Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The failure of conspiracy theory, of conspiracy theory, of....

I’VE never been the greatest believer in conspiracy theories. The problem I have is that they’re just too convenient to be true. Zionists, for example, cannot be behind every bush. In conspiracy theory-speak, events slot in seamlessly and everything occurs according to plan.

In this model, the conspirators are given almost divine qualities. It’s like an idolatry of fear. For example, the Bilderbergers – a sinister bankist group which meets behind closed doors every year – might plot and plan world events, but to assign dread power to them would be unwise.

I’m sure that their agenda has had to deal with more failures than successes. There are just too many people on earth right now who don’t want to be enslaved by rapacious bankers promising utopia, but actually delivering interest dependency.

The Occupy Movement is the tip of an ice-berg that is seriously threatening the corporate Titanic. Islamic finance, which offers a much fairer and equitable economic model within the system, has been a threat for years.

There is also just too much public cynicism of authority today. The poor, the majority of us, no longer trust bankers and politicians, whose public identities seem to have merged. Governments, whose primary task is to look after the people, are now solely focused on the fiscus.

As a journalist I’ve seen enough conspiracy theory imploding on itself to realise that actual events can conspire against conspiracy itself. For what the conspirators always forget is that where’s there’s push, there’s pull.

Take the Iranian situation: Iran is seen as a threat because it is pursuing the development of nuclear technology. A map of the region showing US bases in the region and the Gulf, quickly indicates that Iran is under siege – and not Israel, the US or any other Shi’ah paranoid Gulf State.

The push in Iran against the conspiracy script has been going since 1979 when the country kicked the US (bank friendly) Shah out of power. Imagine the gloomy faces at the Bilderberg table that year!

With that failed conspiracy, the conspiratorial masters had to come up with another one. That was when Martin Indyk, former US Israeli ambassador, coined the term “dual containment”. The consequence was the war between Iran and Iraq, a terrible conflict that cost millions of lives.

Of course, the Iran-Iraq scenario is much more complex, but what the bankers ultimately lost was control of Iranian oil reserves, and the sympathy of Iranians. If that wasn’t enough, Iraq’s Saddam Hussain – formerly a willing client dictator – had started to think for himself.

So when he began to talk about sweet Iraqi crude not being pinned to the US dollar and its banking system, his number came up. The proxy colonisation of Iraq now became an actual one when US forces, with its embedded media corps, rumbled into Baghdad.

And whilst the faceless bankers did make a royal mint out of Iraq’s invasion, it did have unintended consequences; collateral costs for which innocent Americans will have to pay for generations to come. Everybody knows that billions of dollars disappeared in a dark vortex of corporate looting in Iraq.

President Barak Obama’s strategic retreat from Baghdad (as with Kabul) is purely a financial one. For after years of occupation, the US hawks (and the bankist conspirators) can no longer afford to face the spiralling costs.

Combine a failed imperialist exercise with the collapse of the developed world’s financial markets, the Federal Reserve frantically printing fresh-air money to save the US economy and the Euro debt crisis, and you get failed conspiracy agenda on a grand scale.

I believe that the complexity of world events is far beyond the reach of even a scheming committee with a low moral IQ such as Bilderberg, or any 33rd Degree Mason. Man may indeed plan, but as all Muslims know, Allah plans best. If we push, Allah can pull. If we pull, Allah can push.

This touches on an absent component of the ethos of the so-called global conspirators. Their morality – if one can even call it that – is based on a vacuous expediency driven by profit, power, self-righteousness and greed. They accord themselves through their inbred arrogance, quasi-divine attributes. Their light is actually darkness.

It’s a Dajjalian metaphor, for sure. The market place becomes heaven. The realms of the human soul and spirituality are denied currency. Strangely, literalist extremists of various bents have bought into this totalitarian model, the ends justifying the means, laundered with selectively quoted scripture.

And lest anyone try to deny this, there are more than enough examples in scripture and history to prove my point that conspiracy – or totalitarian “agenda push” – denuded of spiritual imperative will always be doomed to abject failure. What about communism?

To be fair, “agenda push” can be a profitable exercise, yes, but without sincerity, prophetic value, a sense of social inclusiveness and an eye to human benefit, it loses all grace and profit.

It’s really easy to understand. Imagine if the ancient Babylonians, for instance, had built the Tower of Babel to house homeless people, instead of arrogantly trying to reach Heaven. Surely if Nimrod had not thought of himself as untouchable, a simple gnat would not have brought him down?

Indeed, history has been unkind to conspiracy. And, in the same vein, I believe the future will be equally harsh. Anti-Christs, Messiahs, bankists and secrete societies plotting in dark rooms will all be cruelly exposed on the altar of hard truth.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Zealand is world’s most “Islamic” country

HOW “Islamic” are Islamic countries? This was a question asked by two George Washington University researchers, Scheherazade Rahman and Hossain Askari, in the Global Economy Journal of 2010.

And whilst the paper is already two-years old, its pioneering approach and its Islam-West paradigm do make it compulsory reading for anybody interested in world affairs.

This is because the Arab Spring, calling for political rights in the Muslim world, and the Occupy Movements directed against bankism in the West, have thrown into sharp focus the questions asked by the paper.

In their abstract, the authors discuss the post 9/11 era. They observe a developing global curiosity in relations between faith, finance, politics and human rights. Where exactly does faith fit in the picture?

The researchers point out the deficiencies of academics such as Bernard Lewis (who first coined the term “clash of civilisations”) in trying to understand this relationship between religion, economics and society.

The biggest problem, they say, is that Islam tends to be judged by what those labelled as Muslims do, and not by the actual message of Islam.

The central question, then, was whether self-declared Islamic countries – as determined by membership of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) – embraced policies founded on true Islamic teachings.

To measure “Islamicity” the authors had to create their own paradigm. This was done by examining the necessary scaffolding required for an Islamic state, and by developing an index to measure the standards.

Over 208 countries were measured under four categories: economics, legal and government capacities, human and political rights and international relations.

The central assumption was that daily decisions made by individuals in society were governed to some degree by their belief systems, which fed into other values.

However, measuring Islamicity – as the authors soon discovered – was not so easy. Of the 57 member states in the OIC only seven (Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Oman and Yemen) declared that they were Islamic states, with a mere 12 saying that Islam was their state religion.

In the study the 208 countries (Muslim and non-Muslim) were compared to a subset of Islamic ones. Western indices, such as the UN Human Development Index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, were related to Islamic principles.

The authors outlined four Islamic constructs that had to underpin the notion of a successful Islamic state: Walayyah (compassion through wisdom and justice), karamah (the acknowledgement of human dignity), meethaq (the recognition of the sovereignty of the Creator) and khilafah (responsible viceregency and trustee-ship).

Although they did not mention it, the above fundamentals would have been further bolstered by Imam al-Ghazali’s six famous social principles: the right of religion, the right to wealth and property, the right of one’s progeny, the right to personal dignity and the right to receive justice.

Implicit in this blueprint are the values of a caring society marked by legislative justice, the fair distribution of wealth and genuine leadership.

Economically, said the authors, Islam’s legal systems called for free markets, but not according to the current Western capitalist model. For example, fiqh demanded risk-sharing and disapproved of taxation of imports and exports. It also prohibited monopolies, hoarding, speculation and price manipulation.

The authors concluded that institutions proposed by Islam relating to governance, social solidarity, cooperation and justice were inherently designed to achieve economic development and growth.

The results of their research, which they do emphasise is “preliminary”, does make for interesting reading, though.

This is because the Islamic states fared badly. New Zealand, said to have more sheep than humans, came out as number one, with the US – slated as the world’s top democracy– rated only 25th.

China, usually seen as a rapacious economic powerhouse, was a surprising 27 and India, with its ramshackle democracy, came in at 89. Israel, the bĂȘte noire of the Islamic world at 61, was rated higher than the Islamic states, but the occupied West Bank and Gaza (giant blots in the Israeli copybook) were 207.

The top rated Islamic state was Bahrain at 64, though recent events there would probably have seen its rating plummet. Iran was a lowly 163 (only three slots away from Afghanistan). Of the countries declaring Islam as their state religion, Malaysia was highest at 38.

Of the Arab Spring countries, Tunisia was 83. Egypt was 153 and Libya 196. Perhaps what the ranking here predicts is that Tunisia could make the critical transition from dictatorship to democracy quicker than the others.

Of course, one has to bear in mind that these rankings are pre-Arab Spring, but Syria at 186 and Yemen at 198 are somewhat predictive of crisis as Iraq, Sudan and Somalia languish in this region of the graph.

Africa, the Cinderella of all continents, came out poorly – though there were some exceptions. The highest ranking African country was Mauritius at 42. Mauritius has a significant Muslim minority, and as a small Indian Ocean island punches far above her weight.

Namibia was next at 45, South Africa at 50 and Ghana at 53. Significantly, South Africa ranked higher than the self-declared Islamic states. What is interesting for us is that, apart from China, we are the highest rated of the BRIC countries.

The authors conclude that their “very preliminary” results show that Islamic states are not as Islamic in their practice as one would expect. However, the prominence of developed countries tending to place higher on the Islamicity Index has to be taken into proper context.

The relationship between faith, finance and polity is a complex one. The lack of development in Islamic countries cannot be attributed to religion alone.

The age-old problems of developing countries, such as unskilled government, bad economic policies, aid dependency, systemic corruption, lack of social equity and broken-down health care systems have little to do with Holy Law.

It is, in fact, as the authors say, the shortcomings of the governments and their respective policies – and not religion – that accounts for the litany of dismal failures that bedevil the Middle East and Africa, even those countries blessed with oil and natural resources.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Orion scandal - a call for traditional values

THE Muslim Judicial Council-Orion story has, without doubt, become something of a community soap opera. Initially hallmarked by the MJC’s ineptitude in dealing with media, it has devolved into a wider question of organisational accountability.

Why the MJC did not nip the Orion scandal in the bud is a pertinent question: for had it responded with alacrity from the get-go, it’s hardly likely that the organisation would have been publicly embarrassed by Debora Patta on e-TV’s 3rd Degree.

At the heart of the Orion saga is its fraudulent re-labelling of non-halal products as halal. This was exposed on YouTube by two former business partners of Orion who have maintained that CEO Patrick Gaertner owes them money.

In the video we are treated to pork hearts, and kangaroo and water buffalo meat being re-labelled halal. Expired chickens are also given a new shelf life, and milk powder unfit for human consumption is relabelled as being fit for human consumption.

The South African National Halal Authority (SANHA), the Red Meat Industry Forum, the South African Meat Industry Company and the MJC made a successful High Court application against Gaertner.

However, the notion that the MJC Halal Trust might have certified pork products does not hold water. Nor did any Muslim retailer buy the re-certified Orion products.

The Cape-based MJC Halal Trust, that has borne the brunt of public anger since Orion’s duplicity was exposed, says it only certified 18 consignments of imported chickens that were shipped into South Africa by Orion.

Since the furore erupted, the MJC has entered the social media domain, issued a public apology, opened its books, gone on a road-show and instituted an official inquiry into the halal process. According to its audited accounts, the Halal Trust turned over about R8 million in the last financial year.

But as the MJC drags itself off the bottom of a trough, there are bigger questions. Other community organisations such as the Muslim Consumer Forum (painfully mindful of the MJC’s chequered past) have gone on active campaigns against the organisation.

Their criticism (and in some cases strident calls for the MJC to be disbanded) have to tempered with the fact that the MJC is the deep well from which the community has drunk for over six decades.

It’s the equivalent of trying to bulldoze the ANC off the road. Well-embedded institutions hold real power, and the influence of their groupthink should never be under-estimated.

What needs to be understood is that it’s not always necessarily the institutions that are at fault per se, but rather the content of their halls and the collective ethos that they may reflect as a result. Who is to deny that the original notion of establishing an Islamic judiciary in 1945 was not a noble one?

But how then, does one explain the sustained indignation against the MJC – an indignation that extends far beyond its latest crisis? Surely the point is that whatever might be questionable within the MJC is as equally questionable within the community?

Both are related. Who, for example, sustained the divide on the admittedly clumsily handled moon issue of the 80's and 90's?

I believe it is only classical tradition that can ultimately address the question, which boils down to the parlous state of most Islamic community institutions that are so riven with conflict, egotism and incompetence today. If anything, the MJC is but a symptom of a far greater social malaise.

With political structures falling short on human ethics everywhere, today it is left to religious ones to pick up the moral slack. In Africa in particular religious leaders enjoy more credibility than the political demagogues.

As a result, its priests and imams enjoy huge responsibilities, sometimes far beyond their capacity. But it is they who have to set the Qur’anic (or Biblical) tone for socio-economic justice, using reasoned discourse and the model of prophetic conduct, whether it be Jesus or Muhammad (SAW).

Very briefly, there are several areas where there needs to be focus, especially in our community, if things are going to improve organisationally in the future.

The first is that organisations have to be motivated by true intentions of sincerity – and that this has to be accompanied with an ethos of inclusivity, an inclusivity that embraces unity in diversity, as opposed to uniformity without diversity.

Or, as one of my teachers has said: “the more you elevate Allah and his Messenger with sincerity, the more you sweeten things around you”.

The second is that the grace of others has to be acknowledged. The hydra of jealousy, or hasad, that customarily surrounds those who are successful in our community, needs to be cast aside for genuine appreciation.

When it comes to the scholars we have to remember it is they who keep us out of the fire by teaching us Qur’an and how to pray, and it is they who marry us and bury us – and at the most elevated level, it is they who should be happy to stand behind when merit actually demands that they should stand in front.

Thirdly, the responsibility of our religious leaders and ourselves to guard our tongues, especially on matters we are ignorant of, is paramount. Belief and Sacred Law is a grave business. All the schools of thought have to be respected, and seriously considered.

Fourthly, it was never the Sunnah – the practice of the Prophet (SAW) – to mention names and to personalise matters on pulpits or public platforms. Rather, the focus should be on issues in the sense that the player must follow the ball, and not the man.

Fifthly, all of us should not be so hasty to assume the mantle of infallible authority through our ignorance. Islam cannot “say” on matters, for to do so is to arrogantly assume divinity itself.

Sixthly, we have completely lost the tradition of transmitted knowledge and the humility that goes with it. With respect: how many of our current ‘ulama, for example, have really sat – or still sit – at the feet of other Shaikhs? This is a learning tradition as old as Islam itself.

Sayyid Habshi, the author of the famous Risalat ul-Jami’ah was an ‘alim in his own right, but he still attended the classes of Imam ‘Abdullah ‘Alawi al-Haddad for forty years. The late Imam Farid Manie was happy to learn from Shaikhs twenty years younger than him; this after having spent several decades at the feet of his mentor, Shaikh Mahdi Hendricks.

Finally, we have to turn to the science of Tasawwuf, not in the sense of sitting on a dreamlike Sufic cloud, but in the practical sense that its primary focus is a reigning in of the nafs, the undesirable human attributes that govern our major senses.

Tasawwuf is all about discipline, and the central question is that if those who lead us – no matter where – can’t discipline themselves, then what hope can the greater community have that it will not be led by the nose?