Friday, 14 February 2014

The Question of Finance and Market Fundamentalism

It is not usually recognized that Islamic spirit is utterly incompatible with present day consumerist culture sponsored by free market capitalist economy. It is not a serious matter of debate in theorists of Islamic banking what to finance and why to finance. Any financing enterprise that calls itself Islamic must make very clear its often undefined policy regarding extent of compatibility between Islam and the very question of business, manufacturing commodities as dictated by market demand fulfilling often unethical desires of people, warrantability of current currency models that use fiat money and assume dollar’s sovereignty, artificial or manipulated inflationary pressures and the very question of market in a unipoloar world manipulated by big bosses. The question is how ethical or Islamic is capitalism sponsored modern individualism that fuels demand for separate houses even at the cost of agricultural or other productive enterprises, need of private transport at huge environmental costs and foreign exchange losses on account of oil import, financing costly marriages involving gold trading and expensive clothes, financing education in private schools and healthcare in private hospitals owned by the rich Capitalist, hiring expensive services that a State could have or should have taken care of. The question of State’s complicity with class interests isn’t thoroughly discussed in normative inquiries on legitimate economic ventures, stocks, projects that could be financed by Islamic banks. Islamic banking needs to squarely face debates in political economy on the ethics of most of market centered economic activity that needs financing by banks, Islamic or otherwise. It can’t be denied that market fundamentalism sponsored by Capitalist powers and their puppet financial instruments like IMF and World Bank has been instrumental in inflicting great damage on human, social and economic planes to majority of humans and needs strong critique from spiritual and ethical normative.
Allah declares war against interest and yet Muslim societies have hardly any problem with it. We don’t think it is a scandal against the majority of humanity that banks are functioning in the current format. The true character of banking enterprise is seen when bank officials hound a poor farmer or businessman who can’t repay the installment. Opening of a branch of a bank is looting of the whole community in the area as Bertolt Brecht said. It is not that investors invest and take risk. No they have got the money. Generally speaking, by exploitation of labour or through corruption or using other humans as means. How come one can own a property to the extent that it becomes a source of profit while he can stand idle? How come one can get domestic labour so cheaply or get cheaply rice that farmer’s hard underpaid labour produces? How come that one owns means of production in the first instance? How come that one wealthy person in Srinagar has 7 cars for just personal use? Who mines in utterly inhuman conditions and who manufactures the car in factory and who repairs parts in the streets? Is it not the case that the Capitalist/rich person lives by sheer exploitation? Why should the same product cost Rs 10 in India and Rs100 in US? How come that trade is not free or salesmen (our shopkeepers are all salesmen of big companies) have no other means of livelihood? Why is not agricultural land priced better than commercial land or land for house construction? Why is a professor (80% of them in India are not doing justice to their job) who may or may not take the class be entitled to more than Rs 4000/day when other skilled craftsmen or masons don’t get more than Rs 400? The academic elite hides truth or distorts it so that the oppressed class doesn’t get conscious. How can a professor, teaching environmental science, afford to use costly car for even very small distance travelling, say from department to department and participate in a lavish wazwaan? How can a professor teaching education or Religion send his child to costly private school while seeing government schools rotting? How ethical is to let public transport go down to drain while buying one after another car for personal transport? Who decides bureaucrats should have not only handsome pay but huge TA bills at the cost of State exchequer. All these questions have clear cut answers if we understand political economy. Islam envisages levelling of income gap by putting very hard conditions and ensuring better distribution of wealth. It allows owning private property but not without heavily regulating it in the interests of the community. Accumulation it forbids. And what is invested is accumulated money.  There are thousands of questions on the ethics of banking and most forms of business from an Islamic viewpoint. But we don’t ask these questions. Why?

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