APRIL 1 — “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” — Thomas Jefferson
“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” — Jackie Robinson
Everyone has an opinion; however, some people are shy to share. An interactive article, much like a survey, requiring readers’ opinions may actually encourage wider audience participation. For many of us, constructive comments about an online article actually provide more insights than the article itself.
Why is that when China, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela (under the late Hugo Chavez) made/make provocative comments about the US, the reaction from the Tea Party loyalists and Fox talk show hosts are not immediate and proportional, if at all, when compared to comments from stateless extremists like Al Qaeda?
Is it because, in the mind of the loyalists, these sovereignties are not trying to expand religion, and they can actually do economic and/or military harm to the US? What about election year politics?
Many of the Muslim countries are trying to diversify their economies from natural resources, commodities, conventional banking, basic manufacturing, typically 4-5 economic sector bias, to a knowledge based economy as part of 2020 and 2030 vision plans.
The knowledge pursuit implies linkage of educational budgets for clusters, technology parks, equity financing (venture capital and crowd funding), legal protections, mentoring, etc. One way of looking at the output would be the number of patents registered with the US Trade & Patent Office. Does Malaysia have the most patents from the OIC?
Why do selected Muslim countries with excessive surplus continue to purchase trophy assets in the US and western Europe, at times at top of the market, and not invest more of the money in the “national mission” of establishing and enabling an educational infrastructure for future generations?
I recently had an eye-opening conversation with the former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, where he articulated that education starts in the mother’s womb with appropriate nutrition, food and spiritual guidance! The Muslim world needs this type of thinking to close the “knowledge” approach gap with the developed world.
Why has the OIC, as a whole, not captured the imagination of emerging market investors like BRICS? Is it because, out of the 57 OIC states, 22 are least developed but only three are G-20, there is corruption, capital flight, brain drain, and a host of most of the world’s intra-country conflicts, etc? Thus, requiring a sub-OIC, like SAMI +3, Saudi Arabia, Ankara, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Egypt? Who will promote such a clustering?
Why is it when celebrities like Mike Tyson or the late Michael Jackson allegedly “revert” to Islam, it spreads like wildfire on Muslim websites (with excitement)? Why is it when the UK wanted to issue a sovereign Sukuk (roughly and badly translated as an Islamic bond), the Islamic finance world spoke of it as a “badge of arrival” for the niche market? Do Muslims have an identity crisis and still mentally and/or are psychologically colonised by Western/conventional offerings?
Faith, finance, food and fashion
Islamic finance isn’t just about finance, but linked to faith, food, fashion, etc., hence, when will it or, rather, how will it step up and be the financial “lubricant” to these satellite-linked activities? Islamic finance needs to serve the economy, and not be positioned as the economy!
Should Ogilvy Noor, an Islamic branding consultancy, examine the merits of rebranding Islamic finance to Participation Finance, especially if the cross-sell to non-Islamic customers and countries is one of the KPI growth stories? Furthermore, how best to “educate” the anti-syariah movement, which attempts to link, without evidence, Islamic finance to terrorism financing?
Why Islamic finance, biased towards real estate financing, does not finance a real economy-linked movement like the halal food industry, as they are both mentioned in the same chapter of the Quran? The irony of the situation is a Muslim can consume the end product of certified halal food companies, like Malaysia-based Prima, but may not be able invest in the stock as it violates one of the financial ratios (too much conventional debt)!
Is the blame game spread to both halal (need to tell a better story of halal as an asset class) and Islamic finance (halal, asset backed, is ripe for Sukuk offering)?
Is food manufacturing considered a “sexy” or exciting industry compared to mega developments and information super corridors, etc.? Do people get excited about a food park or cows or chickens? Yet, everyone knows how important food security is to a country; hence, the disconnect.
Why is ethnic cuisine a great ambassador for a country? For example, in US, we have Italian, Chinese, Lebanese and Mexican food, Turkish delights, Pakistani biryani, Indian curry, Polish sausages, etc.
What Malaysian food/meal would be a good ambassador to the US? Would satay be a perfect food ambassador as the signature dish of Malaysia Airlines? How many Malaysian fast-food franchises exist in the US/UK?
Why is healthy food, vitamins, etc, expensive in Malaysia? This is one area, along with health club membership, the government should sunset subsidise until people feel the difference and understand the implications of health.
Why do Muslim countries not encourage local sport development by way of budgets, facilities and international coaches? Some of the countries offer “citizenship” for non-nationals to represent the country, and, even then a victory appears to be hollow.
For example, assume 25 per cent of the 1.8 billion Muslims are under 15 years old, there are Michael Jordans, Lebron Jameses, Tiger Woodses, David Beckhams, etc, in the Muslim world, and they would be wonderful ambassadors and role models for the country and its youth.
Who has a greater contribution to society, one who does not wear the “veil” and provides much charitable contributions, including the kindness of a smile, or the taker of charity, who passes judgment?
The highlight of the Proud to Be Human moment for 2012 had to be the recovery of Malala Yousufzai, the brave young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education. Her actions should earn a Nobel Peace Prize for the courage of a “special ops soldier”.
The Nobel committee needs to send a strong signal about girls’ education by awarding her the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for Courage and Contribution to Girls’ Education in Emerging Markets.
“Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” — John F. Kennedy
So, what is your thoughtful opinion?
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.