Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why has the Muslim world failed to Develop?

The Muslim world has bewildered many experts who have researched the potential of the Islamic lands. Many have questioned how it is even possible that a people who are so rich and so plentiful in resources came to be so poor in reality. Many have an unfortunate tendency to compare the development of the West and conclude that the absence of liberal values will always act as an obstacle to industrial development in the Muslim world. There are a number of factors that have hindered development in the Muslim world, many of them originate from outside the Muslim world.
1.Colonialism – Much of this currant situation in the Muslim lands stems from the colonial era and is summed up best by David Fromkin, Professor and expert on Economic History at the University of Chicago: "Massive amounts of the wealth of the old Ottoman Empire were now claimed by the victors. But one must remember that the Islamic empire had tried for centuries to conquer Christian Europe and the power brokers deciding the fate of those defeated people were naturally determined that these countries should never be able to organize and threaten Western interests again. With centuries of mercantilist experience, Britain and France created small, unstable states whose rulers needed their support to stay in power. The development and trade of these states were controlled and they were meant never again to be a threat to the West. These external powers then made contracts with their puppets to buy Arab resources cheaply, making the feudal elite enormously wealthy while leaving most citizens in poverty." Throughout the 18th century European nations competed with each other in conquering territories, enslaving the host population and stripping the conquered people of their mineral resources. In November 1917 when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, Lenin’s communists discovered amongst the documents of the czarist foreign ministry a secret document that outlined plans to carve up the Ottoman Empire after the war (WW1) and the distribution of its constituent parts to the victorious allies. The details were worked out in February 1916 before the beginning of the war. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret understanding between the governments of Britain and France defining their respective spheres of post-World War I influence and control in the Middle East. The region was carved up and given boundaries, dividing the people in the region who had lived as one nation for over 1000 years. Historian Mehran Kamrava outlined the geopolitics at the time, “It is here that geo-political boundaries clash violently with demographic realities, constructing a number of societal problems, many of which have not been resolved to this day. In some cases this was due to historical ignorance, but in others it was a deliberate choice to weaken the occupied people. France divided Lebanon and Syria against religious demographics in this very fashion to guard against anti-French resistance rallied under Sunni Muslim solidarity. The British created Transjordan from the western portion of Palestine and gave it an entirely separate government under the Hashemites. The national boundaries created during this time visibly outline those still seen today, and are the source of much conflict due to mistakes made in their drawing.”17 The effect of such colonialism has meant that although the colonial nations eventually physically departed from such lands their influence has remained and the colonised nations remain linked to the nations that enslaved them. It remains in the interests of the West even today to ensure the colonized nations do not develop and gain independence.

“But one must remember that the Islamic empire had tried for centuries to conquer Christian Europe and the power brokers deciding the fate of those defeated people were naturally determined that these countries should never be able to organize and threaten Western interests again. With centuries of mercantilist experience, Britain and France created small, unstable states whose rulers needed their support to stay in power. The development and trade of these states were controlled and they were meant never again to be a threat to the West.”
In Iraq Miles Copeland, a veteran CIA operative, through a number of his publications exposed the coups the US initiated which include bringing Saddam Hussain’s Baath party to power

2. During the colonial era most of the colonial nations made use of elements form the conquered territories to deal with the day-to-day running of colonies. In the post WW2 era although many of the conquered territories were given so called independence, an architecture that was nurtured over a generation was left in place ensuring the colonised nations remain linked to their masters. To maintain superiority, control and influence over the region, the West placed corrupt leaders into positions of power and supported the overthrow of those that were not seen as favourable. This has also served to keep the host populations at bay, in return for militarisation, power and personal wealth for the elite. The struggle to control access to important resources such as oil has even led to competition between the West. The links between the British and the house of Saud are no secret, it was the British Empire that brought the Saud family into power and provided them with the arms and technical help to dismember from the Khilafah. The Saud’s close work with the British empire at the time was repaid through giving Trans-Jordan to King Abdullah and Iraq to King Faisal. Similarly the US brought Gamal Abdul Nasser to power overthrowing the pro-British King Farook, during the same period in Operation Ajax both Britain and the US collaborated in bringing the Shah to power over-throwing the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadeq. In Iraq Miles Copeland, a veteran CIA operative, through a number of his publications exposed the coups the US initiated which include bringing Saddam Hussain’s Baath party to power. In the Far East for long the US provided military assistance to the Suharto regime. Such foreign interference which continues today has meant Western agents abandoned the nation’s interest and because rulers were never independent this stifled the prospect of any industrial development that would have benefited the nation. On the few occasions where a Western inspired coup turned its back on the West it was very quickly on the receiving end of a counter coup – as the Shah of Iran found in 1979. Such interference continues today and continues to act as an obstacle to any development in the Muslim world. A recent case of this was the Anglo-America plans to bring Benezir Bhutto to power in 2008. In order to replace General Musharraf dozens of meetings took place in the UK and Dubai between former US and UK ambassadors in order to agree the terms of her return. Sir Mark Lyall Grant former British ambassador to Pakistan led the negotiations and confirmed the meetings that took place between the Bhutto faction, the Musharraf faction and representatives of the US.18 Zardari confirmed the deal in September 2009.19 It is such agent rulers that have been a disaster for the Muslim world and will ensure no independent development will ever occur.

"The United States has viewed all multilateral organisations including the World Bank, as instruments of foreign policy to be used in support of specific US aims and objectives…US views regarding how the world economy should be organised, how resources should be allocated and how investment decisions should be reached were enshrined in the Charter and the operational policies of the bank."

3. The IMF and World Bank through their structural adjustment polices and many other highly questionable polices in countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt have ensured such nations never develop the necessary fundamental industry to even start an industrial revolution. Both Bretton Woods institutes prescribed policies of concentrating on exports and focusing on repaying the loans borrowed. In the nations that comprise of the Middle East and North Africa 14% of regional export earnings go to debt service. In Lebanon, debt service accounts for 47% of the government's budget. Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey all spend more on debt service than they do on education; all spend twice as much on debt service than they do on health care. Sudan and Yemen are among the 41 countries identified as Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs). Pakistan continues reeling with external debts of over $50 billion. The loans and development advice provided has only caused more structural problems to the economies of the Muslim world and this has severely stunted any development, the loans in reality are the obstacle to development. The Brooking institute confirmed in a report "The United States has viewed all multilateral organisations including the World Bank, as instruments of foreign policy to be used in support of specific US aims and objectives…US views regarding how the world economy should be organised, how resources should be allocated and how investment decisions should be reached were enshrined in the Charter and the operational policies of the bank."20

4. The Muslim rulers and many who have positions in the governments across the Muslim world have been unable to develop anything in the realm of policy. This has resulted in no consistent basis form which policies could be derived giving the nation direction. As a result many of the Muslim economies are full of contradictions and the economy as a whole fails to move in a unified direction. Examples of this include:
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Pakistan continues to import Coal even though it has the world’s largest Coal field and the world’s largest Coal reserves after the US.
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Iran is flush with huge oil reserves and Gas, but due to a refinery shortage it imports gasoline and diesel to keeps its cars and trucks rolling.
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Pakistan is the worlds 14th largest agricultural producer; however 52 million people live in poverty.
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Saudi Arabia has been endowed with mineral wealth which is a prerequisite for industrialisation. Saudi Arabia has not only failed to develop but 20% of its population live under the poverty line.

5.The absence of any structured way of generating wealth and distributing wealth has created a situation where everyone in the Muslim world needs to fend for themselves and attempt to make the best out of a chaotic situation. This has compounded the problem further as many resort to bribery, stealing and fraud to make ends meet. This situation has allowed a minority in most of the Muslims lands to live in comfort and luxury at the expense of the rest of society. This situation means many of the elites refuse to invest in capital intensive industries and would rather place their wealth in the West and in the global financial markets.

6. Many of the Muslim economies are not built on their strengths. Many of the African nations have been forced to concentrate on single commodities rather than build their economies upon minerals and resources they have in abundance. Nigeria and Egypt have neglected their agricultural potential in order to build a service based economy. In the Middle East the abundance of fossil fuel has not translated into the development of industry, in fact countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are so focused towards oil this has stopped the development of other sectors which would have created millions of jobs. Pakistan and Bangladesh’s strengths lay in their agricultural landscape and mineral resources however recent government have geared the economies around foreign direct investment (FDI) and telecoms. Whilst the Western word is dominated by the service sector this has been after industrialising. By not structuring the Muslim economies around their strengths such resources have been squandered and on most occasions have been at the centre of Western interests.

7. The removal of Islam as a comprehensive system thorough the Islamic system of governance – the Khilafah in 1924 has stunted development. This is because Islam was the trajectory that drove development in the Muslim lands. After the death of the Messenger (saw) the expansion of the Islamic lands resulted in many economic, political and social problems not previously confronted by the Messenger(saw). The expansion of the Khilafah into new lands brought it into contact with foreign cultures, customs, languages, traditions and political structures. These included Greek, Persian, Roman, Berber, Asian and Assyrian. This created internal challenges of distribution and production of wealth, rights of minorities, administration of an expanding ruling apparatus, judiciary, appointment of local governors and accountability. Such issues were tackled through the process of Ijtihad, leading to the development of some of the most accomplished scholars in Islamic history. Islam itself drove many developments, the need to find the Qibla for the five daily prayers led to developments in the compass. Islam acted as a comprehensive basis which continuously solved all problems Muslim encountered. It was in this scenario that many prematurely reasoned that all issues had been addressed, this understanding stalled creativity and was ebbed away only to be replaced by intellectual apathy. The industrial revolution created a number of bizarre views and opinions leading to the demise of the Khilafah as a system. Ever since Muslims have been unable to tackle scientific, economic and social developments in a coherent way. Islam was the catalyst that led to the development of the Muslim lands in history, its absence remains one of the most fundamental reason stifling development today.

The above is an excerpt from the book "Constructing an Industrialised Muslim World" by Adnan Khan

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