Thursday, 28 July 2011

My View About The Islamic Banking

PERSONALLY, I don’t see anything
wrong with Islamic banking, but
I can understand the sentiments
of those opposing it. Question:
Would I want it introduced?
Answer: yes, but subject to terms
and conditions.
My own layman’s understanding
of this system of banking is that
it is tied to a traditional approach
to lending which abhors undue
exploitation. Most usurers are
sharks who end up destroying
the poor that approaches them
for lending.
Shakespeare’s Merchant of
Venice is all about the extreme
heartlessness of lenders. The
Islamic form of banking presents
as a more humane alternative
governed by Islamic Sharia laws.
And why not? Everyone who
parts with his money to another
party must spell out terms. My
layman’s impression is that the
Sharia laws are meant to prevent
the use of money lent by an
Islamic bank to promote
businesses and activities which
the religion forbids such as the
rearing of pigs, conduct of
worldly beauty pageants,
production, buying and selling of
alcohol and others.
The idea of profit and loss
sharing, rather than charging
interests, whether profit or loss
was made (which conventional
banking thrives upon) is
something many businessmen
and women are liable to
welcome, irrespective of their
religious backgrounds.
The wonderful thing about the
non-interest banking policy is
that if, not being a Moslem, you
do not wish to tie yourself to the
conditionalities of Sharia law, you
can always go for the non-
Islamic variants. What it means is
that if interest groups outside
the Islamic circles should want to
launch their own variants, all they
need to do is to conform to the
guidelines of the enabling law.
The problem with Islamic
banking, therefore is not Islamic
banking itself but the usual
immature and careless ways that
the CBN Governor, Malam Sanusi
Lamido Sanusi, has gone about it.
It is said that a good diplomat
can tell you to go to hell and
make you actually look forward
to doing so. But if Sanusi tells
you: “Good morning”, he can
make it sound like:
“God punish you”. Since he
opened fire to clean up the
banking system, Sanusi’s
otherwise revolutionary policies
have been blighted by his
corrosive pronouncements that
are better kept unsaid, or at least
said with more attention to
undesirable side effects. He could
have succeeded in rescuing the
banks and getting those who
defrauded them punished
without setting the entire
financial system on fire as he did
with his buccal bazookas.
I remember very well that part of
his predecessor, Professor
Chukwuma Soludo’s packages
was the introduction of Islamic
banking. He served notice on
several fora that the policy was
on the cards, but nobody even
took notice, let alone raised the
hatchet against it. Being a Muslim
(and a possible future emir at
that) Sanusi should have been
clever not to set off a rock-fall of
opposition by those who would
feel uncomfortable with it. If I
were in his position I would have
portrayed it as the introduction
of non-interest banking, with the
Islamic banking being only one
of the many choices in the
As I said before, I understand the
furore being raised against
Islamic banking. Our Muslim
compatriots from Northern
Nigeria managed to sow seeds
of discord and suspicion with
the manner in which they
imposed certain Islamic practices
on a country that is widely seen
as “secular” (even though I
prefer the term “multi-religious”).
They exploited their long
monopoly of power to do so
many things without caring
about the sentiments of other
Nigerians who did not share
their Islamic cultural way of life.
There are so many examples to
point to.
One of them was the use of the
ajami Arabic inscriptions on our
currency notes. Right from the
time of my childhood, I could
never understand the source and
meaning of those inscriptions on
our Pounds and later, Naira
notes. I don’t even know the
meaning of “Naira”. I have been
told that “Kobo” is a corruption
of “copper” used to describe the
copper coin even in colonial
times. Kobo is actually
“kwabo” (as in Gaskiya tafi
kwabo), a Hausa term.
Now our national currency is just
like our flag and English, our
official language. These are
things all Nigerians share in
common. These are symbols and
factors that unite us. But ajami is
something peculiar to only
Moslems (especially Northern
Nigerian Moslems). It has nothing
to do with me as an Igbo and
Christian Nigerian, or another
person as someone of another
ethnic stock who is a non-
Muslim. And yet, the people who
forced it on our national
currency did not care how others
Soludo’s decision to remove the
ajami from our current 50 kobo
and lower denominations got
him called all sorts of names.
Soludo’s work was only half
done, because the ajami must be
removed from our banknotes. To
me there is nothing Nigerian
about it.
In the same way, mosques were
built in our State House at Abuja.
General Ibrahim Babangida built
the Aso Villa architecture to look
like the palace of an emir. It was
only in response to the heat
raised by the Christian
community that a chapel was
reluctantly inserted.
Nothing raised the
consciousness of Nigerian non-
Muslims like the surreptitious
enrolment of Nigeria as a
member of the Organisation of
Islamic Conference, OIC, late in
1985. Since that time, Christians
have been vigilant to prevent
what they see as the grand plan
to “Islamise” Nigeria. The
introduction of Islamic banking
is viewed in this light and thus
the clamour for it not to see the
light of day.
The truth is that if we go on this
way, this country will never
survive, let alone develop.
Muslims must do away with any
real or imaginary idea of forcing
their religion on this country.
This mentality is gradually
radicalising the normally peaceful
Christian community to meet
force with force. On the other
hand, Christians must also learn
to allow their Muslim compatriots
(especially those who choose to
live a Muslim lifestyle) to do so
provided that no one’s liberty is
tampered with. It is not
everything that is good for
Muslims that is bad for Christians,
and vice versa.
The beauty of dog play is: You fall
for me, I fall for you!