Thursday, May 31, 2007



At the 3rd World Islamic Forum, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang suggested Muslim nations to pool their wealth and resources as bargaining chips in exchange for knowledge, technology and innovation with the rest of the world.

Are Muslim nations ready? Do they have the resources to take on the West and the rest of the world?

Let us look at some economic figures.

In 2005 the combined GDP of G8 countries (formerly known as G7) was a whopping USD44 trillion while the combined GDP of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) was a pathetic USD5.5 trillion, which was slightly bigger than that of Japan. The G8 produced two thirds of the world economic output.

The Muslim nations through OPEC controlled almost 40% of the world's oil production.With the exception of Angola and Venezuela all other members are from Islamic countries. With such immense resources at their disposal one would think they could bring down the West to its knees.Unfortunately, that isn't the case, OPEC ability to control the flow and price of oil has since the 1973 oil embargo lamed due to discovery of oil in other parts of the world.

The Arab nations used oil as a weapon to vent their anger at the West after being humiliated when they lost the Ramadan War against Israel, also known as the 1973 Arab-Israel War. The embargo triggered high inflation throughout the world.The western nations realizing the formidable power of oil embarked on massive exploration of oil in other parts of the world and with new found technology  they can explore and drill for oil in deep waters of the oceans.

Oil is no more an option that Muslim nations can use to smack the Western nations.

America, the ever thirsty monster consumes almost 21 million barrels of oil per day. Saudi, the biggest single producer produces about 8.5 mil bbl/day.The current total OPEC production is around 30mil bbl/day and the US alone can consume 2/3 of OPEC daily production.

Hypothetically, if the US stopped buying oil for a few days the world oil price would crash to a disastrous level. If that's not enough, almost two thirds of world trade are denominated in US dollars. Almost all oil trades with OPEC are conducted in Petrodollar. Can the Muslim nations take on such behemoth? Do they have the clout to dictate terms?

Muslim world leaders should wake up to reality and try find workable solutions how to better deal with Western powers instead of making smart sounding speeches at forums and conferences and more often than not these Muslim leaders go back home can't remember what they have said and did nothing at all other than smoothening their candied lip.

Not a single Muslim nation is represented in G8. Only one Muslim nation Turkey is in OECD and three in APEC, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei and they are voices in the wilderness.The American are in all trade blocs including their own regional bloc NAFTA.

The OIC whose primary goals are to consolidate cooperation in social, cultural, scientific, economic and other fields of activity is not a trade bloc. It is more like a social club not cohesive enough to be a force to be reckoned with. Not only they lack economic might they also lack political clout. The US invasion of Iraq was an example of the entrenched weaknesses in OIC. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states supported the American in the invasion of Iraq and destruction of Sadam Hussein. They see Sadam a threat to the region.

The Muslims fighting the war in Iraq against foreign invaders are called terrorists and not freedom fighters as the case would have been if America was on their side. The Contras in Nicaragua were rebels and terrorists in reality but with American supports they were called freedom fighters.

The Mughal in India, Safavids in Persia and Ottoman in Asia Minor were once Islamic powerhouses. Islam saw the final decline of its power and influence at the end of the 1st World War with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The Islamic world has not recovered ever since and is free-falling into the abyss of backwardness.

The devolution do not come as a surprise as many Muslims think and spend more time in preparing themselves for the afterlife than devoting themselves to constructive and progressive endeavours. For the past few centuries the Islamic world insidiously declined to it present debilitated state bereft of any innovation, invention and new technology.

Innovation and technology do not come cheap and nobody is going to hand them over to you for free. Almost all innovations and new discoveries came from the west.

During the Middle Ages, Europe was a far cry from being civilised and the European Renaissance would not have come about without the help of Islamic civilisation then. The European learned science, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy from Muslim scholars.The Europeans have since then managed a sustained growth and advancement of their sciences and technologies. With new found technology they have colonised many nations including many Muslim nations. They have put men on the moon and sent them to the deepest depth of the ocean. The guns and bombs Muslims used to kill each other were made by them. The nuclear energy and weapon that some Muslim nation hungers for are their invention and have now becoming their monopoly.

The West consider Muslim nations dangerous, irresponsible and should not be trusted to possess nuclear weapon.

While Westerns innovations and technologies advanced by leaps and bounds  Islamic nations have stagnated and fully dependent on the West for almost every essentials. Necessity the mother of invention is not in the Islamic lexicon.

Why are Muslims left so far behind?

Majority of Muslims are fearful of their religion, they put too much emphasis and effort on the afterlife than the fundamentality of their worldly existence. For many Muslims spirituality has become a fear factor and many Muslim nations used Islam to subjugate their citizens.

Many Muslim nations could and would not separate religion from politics. A case in point is the recent judgement passed in Malaysia by the country highest court on a case of apostasy, the Lina Joy case. She converted from Islam to Christianity and wanted Islam to be removed from her identity card but was rejected by the government. She has now exhausted all legal avenues, she either leaves the country or be arrested for apostasy. Can she be forced to stay in a religion that she has no more faith in?

About 200 Muslim protesters were outside the court waiting for the verdict. Fear of a backlash from the Islamists had probably influenced the decision. One judge out of the three a Christian, dissented.

Corruption is another stumbling block to progress. Many Muslim nations have corrupt leaders who put self interest ahead of the nation's interest. Some run the country like their own private fiefdom with complete disregard of their fiduciary duties. Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and most Arab countries are examples of systematic corruption. Malaysia, amongst the most progressive and developed of the lot was slightly lower on the corruption index but is catching up.

Malaysia introduced the NEP after the May 13 racial riot in 1969 to help the Malays uplift their standards of living and have equitable share of the country's economic pie and to be at par with the non-Malays particularly the Chinese, who held the greatest share of the economy.

During the last two terms of his rule, Mahathir Muhammad the then Prime Minister of Malaysia discreetly twiddled the NEP to appease the non Malays. His new social and economic policies heighten the business confidence among the non-Malays community and brought tremendous growth and development to a country that was once a tropical backwater. The GDP profile changed from agro-based to industrial and service orientated industries. The industrial and service sector now contribute 91% of GDP. Similarly, Mahathir is also responsible for huge losses incurred by some of his pet projects.

However, the past two decades also saw the NEP losing its noble and primary objective and used by political leaders mainly as gravy train. Big business deals and massive government contracts were given to relatives, party supporters, cronies and anyone who can pay. Cronyism and nepotism is much alive and kicking in Malaysia. Although Mahathir himself has not been implicated in any corruption cases, his failure to control it among his men had brought disrepute to himself and the party.

Another factor that is pulling down most Muslim nations is poor emphasis on education. Many have low literacy rate. Pakistan has about 49% literacy rate and in tribal areas the rate could go down as low as 20% and girls are normally not allowed to go to school. Such areas also confined education to madrassas where they only studied the Islamic religion.These madrassas are hotbeds for terrorism.

Pakistan may have nuclear capability but low level of literacy has dire consequences. Low literacy, wrong priorities and corruptions have made the country not only physically and economically poor but also mentally poor. Afghanistan fared even worse at 36%, Egypt, another big Muslim country has about 58% literacy. Iraq, currently a war zone has only 40% and Bangladesh 43 %.

Those gifted with oil are the lucky ones without which they could be in even worse dire positions.

Among all the ailments in Muslim countries, intransigent and corruption are the greatest killer to progress.

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