accounts of the Islamist organization, “Reviving the Islamic Culture” in Kuwait and worldwide. This organization is accused of supporting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” But the Kuwaiti government has never reacted.”
Muhammad Musa’ed Al Saleh, a columnist with Al Qabas daily says (October 8, 2008), Islamic banks do take and charge “interests”, but they call it “murabaha” (shared profit). If you want to buy a car on installment in Kuwait, for example, and have your loan financed by The House of Finance of Kuwait (HFK), an “Islamic bank”, you will have to pay an interest rate of up to 8%. The HFK claims that the “money” it charges on the loan is not “interests”, it is simply murabaha, on a sell-and-buy transaction.

Several Western banks, including the Deutsche Bank have discovered in “murabaha” a lucrative business. According to the Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung (ZEW/Mannheim) this Bank has attracted over $ 100 billion of investments owned by Arab oil Sheikhs.
According to the latest report (2007) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the volume of wealth of oil rich sheikhs estimated at three trillion dollars is invested in the West. Less than 1% of it is invested in the Arab countries; in luxury hotel and recreation centers, affordable by people with petrodollars.
In an article in the Saudi London-based daily, Al Sharq Al Awsat (October 15), Lahem Al Nasser claims that Islamic banks do not deal with stocks. “Therefore, the international finance crisis has not affected us, Muslims.” Al Nasser said.

Jamal El Enezi, a language teacher at Kuwait University told Al Arabiya TV, “This is not true. The Kuwait House of Finances (KHF), an Islamic bank, persuaded me to invest KD 10.000 ($ 30.000) with the Lehman Brothers. Now my money is off.”

Kuwait Times reported on October 5, 2008, the stock exchange markets in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia suffered big losses. National and international stocks plummeted to unprecedented level.

Ahmed Al Sarraf, a columnist with Al Qabas, wrote on September 17, 2008, “I personally lost about $ 6 million. Blaming the international financial crisis on usury, as Al Tabtaba’i does, is unfair and polemic. All Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia have their own stock exchange market. They work legally. Both the grand mufti of Egypt, Ali Gumaa and his Saudi counterpart Abdulaziz Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed al Sheikh, approved of dealing with stocks.”
Back to Al Tabtaba’i. Muhammad Zia, a young Muslim Bangladeshi (32 years old) who works as a cleaner (12-14 hours a day) at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), in Kuwait did not receive his salary ($ 60 a month) for almost half a year. He went to the headquarters of the organization “Reviving the Islamic Culture” to “beg” for some money as he put. Zia was told, “If you have no money, go back home. We only help Muslims outside Kuwait, also in Bangladesh.”
Zia and his friends had read about Al Tabtaba’i, so they went to the Parliament offices and requested meeting with him. The police did not allow them in. Zia and his friends decided to visit Al Tabtaba’i in his constituency, in Kaifan. Luckily, he was there and he welcomed them in his Diwaniya (guest house). After his servants offered tea and dates, Al Tabtaba’i asked them, “What can do for you?”
They told them that they had not received any money for half a year and wanted him as an MP to help them. Al Tabtaba’i opened his purse and gave every one of them one dinar ($ 3). One of Zia’s friends got upset. He threw the dinar in the MP’s face and said loudly, “We don’t want you to give us one dinar. You can keep it. We want our money. We do not want to have alms. You talk all the time about riba (usury), Zakat, and how fair Islam is, but never did anything about us, poor Muslims. Isn’t it haram (sinful) to exploit fellow Muslims? In one of your articles, you accused Bangladeshi workers of being thieves and violent. This is unfair.”
Al Tabtaba’i felt offended and ordered his servants to “kick those people” out of his house. That happened about three months ago. During that time thousands of foreign workers like Zia and his friends took the street in Khaitan and demanded their salaries. Some demonstrators turned violent and more than 800 demonstrators were deported on the spot. One of them was beaten until death by the police.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Arab oil countries top the list of countries which treat their expatriate workers like slaves.
Dr. Ahemd Al Baghdadi, a former political science Professor at Kuwait University, wrote in the Kuwaiti Al Siyassa daily, (October 6, 2008), “Al Tabtaba’i and his ilk do not practice what they preach. He talks and writes about usury, Zakat, and fairness, and advocates that Islam is the solution to the world’s problems. But when it comes to applying what he preaches, he blatantly fails. He is deedless. Al Tabtaba’i and his fellow Islamists should not only preach, but rather work on creating a fair labor market in the Muslim world. Exploiting people is as bad as usury, it is usury in terms of human trafficking. Only when Muslims practice what they preach, the whole world, including the infidels, would embrace Islam and its good principles. What matters at the end of the day is not the theory, but deeds on the ground. Al Tabtaba’i should first and foremost put his house in order and do his homework as a law maker before he blames the collapse of the international financial market on the practice of usury.”
Oskar Lafontiane, a former German Social Democrat and Chairman of Die Linke Party, a composition of former Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, (SED), trade unionists, and other leftists, said in a news conference in Berlin (October 8, 2008), “We feel vindicated by the international finance crisis. We believe that vital key sectors of our economy and services must be nationalized.”

The international financial crisis is surrounded by gloaters. World charity organizations are also criticizing capitalism. The “Welt Hunger Hilfe” one of Germany’s largest charity organizations has criticized the G8 finance ministers for rushing to bail out bankrupt banks with billions of dollars, but no money has been made available to the one billion poor around the globe. “This is unfair.” Dominic Stucker said.

Surely, the international financial crisis has not only spawned losers, but also ideological “winners”. Both Muslim conservatives and old-fashioned leftists are capitalizing on this crisis. They are utilizing the unexpected crisis to prove the validity of their convictions.