Many people will concur with my answer above – that Gambians do not have to die in the high seas – and many others will disagree and say that yes, they do. They will argue that waking up and knowing that you don’t have money to feed your family is reason enough to take the challenge and go in the rough seas to try to eke out a living or seek greener pastures! So, it seems that the economic crisis is what is causing a lot of young men and in some cases, young women (I mean can you even believe it? Our young girls going in the rough seas to seek greener pastures?). It has become the egg and chicken question, which one came first? Is globalisation the answer?
A few months ago, when the increase in fares was announced in the media, it was said that it is as a result of the rising tensions in the Middle East. A commuter who was commenting on the issue said, ‘What connection is there between what is happening in the deserts of Libya and the fares to Banjul?’ Indeed it is an enigma for some people. But if one studies the economic, political, cultural and religious condition of the world, it becomes clear that it has everything to do with it. We have learned from these experiences that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt elsewhere. In the same way, when there is an economic boom in one country, other parts of the world also share in this boom in the form of travel and tourism. When disease spreads in one part of the world like the Ebola virus some countries are battling with, the whole world is at risk. When violence erupts in one part of the world, people in remote areas of the world are affected. When floods hit Pakistan and other rice producing countries last year, we all saw the increase in the cost of food. So what is the cause of all these interconnected effects?
Recent events in the world show that globalisation has now become a part of us all and it is not a remote experience or something removed from the life of the average person living in any part of the world. It is a concept used as a short form to convey a wide variety of processes, possibilities, and positions. It is, therefore, susceptible to different kinds of interpretations. It refers to the synchronising of the economies of the world, the harmonising- through integration- of the different cultural and religious values of the different people in the world and reducing the relevance of time and distance with the help of technological advancement. This is where the advancement in the transport system and communication infrastructure comes into play. As can be expected from such close-up of different issues on culture, religion and economics, globalisation has both advantages and disadvantages. We will now study these issues in the light of Islamic teachings.
It is worthy to set out from the very beginning the nature and scope of the teachings of Islam. The Holy Qur’an proclaims: “Say, ‘O humankind! Truly I am a Messenger to you all from Allah to Whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth…” (7:159)
The message of Islam is a universal one. It was meant for all humankind and for all times to come. It therefore addressed the issue of a global world where people will come under a universal ideology which should shape their cultural, religious and economic outlooks of the world. Islam did not at any time lay stress on any geographical obstacles or boundaries otherwise to any specific ideological leaning. The message was meant for all humankind and thus laid the foundation of a global village first. Studying the first few disciples of the Holy Prophetsa would also reveal that they came from different backgrounds. Some were Africans who converted to Islam, others from the Jews, some were Christians and others pagans. They all lived together in peace and harmony. On the political front, we see that the Holy Prophetsa set up a community that was as diverse in nature as communities can be, yet each had the right to identify both with the nation and their different religious and cultural leanings. This was globalisation of a sort. Men and women, from different ideologies and religious leanings were allowed to prosper under that benign leadership of our Mastersa. Applying these teachings of Islam in today’s world will see a rapid and sustained integration between the different peoples of the world which will bring immense economic and cultural benefits to humankind.
Islam has ever championed the cause of the poor and the needy in society. This is what the ‘proclaimed’ aim of globalisation is. It is said to be to take the opportunities available to the rich and more fortunate in society to the most remote areas of the world. This is done by increasing productivity and output so as to make available to the rural man as well as those in the cities the same opportunities to make a better living. This is done through capitalism and multinational business and the free market doctrine. True, this has brought benefits to society; it has improved productivity and created more job opportunities than ever before but there is still a great need for improvement as these multinationals are based on capitalist leanings which are in turn based on interest. Interest is the one single enemy of progress of the world population that has the potential to wreak havoc on the world economy; the current financial crises make this point very clear. And that is why in the Holy Qur’an Allah, the Almighty says: “O ye who believe! devour not interest involving diverse additions…” (Ali Imran 131)
Interest makes the opportunities mentioned above the prerogative of the rich nations and capitalist businessmen to the exclusion of the poor masses and the third world countries. It makes the competition unfair as the free market policy demands very high skills and technical know-how. The poor countries have neither the know-how nor the equipment to compete with the advanced countries. These gains can only be made sustainable and beneficial to the poor countries and their peoples if priority is given to education. This is why Islam has from the onset laid great emphasis on the seeking of knowledge. The first revelation vouchsafed to the Holy Prophet of Islamsa was to seek knowledge. It has also been reported that the Holy Prophetsa has directed Muslims to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, to seek knowledge even if we have to go to China.
These forces have been at work in the Muslim world and in the rest of the globe for a long time. In this sense, the word may be new but this sense of globalisation is old. But the globalisation we are witnessing today is catapulted by the economic and political triumph of private capital and its presence throughout the world. Technological innovations such as the Internet and the increasing ease of international travel have converted this earth and its people into a ‘global village’. Indeed the Holy Qur’an told us that: “And when the she-camels, ten months pregnant are abandoned” (81:5) And again: “And when various people are brought together” (81:8)
The advancement of the transport and communication system has made it possible for people to travel to different parts of the world in search of better job opportunities. Indeed, it will be true if it is said that the world has become one big village. This has led to rural urban drift and the illegal migration to Europe which has in turn become its own problem. The export of things to all parts of the world using these free market policies – and made possible by the efficient transport system has also affected local industry, flooding poor countries with cheap and low standard goods. Efforts should therefore be made to standardise local industries in the poor countries and create job opportunities at home.
Economic globalisation in this case is celebrated for launching momentum to end limiting caste structures, eliminating devastating rural poverty, encouraging consumer choice and creating new employment opportunities. The growth and liberalisation of the national economies has strengthened the middle and upper classes of the world.
In spite of these celebrated pretenses, the world has not been wholly integrated through the ideology of capitalistic practices, nor have these practices removed ideological polarisation. In fact, the poor are still very poor; in some instances, particularly in the third world, the poor are getting poorer. Economic globalisation, has led to increased urban poverty as people move in groups from the rural areas to the cities in search of opportunity. Globalisation has also meant unemployment for those laborers whose jobs disappear in favour of highly technical jobs without the development of more educational opportunities.
Musa Bah is an English teacher at Nusrat Senior Secondary School and the author of several books.]]>