RTurkey’s President ecep Erdogan says his faith in Islam prevents him from raising bank interest rates. Her uncompromising stance caused her to drop from one bottom to the next; in the last three months it has lost half of its value. Despite partial recovery, Turks are still grappling with an inflation rate so high that supermarket workers barely keep up change labels. But Erdogan did not moved: âAs a Muslim, I will continue to do what our religion tells us. This is the command.
Order? Dear Mr. President, as a person who aspires to be a Muslim hero, you have surely read the Quran. Therein lies the clear injunction: “Allah has permitted trade and has prohibited interest / usury” (2: 275). âForbiddenâ here does not mean trading what is low, medium, or high – forbidden means zero, exactly zero. Haram is haram. This is why all the early Muslim scholars rejected interest.
Many academics still do this today, especially Arabs and Pakistanis. In 2014, the summit ulema of Pakistan belonging to Fiqhi Majlis said that even the so-called Sharia-compliant Islamic bank is simply renaming interest for profit and, as such, is a deception. All banking, they concluded, is haram. Historically, banking was absent in Muslim countries until the 18th century because nothing other than zero interest could be allowed.
Turkey’s Ottoman rulers were not ideologues, however. As pragmatists who ran an empire, they broke the ban on banking because they knew well that no bank meant trade. This Western innovation had to be adopted no matter what. But, to be on the safe side, they first looked for muftis who could justify the European banking system – and found some. One can argue endlessly as to whether these justifications are genuine or fabricated.
But in Erdogan’s Turkey state and religion have come together; ideology has taken precedence over pragmatism. Yet puzzles remain: How is it that a six percent interest rate is somehow anti-Islamic when a 4 percent rate is acceptable? What about 5pc? Erdogan is not troubled by such questions because he is an Ertugrul-like figure in his own imagination, convinced of his absolute wisdom. He recently lashed out at Turkish businessmen who are unimpressed with his faith-based economic policies. After chairing a cabinet meeting on the fall of the pound, he accused them of “conspiracy to overthrow the government” and said their hopes would be in vain.
Erdogan is just one example where ideology – whether religious or secular – gives the driving seat to emotion and the back seat to reason. Turkey is in trouble, but the United States is in even deeper waters. Even in the post-Trump era, many elected officials – both in the Senate and Congress – are right-wing, radical and ideologically charged crackpots who deny climate change and confuse gun control with a Communist takeover. . Some lawmakers have tacitly or openly supported the Capitol proposal to resume by a crowd. Will a dysfunctional America get back on track? The world is watching.
The misfortune of Pakistan is today to have Erdogan’s soul mate in power. Forget about the fall of the rupee – it will surely make some small recoveries soon, and for a while everyone will be happy again. What is much more serious is that our schools are producing hordes of ignorant, fanatic and hyper-religious Sialkot-type lynchers who are totally lacking in skill. It will get worse when the ideologically motivated Single National Program (SNC), the original idea of ââPrime Minister Imran Khan, becomes fully operational.
The SNC unites the regular schools with the madressahs. All over the country, ordinary schools are being demolished and turned into seminaries. The pre-CNS situation was bad enough with extremely low success levels in reading, writing and reasoning. SNC, by further strengthening the rote learning system, will deal the fatal blow. On the one hand, children will memorize much larger amounts of religious material. On the other hand, only one official manual is specified for each subject. A student memorizing selected parts of this book may obtain the maximum mark.
Globally, Pakistani children are currently at the low end of achievement levels. Lower than their counterparts in Iran, India and Bangladesh, they are almost always absent from competitions like the International Science and Mathematics Olympiad. When they are in competition, they mediocre results. The only exception is invariably an OA or IB level student tied to a foreign examination system.
This underperformance kills the possibility of Pakistan doing well in science and technology even until the 22nd century. Without good scientists, engineers and technicians, Pakistan is at an impasse. The billions of CPEC have failed to trigger industrial, engineering, scientific or commercial activity. The country has no space program, no biotechnology labs making new products, and no significant indigenous high-tech industry in any area. Pakistan last year Software exports – a measure of brain power – were barely $ 2 billion (india were $ 148 billion).
Academically, Pakistani professors produce thousands of so-called research papers every year, but these are mostly worthless. Today, the Pakistan Academy of Sciences is full of people with fake credentials; its leaders have the highest national accolades, but they are exposed by international organizations as cheaters and plagiarists. The ongoing revelations from one such organization, Retraction Watch, are like water on a duck’s back. None in PAS just blink their eyes at the revelations – fraud and bragging have become a way of life.
These grim problems can be overcome if there is a desire to be ruthlessly honest. But when aggressive and smug fanatics take the reins of power, the odds diminish. Such dogmas make reform impossible by claiming that they – and they alone – know the truth. Their moral absolutes lead to strong emotions, diminished reasoning capacity and dysfunctional governance.
Bolstered by Pakistan’s victory in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Khan – who greatly admires Erdogan – cheerfully hailed the Taliban as a liberating force. He praised the Pakistani madrassahs who produced the Taliban and showered fund on them. Now he wants our mainstream schools to emulate Taliban-style education – hence SNC. By official notification dated December 21, co-education in schools in the Punjab will be phased out. By fulfilling the ideological fantasies of Prime Minister Khan, Pakistan will pay a terrible price.
The writer is an Islamabad-based physicist and writer. Opinions are personal.
The article first appearance on Dawn’s site. It was published with permission.