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Globalization: Some Reflections

This is the predicament of mankind today. Despite political freedom and independence of the Third World countries they have been enslaved afresh, through economic and financial mechanisms and political maneuverings. All the world decision-making organs are in the hands of the Western powers. Those who claim to stand for democracy have no heart to see democracy in the major world institutions. Look to the United Nations. The General Assembly, with 191 independent countries, has no role in real decision-making. The Security Council is hostage to the five countries with veto powers and each of them can block any decision. With regard to nuclear technology, while nuclear non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) laid down the principle that nuclear technology would be shared for peaceful purposes with all the countries of the world, it was never implemented. The idea was to have a permanent monopoly on it because nuclear power could act as a deterrent even in the hands of smaller countries. The World Bank, IMF, World Trade Organization, International Court of Justice, look into any of these institutions and they are controlled, managed, and manipulated by the rich countries of the world. They call the shots and the other 170 odd countries of the world do not count. Is this justice?  Is this democracy?

What is globalization? International trade between all corners of the globe has been taking place for centuries. The story of Prophet Noah (blessings of Allah be upon him) and the historic Flood is part of the religious and cultural traditions of people in all parts of the world, even though in respect of some it has become an aspect of mythology. The movement of people and the sharing of their experiences is the first major instrument of globalization. Trade, migration and conquest have been the historic routes towards globalization from time immemorial. Free trade became the doctrine of the Capitalist world in the wake of the industrial revolution. Then, what is new about liberation and globalization that the West is clamoring about? In a word it is pax-Americana. Globalization now means economic, political and cultural hegemony of the dominant powers. Governments, multi-national corporations and NGOs are the new over-lords. There are five hundred major multinational corporations, which control 70 per cent of the total world trade. Of course, they also control research, technology, innovation, information and what not. Almost 97 per cent of the world research, technology and innovation is in the hands of the Western countries including Japan. The Third World’s share is only 3 per cent.


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This reveals a very disturbing situation. Millions of people die prematurely because of tuberculosis, malaria, measles, tetanus, whooping cough and AIDS. All, but a few thousand, do not get proper treatment in the poor world. Indeed AIDS alone kills more people in Africa than other major diseases including cancer. Research by pharmaceutical companies is concentrated on the diseases of the rich. Prices charged for medicines required to combat diseases in the poor countries are so exorbitant that they are outside the reach of the bulk of the suffering humanity. Equity and human well being are sacrificed at the altar of the interests of the rich and the powerful. The gap between rich and poor countries is ever widening especially between the very rich and the very poor. The same is the case of the gap between rich regions and poor regions and rich people and poor people within each country.

One of the most glaring examples of inhumanity is the role of the pharmaceutical industry. These multi-national corporations are not prepared to undertake research and develop vaccines and medicines, which could provide cheap and effective health care to the teeming millions in the Third World countries. It is a game of profit, not of humanity or service. It is very intriguing that no effort is being made to promote preventive care, which is much cheaper and inexpensive. Some of the diseases that kill the poor can be checked only if there is enough preventative care, including change of habits. Studies have scientifically shown what we have always known culturally and intuitively that no single change would save more lives than if people routinely washed their hands before touching food and clean their mouth after having that. They need to filter their drink, feed babies hygienically, use mosquito nets, avoid alcoholic drinks and drunken driving, and to practice sex within the framework of marriage and morality. That can save humanity from some 90 per cent of health disasters.

Just reflect for a moment, the solution is not merely more vaccine or more medicine but to begin with it is the adoption of simple health care principles which Islam and all religions have taught. We, the Muslims have learnt that as part of our personal hygiene, our everyday manners, moral and mores. Washing hands is Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). Eating simple food, eating less than your hunger, breast-feeding are part of our culture. Alcohol and other intoxicants are forbidden in Islam. The West encourages drinking but is worried about drunken driving! They are afraid of death on the roads but drunkards can rule countries, can command armies and play with the fate of humanity. Islam strikes at the root. What is safe sex? Sex in married life. I am not trying to simplify it, but the fact is that these things are the real answer, not the glamorous lifestyle of a decadent culture that blinds humans to realities, and debases them by glamorizing sex and surrendering reason to passion.

 

Source: Contemporary Economic Challenges and Islam, Khurshid Ahmed. Republished with permission.