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  1. Hi all, I've started a commentary podcast on a vlog channel I have on YouTube and I'd like to share the link for you all. The first discussion with my friend, a European psychologist, involves the economic underpinnings of the Saudi Women Driving campaign. Feel free to drop me some feedback. YouTube video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG54zHlNd3E As congestion and emission concerns in the mobility sector have accelerated policies to reduce car ownership and enhance 'Green' economies of scale in Western Europe and the United States, client export markets in West Asia are increasingly instructed by hegemonies in the core to stimulate higher volume imports of ICE vehicles. Recently in Saudi Arabia, regulatory obstacles stemming from the country's religious class were removed in an effort to enlarge supply and demand mechanisms. The debate about women driving in Saudi Arabia began in the 1980s, and resulted in prohibitions by Ibn Baz and al-Uthaymeen who declared women's driving an opportunity for corruption and an invitation for Muslim women to imitate other impious women. Citing Quranic verses on modesty and the veil, Ibn Baz reached the conclusion that women should not be allowed to travel alone or with a non-mahram driver, and that under no circumstances should be allowed to drive cars (Al-Rasheed, 2013). This obstacle became not only an inconvenience for Saudi women, but also for major US and semi-peripheral Japanese car manufacturers. With the gradual decline of an American empire, the increasing difficulty and failures of imperialist war to break open markets and the forging of trade and physical walls, the Trump administration has reiterated repeatedly that "Saudi Arabia must pay." It must not only pay for patronage, security and the continued American regional presence, but also for trade inefficiencies that have been tolerated and have persisted for decades. This commentary podcast suggests that in concert with the white feminist movement, mainstream political parties and newspapers, neoliberal NGOs, Saudis in exiles and domestic compradors, the American State Department has spearheaded a new mode of policy framing modeled after the Torches of Freedom campaign initiated by Edward Bernays in 1929. In that campaign, Bernays, a public relations mogul, teamed up with American feminist groups and linked the prohibition of women smoking in the United States to their lack of emancipation, paying female actors to smoke in public in an effort to increase the American Tobacco Company's market share. This podcast further suggests that by means of a coordinated public relations campaign, car manufacturers such as Ford and GM are the real 'winners' of #SaudiWomenDriving. Retrospectively, it argues that the people of Saudi Arabia are the unintended victims of surplus extraction by Western capitalists and of consumerism, all whilst being discouraged to consider the domestic means of production in Saudi Arabia's automotive sector.
  2. al-Salamu 'Alaykum! Please read my latest blog piece and share if you find it worthwhile! “Muḥammad (s), the young man, pointed to the source of corruption in Arabia; economic inequality. Makkah was a center of trade and in it he witnessed how the majority (Arabs) abused the minority (non-Arabs), how there was no equal pay for equal work, how women and children were treated as commodities. These injustices were all tolerated by that jāhilī society for it was ‘good’ economically, unfortunately these are all normative to present-day capitalist societies as well... https://ahlulbaytblog.com/2018/02/25/young-muslims-need-to-be-radical-capitalism-is-jahiliyah/
  3. Eight men own as much wealth as the lower 50% of the world. Billionaires using their wealth to do good is good, but it should never have reached this point. The gap between rich and poor is ever widening and opportunities to climb out of poverty are decreasing. Even under feudalism there was less disparity. https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2017-01-16/just-8-men-own-same-wealth-half-world Who are these eight elites? https://www.google.com/amp/www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/amp/who-are-8-richest-people-all-men-mostly-americans-n707421?client=ms-android-verizon
  4. We often hear how the rise of Western ideas of liberation and human rights have caused the loss of traditional values which have had serious consequences especially in the developing world. What is missed is the role economic forces play in the shifting of values. Standards which were hitherto backbone of morality gradually become economically nonviable. Economic development of the kind we see in South Korea, China, Brazil, India etc is hailed ad nauseam by everyone from any ideological background. Researchers swim in awe-inspiring growth figures, enriched middle and trading classes, registers of jobs, and whatnot. But there is little recognition of the cost fast economic activity levies on the host society. You can find social parallels in each country listed above of the story quoted below. Read full HERE
  5. Why President Rouhani’s “Economic Package” is Empty Neoliberal Economics Comes to Iran by ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH Tired of the oppressive financial hardship, wrought largely by the imperialist economic war against Iran, the Iranian people elected Hassan Rouhani president (June 2013) as he promised economic revival. He premised his pledge of economic recovery mainly on his alleged ability to bring the brutal sanctions against Iran to an end and integrate the Iranian economy into the world capitalist system. His promise of removing or alleviating sanctions, however, seems to have been based on an optimistic perception that a combination of the so-called charm offensive and far-reaching compromises over Iran’s nuclear technology would suffice to alter the Western powers’ sanctions policy against Iran. More than a year later, while Iran’s peaceful nuclear technology is reduced from a fairly advanced to a relatively primitive level (from 20% to below 5% uranium enrichment), critical sanctions remain in place and economic recovery remains a dream. To mitigate the oppressive burden of the so-called stagflation, a combination of stagnation and inflation, the president and his economic team recently crafted an economic package, “Proposed Package to Turn Stagnation to Expansion,” which turns out to be disappointingly devoid of any specific guideline or clear policy for economic recovery. Slightly more than 40% of the package is devoted to a withering criticism of economic policies of the previous (Ahmadinejad’s) administration, which is not only full of factual falsehoods and distortions but is also dubious on theoretical grounds. The rest of the package consists of a series of vague statements and general descriptions that fall way short of a meaningful economic plan or program. Reading through the package feels like reading through lecture notes of an academic economist on neoclassical/neoliberal macroeconomic theory, not a policy prescription or an economic agenda. Accordingly, the sentences and, indeed, the entire text of the package make use of an exclusively passive voice (which is characteristic of a theoretical narrative, or a self-protective language designed to avoid responsibility for action) instead of an active voice characteristic of a policy agenda to be acted upon. Implicit in the use of the passive voice in the composition of the text of the package is that the subject/agent, or do-er, is market mechanism, not public policy [1]. The purpose of this essay is not to show the emptiness of Mr. Rouhani’s economic package, as this is amply established by many other critics of the package [2]. It is rather to show why it is empty, and why this should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with his economic outlook or philosophy, as reflected, for example, in his book, National Security and Economic System of Iran (2010). Neoliberal Economic Outlook President Rouhani’s economic policy package is devoid of specific development plans or industrialization projects because the president and most of his economic advisors subscribe to an economic doctrine that frowns upon government intervention in economic affairs—unless such interventions help “pave the way” for unfettered market operations. According to this doctrine, called supply-side or neoliberal economics, solutions to economic stagnation, poverty and under-development lie in unhindered market mechanism and unreserved integration into world capitalist system. Recessions, joblessness and economic hardship in many less-developed countries are not so much due to economic mismanagement or the nature of global capitalism as they are because of government intervention and/or exclusion from world capitalist markets. Neoliberal prescriptions that are portrayed as enabling the less-developed countries to harness “benevolent dynamics” of capitalism include: tax breaks for the wealthy and/or big business; privatization of public sector assets, enterprises and services; undermining labor unions and minimizing workers’ wages and benefits; eliminating or diluting environmental and workplace safety standards; deregulating markets; opening of the domestic market to unrestricted foreign investment/trade; and the like. The claim that President Rouhani is a proponent of neoliberal economics is no speculation; it follows from his many speeches and statements, from his recently proposed “economic package” to fight stagflation and, as mentioned earlier, from his book, National Security and Economic System of Iran [امنیت ملّی و نظام اقتصادی ایران]. It is also evident from his policy prescriptions. The president’s book deplores Iran’s “very oppressive” labor laws. It argues that the minimum wage must be slashed and restrictions on the laying off of workers eliminated if Iran’s “owners of capital” are to have the “freedom” to create prosperity. “One of the main challenges that employers and our factories face,” Rouhani writes, “is the existence of labor unions. Workers should be more pliant toward the demands of job-creators” [3]. Mr. Rouhani’s book also sheds important light on the link between his administration’s turn toward Washington and its plans to restructure the Iranian economy after the model of neoliberalism: “There is a close correlation between economic development and political stability, which means maintaining dialogue and friendly relations with the outside world. As stable international relations paves the grounds for economic development, economic development, in turn, makes a country more secure or stable as it makes the country less vulnerable to external threats. Thus, there is a positive correlation, akin to a virtuous cycle, between the goal of economic development and the policy of establishing or maintaining friendly relations with the outside world” [4]. This passage (among many similar statements the president has made on numerous occasions) explains why Mr. Rouhani has made the solution to Iran’s economic problems contingent upon political détente or friendly relations with the United States and its allies. In general, there is of course nothing wrong with the desire to establish friendly relations with the U.S., or any other country for that matter; it could, indeed, be of mutual benefits if it is based on mutual respect for national sovereignty of countries involved. The problem with the Rouhani administration’s pursuit of an amicable relationship with the U.S., however, is that it has tied the urgently needed solutions to Iran’s economic difficulties to that unpredictable and unreliable relationship. The administration’s misguided perception that the mere establishment of relations with the U.S. would serve as a panacea to Iran’s economic woes has basically made the fate of Iran’s economy hostage to the unforeseeable outcome of its negotiations with the United State and, therefore, hostage to the endless, and increasingly futile, nuclear negotiations with the group of the so-called 5+1 countries, dominated by the United States. This explains Mr. Rouhani’s dilemma: he has essentially trapped himself into an illusion, the illusion that a combination of charm offensives, smiley faces and diplomatic niceties (in place of Ahmadinejad’s undiplomatic demeanor) would suffice to change imperialist policies toward Iran. In reality, however, the U.S. policy toward Iran (or any other country, for that matter) is based on an agenda, an imperialistic agenda that consists of a series of demands and expectations, not on diplomatic decorum, or the type of language its leaders use. President Rouhani’s neoliberal economic views are abundantly evident from his occasional statements and speeches on economic policy. For example, in a 16 August 2014 (25 Mordad 1393, Iranian calendar) speech in Tehran, designed to explain his administration’s policies to fight economic stagnation, the president fervently maintained that state intervention in economic affairs is often more detrimental than beneficial, arguing that.> – needs to be paraphrased)ledent ionns inistration’ions wiht is that itmic developmment de world. As economic development can “the state must stay out of economic activities, and place those activities at the disposal of the private sector . . . . The private sector understands the economy much better, and it knows where to invest” [5]. (Incidentally, this statement is uncannily similar to what President Ronald Reagan famously said about the economic role of the government: “The government can help the economy by staying out of it.”) The neoliberal policies of the Rouhani administration are, however, best reflected in the actual economic measures the administration has adopted. One such measure has been drastic reductions in a number of import duties, or tariffs, including reduction of tariffs on imports that have competitive domestic substitutes. For example, Mr. Mahmoud Sedaqat, vice president of the Association of UPVC Window & Door Profiles Manufacturers, recently complained (during a news briefing in Tehran) that while domestic production capacity of this petrochemical is more than twice as much as domestic needs, the government reduced import tariffs for this product from 30% to 15%. Mr. Sedaqat further pointed out that government’s careless trade policy and a lack of protection for domestic producers has led to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty among domestic producers, which is contributing to further aggravation of the ongoing economic stagnation [6]. Another example of the neoliberal policies of the Rouhani administration is its policy of fighting inflation. According to the president and his economic advisors, government spending and/or excessive money supply are the major cause for the hyperinflation in Iran. This view of inflation is based on the notorious IMF diagnosis for the plague of inflation not only in Iran but almost everywhere in the world. The essence of this approach to inflation, which is part of the IMF’s so-called “Structural Adjustment Program,” can be summarized as follows: (1) excessive government spending contributes to the growth of money supply; (2) growth of money supply automatically leads to inflation; and (3) to control inflation, therefore, requires rolling back government spending, or implementing austerity measures. Real economic world is of course very different from this purely academic, nearly mechanical, correlation. An often-cited case in this context is the German experience of the immediate post-WW II period. Evidence shows that while the volume of cash and demand deposits rose 2.4 times and the volume of bank loans, both short and long term, rose more than ten-fold in the 1948-54 period, this significant rise in liquidity not only did not lead to a rise in the level of prices but it was, in fact, accompanied by a decline in the general level of prices—the consumer price index declined from 112 to 110 during that period. Why? Because the increase in liquidity was accompanied by an even bigger increase in output. While anecdotal, this experience nonetheless shows that, if or when used productively, a large money supply does not automatically lead to high inflation. While it is true that, under certain circumstances, excess liquidity can be inflationary, I also strongly suspect that the inflationary role of liquidity is often exaggerated in order to justify and implement the anti-welfare, neoliberal policies of economic austerity. To the extent that curtailment of social spending may lead to curtailment of inflation, it also leads to curtailment of employment, purchasing power, demand and, therefore, economic growth, i.e. to stagnation—a side effect which is much worse than the plague of inflation. This explains, at least in part, the failure of the Rouhani administration’s neoliberal fight against inflation: not only has it not curtailed inflation, it has also aggravated stagnation by cutting social spending and undermining demand. Like their neoliberal counterparts elsewhere, Iranian neoliberals view government spending as a cost that must be minimized. In reality, however, judicious government spending (whether on soft/social infrastructure such as education, health and nutrition or on physical infrastructure such as transportation and communication projects) is an investment in the long-term development of a society, not a cost. It is not surprising, then, that the IMF-sponsored curtailment of government spending in pursuit of lowering inflation has often led to economic stagnation and underdevelopment. One of the first victims of the neoliberal economic policies of the Rouhani administration was the government-sponsored housing project that was put in place by the previous administration in order to make home-ownership affordable to working and low-income classes. Called Maskan-e Mehr (Goodwill Housing), not only did it allow 4.4 million low-income families to become homeowners, it also significantly contributed to economic growth and employment. Despite its success, the Rouhani administration has decided to discontinue the project. Class Interests as Economic Theory Neoliberalism is essentially an ideology or doctrine that is designed to promote and/or justify policies of economic austerity, thereby serving the interests of the plutocratic 1% at the expense of the overwhelming majority of citizens. This is accomplished through an ad-hoc, utilitarian economic theory that postulates that unhindered market mechanism and unrestricted pursuit of self-interest lead to economic expansion and prosperity for all, that state-sponsored social safety-net programs are “burdens” or “costly trade-offs” in terms of lost productivity and that, therefore, government intervention in economic affairs must be avoided. This neoliberal ideology is promoted and propagated so effectively that it has evolved, more or less, as a religion, market religion—or as Alex Andrews of The Guardian newspaper puts it, “the market a god and economics a form of theology.” Indeed, the faith in market mechanism is more akin to blind cultism than rational belief of intelligent people in otherworldly religion. Viewing market mechanism as almost infallible and blaming capitalism’s systemic failures on the “irrational behavior of market players” is tantamount to some simplistic interpretations of religion that attribute humans’ misfortunes or miseries to their deviations from God’s ways; that is, in the same way that humans’ “sinful” deeds are said to condemn them to a wretched Otherworld, economic agents’ deviations from market rules are believed to lead to economic crises that would doom them to financial misery in this world. Cleverly, this theory is called supply-side economics, implying that economic policy makers should not or need not concern themselves with the demand-side of the economy, that is, with the purchasing power or the ability of the people to buy or demand. Instead, if policy makers only focused on the production side of the economy and created conditions favorable to expanded growth or a bigger supply, the resulting “trickle-down” effects would automatically benefit the demand-side of the economy. And what are those favorable conditions? They include market deregulations, lax labor and environmental standards, supply-side tax breaks, minimizing wages and benefits, removal of restrictions on international capital flows, long hours and subjection of labor to strict management discipline, denial of trade union rights and suppression of workers’ political actions, and the like. The division or dichotomy between supply-side and demand-side of an economy is, however, a scam: an artificial, utilitarian and arbitrary division that is crafted largely on abstract theoretical grounds, and for ideological reasons. A real world economy is a totality where supply and demand are two sides of the same coin, meaning that the two sides need to be dealt with simultaneously. For example, the need for health care coverage, the critical necessity of public education, or social safety need programs such as provision of subsistence nutrition for the needy cannot be neglected or put on the backburner in the hope of some illusory effects of “trickle-down” economics. Supply side is a façade, a misleading or obfuscationist theory that is designed to camouflage the neoliberal philosophy of social Darwinism. The experience of the IMF-sponsored “structural adjustment programs” in many “developing” countries around the world shows that curtailing critical social spending in the name of boosting the supply-side of the economy is a counterproductive policy that tends to undermine long-term growth and development by cutting vital investment in both social and physical infrastructures. This can also be seen, even more clearly, in the context of the crisis-ridden core capitalist countries since the 2008 financial collapse, where extensive neoliberal austerity cuts have resulted in widespread misery and escalating inequality without reviving the stagnant economies of these countries. While the supply-side doctrine has a long history (going back all the way to the classical economist Jean-Baptiste Say, 1767-1832, who famously expressed the doctrine as: “supply creates its own demand”), its latest revival started in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the U.S. and U.K., which brought forth two of its most effective propagandists: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It has since been systematically entrenched not only in the core capitalist countries but also in many less-developed countries, including Iran. In Iran, the turn to neoliberal economics started under the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani. It was somewhat contained under the presidency of Mahmud Ahmadinejad (although he too had his share of extensive privatizations); but with the election of President Rouhani it is once again gathering speed—Rouhani is basically picking up where Rafsanjani left off. To point out that President Rouhani and most of his economic advisors are advocates of neoliberal economics is not to say that they lack compassion, or that they do not care about the lot of the working and needy classes. It is rather to point out that their policy prescription to remedy the financial distress that plagues the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people is misguided. It rests upon the idea of capitalism as a benign sphere of human activity where innovating entrepreneurs generate wealth to such an extent that some of it is bound to “trickle-down” to the population at large. It is necessary to point out here that trickle-down theory may have had some validity in the earlier (industrial or manufacturing) stages of capitalism where the rise in the wealth of nations also meant expanded (real) production and the rise in employment. However, in the era of heavily financialized economies, where the dominant form of capitalist wealth comes not so much from real production of goods and services as it does from asset price inflations, that is, from financial bubbles, trickle-down theory has lost whatever minimal validity it may have had at earlier phases of capitalism. Illusion and Misconceptions President Rouhani and his economic advisors’ perceptions that the solution to Iran’s economic problems lies in an unrestrained integration into world capitalism and a wholesale privatization of the Iranian economy is overly optimistic. Abundant and irrefutable evidence shows that, during the past several decades, neoliberalism’s dismantlement of socialist, social-democratic and other welfare state economies across the world has invariably led to drastic declines in employment, wages and living standards of the overwhelming majority of the people, thereby further aggravating poverty and inequality on a global level. In many “developing” countries that are integrated into globalized neoliberal capitalism, the living conditions of the majority of their citizens have, in fact, deteriorated. To the extent that workers can find employment, they are often paid poverty wages; and they are increasingly forced to hold several jobs, often detrimental to their health and family life. As Ben Selwyn (among many others) has pointed out: “The contemporary world has unprecedented wealth, and mass poverty. Total global wealth was $241 trillion in 2013 and is expected to rise to $334 trillion by 2018. Yet the majority of people live in poverty. The World Bank and its defenders argue that global poverty has declined under neoliberalism. They can only make these arguments because the World Bank defines the poverty line as $1.25 a day, below which it is impossible to lead a dignified life. . . . Lant Pritchett, a critical World Bank economist, suggests a more humane $10 a day poverty line; according to his calculations, 88% of the world population lives in poverty [7]. Summarizing his study of the relationship between globalization of neoliberalism and its impact on the living conditions of the worldwide masses of citizens, Selwyn concludes: “Far from a ladder of opportunity, workers in globalized production networks are incorporated into economic systems that reproduce their poverty to sustain corporation profits” [8]. Contrary to claims of neoliberalism, major economic developments, critical infrastructural projects and significant industrialization achievements under capitalism have been made possible either directly by the public sector or by the state support for the private sector. For example, in the aftermath of the Great Depression and WW II, most European countries embarked on extensive state-sponsored industrialization and/or development projects under social-democratic, labor or socialist governments, not so much to bring about “genuine” socialism as it was to rebuild the war-torn European economies by mobilizing and pulling together national resources and funneling them toward development projects. Similar policies were successfully carried out in other major capitalist countries such as the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and South Korea. In Iran too most industrialization projects and infrastructural developments since the 1979 revolution have taken place under direct or supervisory role of the state—when the country relied on its domestic talents, resources, and capabilities in pursuit of self-reliance in the face of hostile imperialist powers and their cruel economic sanctions. Such developments were brought about even under the highly inauspicious conditions of the war, the 8-year war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and brutal economic sanctions. By contrast, extensive privatizations and systematic spread of neoliberal capitalism of recent years, especially since the election of President Rouhani, has basically meant stagnation of the real sector and development of speculative, parasitic or financial sector of the economy. Evidence shows that, at the early or formative stages of their development, all the presently industrialized countries vigorously carried out policies of export promotion and import substitution; that is, policies that protected their “infant industries” against the more competitive foreign exporters while promoting their own exports abroad. For example, Britain’s adoption of mercantilist and/or protectionist policies of economic development in the early stages of its industrialization, which erected prohibitive tariffs against the then more competitive Dutch exporters, played a significant role in nurturing the country’s manufacturers to excel in global markets. Likewise, the United States pursued vigorous policies of protecting its “infant industries” against the more productive European exporters until the early to mid-twentieth century, when its producers became competitive in global markets. Similar protectionist policies were followed by Japan, South Korea and other core capitalist countries in the formative phases of their industrialization and development [9]. Thus, the neoliberal outlook of President Rouhani (and most of his economic advisors) that ties solutions to Iran’s economic difficulties to integration of the country’s economy into global capitalism and further curtailment of the economic role of the government is far from warranted; it is, indeed, contradicted by development experiences of most countries around the world. Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press 2012).
  6. Tauheed and Capital Introduction Human beings are born with some distinctive traits which are absent in all other species. These distinctive traits not only form the basis of many philosophical debates, but are also of significance in this discussion. Our subject regards the topic of Tauheed (or, literally, the oneness of God). Then, practical relations of the concept of Tauheed to the notion of ‘capital’ are drawn. The concept of capital starts with a humanly trait of gaining more. Very broadly and crudely speaking, this quest for more may be present in the form of a human’s worldly or spiritual gains. In contemporary social terms, this trait of human can be defined as the practical demonstration in the form of the ‘free market economy’. In this economy, the rule of the thumb is to maximise own profits through the procedure of buying least expensively and selling most expensively possible. It forms the basis of the rationale of value and prestige to common man i.e. a man in this world is appreciated a great deal by his fellows as long as he can follow this pattern successfully. The logic present in the current world is the maximization of profits without a set limit for any end. In Marx’s terms, “capital does not abide a limit” (Marx, 1973) Alongside this limitless quest of human to reach the infinity of most profitable outcomes while using everything around him including his own self as a ‘tool’ to attain that objective prevails in the current age, Muslims are seen to recite in every prayer that God is ‘one’. The aim of this paper is to draw a theory that with the desires of attaining a limitless capital, a Muslim’s self-declared concept of Tauheed is challenged. We try to cover a debate of many pages in only a few words; it is inevitable that many concepts might remain ill-explained and incomprehensive conclusions may be drawn by this process of shortening, but we will try our best to capture some realities of the life here. There is no god but Allah Amongst the most commonly quoted words for any Muslim are the words of the Kalma. The literal translation of that oft-quoted phrase is ‘There is no god but Allah’ (Kalma Taiyyaba) One of the most common Surah’s of the Quran, arguably the second most common, opens up as follows: “Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,”” (Quran Surah Ikhlas, 112:1) Another Surah not as commonly recited opens up as, “Craving for excess diverted you” (Quran Surah Takathur, 102:1) We start off by putting to question the literal meaning of the Kalma Tayyiba itself. When we say there is no god except Allah, is it merely numerical oneness meant by Tauheed? We wish to not debate on the topic that whether even numerical oneness is applicable to Allah or not. Not to mention that when we consider He is the creator of time, space, numbers and even infinity, there is none of these notions that can ‘limit’ Him. But what we want to bring to light is the notion that when we deny all other gods what is it that we really mean. Is it necessary for us to deny all other gods in order to accept Allah to be the ‘One’ and ‘Only’ praiseworthy Entity? Which perspective on this very Kalma is important to us. To use it as what it can be, i.e. the biggest weapon against so many ills including capitalism? Or just to repeat the word merely as a tongue exercise. Verily God is, as the Surah Ikhlas proceeds, indifferent (not indifferent in the sense that he does not care about us, but that he does not need our prayers for any benefit to Him). So all the implications of the concept of Tauheed must have a direct effect on primarily our betterment. It might be assumed at this point that the concept of Tauheed must be something of prime advantage to ourselves, individually and collectively, instead of God. While the positive effects of belief in Oneness of God are promised in Islam, practically speaking, we can be observed not to actively take as much advantages from it. On an average level, all of our lives revolve around the capital. When a child is born in any average Muslim family, his educational needs are met by his parents. The parents feel successful if their children go to schools, universities and colleges that are best known for generating the most capital. One of the most significant determinants of any marriage is the possession of or the ability to attain the most capital by the to-be spouse (commonly the male half). The mental and physical effort that one puts in attainment of his perceived ‘success’ in the form of this holy capital makes a person spend his entire life struggling, obsessing over, and achieving this capital. But it might make him regret in his deathbed that ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’ (Steiner, 2012). This process of starting schooling as soon as the ability allows, completing the educational career without any thoughtful breathers in the middle, being on the quest for the most paying jobs or making the best out of his present business, develops a person’s character in a way that his focus lies in approaching the one and only reality of his life: the capital. It is then sensed, that the capital is in fact the most significant variable that shapes our lives. While describing ‘Capital’, Ali Shariati very aptly calls it ‘the great idol of our age’ (Shar'iati, 1979). The above mentioned idol, however, is only one of the four idols around us. What was mentioned above is only the economic capital. According to Bourdieu (1994), there are three other kinds of capitals that humans engage in accumulating. Second to the economic form of capital, which Bourdieu brings to light, is the ‘social capital’. Human beings become worried about not having enough of social relations. This ends up in us spending most of our time looking for perfect social relations which may or may not be important to our character building. Thirdly, human beings strive to accumulate ‘cultural capital’, to blend into the highest forms of culture. This might include communicating in English to emphasize familiarity with the highest form of global culture (it being the internationally recognized language). Lastly, ‘symbolic capital’ is our way of attaining prestige and honor from the society around us. It essentially means that we want to acquire We struggle to gain as much of capital in the form of respect and glory as we possibly can so much so that we lose touch of our actual worth. All of these mentioned capitals divert a man from his main objective in life. They are powerful enough to prevent deep thinking from occurring. So with the presence of such powerful forces that drives almost everything in our lives, it might be argued that when we actually give up all other deities other than Allah, why the capital attains such a centrality in our lives? Could elevating the level of capital to such a primacy in our practical lives arguably be the modern form of ‘shirk’? Should capital be our main prayer when we are praying to ‘God’ while better life after death a secondary one? Whether it is material or Islam that we let occupy the central position in our lives explains a great deal about whether it is Allah that we are taking as our sole Diety or are we mixing our concept of Tauheed with the capital? All of this confusion is caused very fundamentally by the presence of the concept of ‘duality’ in our lives. Tauheed, as analyzed by Ali Shariati, is a concept which explains that everything moves in a ‘single direction’ and what does not move in that direction by its nature does not exist (Shar'ati, 1979). However the notion of duality is caused by looking at the world with two different views simultaneously. One is earthly while the other heavenly, one is applicable and the other is personal, one relates to action the other only relations to mere beliefs which occupy a lesser part of the practical life. What would exemplify this argument would be a Muslim teenager who spends his time in college and when he is asked what does he ‘believe in’ in terms of his god, he might succeed in saying Allah. But when asked about his main objective in life, he might change his tone to a completely earthly objective. What we see is that although practically his aims and objectives and ‘beliefs’ are different and do not center around the notion of God, his religious belief is God. This presence of duality can also be perfectly exemplified in the case of a non-practicing Christian celebrating Christmas superficially, as merely a cultural occasion that involves no practicality in his real life. This duality paves ways a great deal for manipulators to corrupt, impure and desensitize the strongest powers that any Muslim possesses, those of Tauheed. This process is done by the most used and tested method of all time: inject materialism into a religion and there shall be no ‘religious religion’. The only way to rid this duality is to bridge the gap between the ‘beliefs’ and ‘practicality’ and see it as one. This fundamentally means the internalization of beliefs so much so that they are noticeable in our externality. Conclusion So my argument is that the concept of Tauheed does not merely entail the belief in presence of Allah, the Almighty. It also entails the process of defying any other god that we might hold central to our beings. If by god we mean the entity which is most prior to us, occupies most of our time in practical as well as mental lives and matters the most to us and we place it as our first and foremost obligation while we are existing for an evidently ephemeral time on this earth, then there is no doubt capital has attained a much more elevated position than it deserves. Is saying there is no god but God only applicable if we think of the gods which were worshipped wrongly instead of Allah in the time when Quran was revealed? Consequently for a religion that thrives on its universality in terms of space and time, would the most fundamental concept be limited by time in the sense that only a renouncement of those certain gods would satiate the purpose behind worshipping Allah alone? What we experience in fact, is that this Kalma has lost its power in the contemporary Muslim community, although it is supposed to be perfectly universal. We have taken it for granted that to believe in God’s numerical oneness and not taking any other deities (only those which were present in other religions) instead of Him satiate the necessity of this Kalma to be a Muslim. There are no more idols made of sand or clay to challenge our belief in Allah anymore. It is not the worshipping of those physical idols which were present in the time before Prophet Muhammad (SAWW) initiated the revolution in Arab that are applicable to the challenges faced by Muslims of today. The contemporary idol is the capital, which shapes our behavior, is ‘made’ to exert so much power on us by the portrayal of images on media which depict a practically unattainable status of beauty, power and wealth, prestige and relations which keeps us busy in our entire lives striving to attain those statuses. It is this capital that needs to be removed from its central position given by us, the believers of the One and Only God. It needs to be removed from its primacy of being at a level which ‘diverts us’ (Quran 102:1) from our main purpose of existence. Bibliography George Ritzer, J. S. (2009). Sociological Theory. McGraw Education. Marx, C. (1973). Grundrisse (English Translation). Shar'ati, A. (1979). On the Sociology of Islam. USA: Mizan Press. Shar'iati, A. (1979). Marxism and Other Western Fallacies. Islamic Foundation Press. Steiner, S. (2012). Top five regrets of dying. www.guardian.com. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying
  7. WASHINGTON: United Technologies Corp on Thursday admitted selling China software that helped Beijing develop its first modern military attack helicopter, one of hundreds of export control violations over nearly two decades. At a federal court hearing in Bridgeport, Connecticut, United Technologies and its two subsidiaries, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand Corp, agreed to pay more than $75 million to the U.S. government to settle criminal and administrative charges related to the violations. As part of the settlement, Pratt & Whitney Canada pleaded guilty to two federal criminal charges - violating a U.S. export control law and making false statements. Federal prosecutors said the company knew that its export of modified software to China would allow Beijing to test and develop its new military helicopter, called the Z-10, using 10 engines that had been legally exported as commercial items. They said the company's motive was to gain access to China's lucrative civilian helicopter market. "P&WC exported controlled U.S. technology to China, knowing it would be used in the development of a military attack helicopter in violation of the U.S. arms embargo with China," said U.S. Attorney David Fein of Connecticut. "P&WC took what it described internally as a ‘calculated risk,' because it wanted to become the exclusive supplier for a civil helicopter market in China with projected revenues of up to $2 billion," Fein said. The case comes amid growing U.S. concerns about China's military expansion and escalating electronic espionage. Federal authorities have brought five major cases since last February, involving everything from drone technology to radiation-hardened computers used in satellite communications. SLAP ON THE WRIST? United Technologies said it accepted full responsibility for the violations and deeply regretted that they had occurred. It said it had already spent $30 million to beef up export controls and had hired more than 1,000 full and part-time employees to address the issue. "These violations revealed important opportunities to strengthen our export compliance program," United Technologies Chief Executive Louis Chenevert said in a statement, adding that both the Justice and State departments had recognized the company's "significant remedial actions." Fein said the penalties were substantial, but analysts said they amounted to a slap on the wrist for a major global industrial conglomerate with annual revenues of $58.1 billion. Hamilton Sundstrand and Pratt & Whitney Canada also admitted that they had failed to make timely disclosures, required by regulations, to the U.S. State Department about the exports. The government said the $75 million settlement included $20.7 million in criminal fines, forfeitures and other penalties to be paid to the Justice Department, and $55 million in payments to the State Department as part of a consent agreement resolving 576 administrative export control violations. "The Justice Department will spare no effort to hold accountable those who compromise U.S. national security for the sake of profits and then lie about it to the government," said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco. About $20 million of the State Department fines may be used by the company for improving its export control procedures and hiring an independent monitor, United Technologies said. As part of the agreement, the U.S. State Department also will impose curbs on new export licenses for Pratt & Whitney Canada, although the company can request licenses on a case-by-case basis. The debarment does not affect the parent company or Hamilton Sundstrand, and the Canadian unit can request full reinstatement in one year. The company's shares closed $1.56 lower on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, a drop of 2.1 percent. It said it had put money in reserve to cover the payments. A CAPABLE, MODERN HELICOPTER Western experts said the Z-10, first delivered to China's People's Liberation Army in 2009, is developing into one of the world's most modern and capable combat helicopters. Full production of the Z-10 would give China's military unprecedented levels of "aerial artillery" to support an amphibious invasion and subsequent operations against Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, said Richard Fisher, an expert on China's military use of so-called dual-use technologies. U.S. authorities said China had been trying to develop a specialized modern military attack helicopter since the 1980s. But since the Chinese government's 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, the U.S. government has prohibited the export to China of U.S. defense equipment and technology. The U.S. case against United Technologies said P&WC knew as early as 2000 that China's effort to develop a new helicopter involved a military variant, but repeatedly made false statements about its knowledge. U.S. authorities said that Pratt & Whitney Canada's initial involvement in the program was to deliver 10 engines to China from Canada in 2001 and 2002. The company believed the engines did not constitute defense equipment subject to the U.S. military embargo on China because the engines were identical to those it was supplying China for commercial helicopters. The problem arose when Hamilton Sundstrand delivered certain modifications to the engine control software, which allowed China to test and develop the Pratt & Whitney Canada engines as it was developing the new military helicopter. U.S. authorities say the software modifications were specifically for use on the military program, making them subject to the U.S. military embargo on China. KNEW FROM OUTSET According to court documents, Pratt & Whitney Canada allegedly knew from the outset of the Z-10 project in 2000 that China was developing a military helicopter, but failed to notify its U.S. parent and Hamilton Sundstrand until years later. According to court documents, in one 2001 internal e-mail, a Pratt & Whitney Canada manager said: "We must be very careful that the helicopter programs we are doing with the Chinese are not presented or viewed as military programs. As a result of these sanctions, we need to be very careful with the Z10C program. If the first flight will be a gunship, then we could have problems with the U.S. government." In the United States, U.S. investigators say, Hamilton Sundstrand believed it was providing its software to Pratt & Whitney Canada for use in a civilian Chinese helicopter, although it learned in 2004 about a possible export law problem and stopped working on the Z-10 program. But authorities say Pratt & Whitney Canada then modified software on its own and continued to export it to China through June 2005. A law enforcement source said the companies did not even launch an internal inquiry until a non-governmental organization involved in examining "socially responsible" investments in February 2006 asked United Technologies whether Pratt & Whitney Canada's involvement in the Z-10's development might violate U.S. export laws. The group threatened to recommend that investors sell their holdings in UTC. That investigation led to an initial disclosure, in July 2006, to U.S. authorities about the Z-10 issue. Analysts said the settlement was a setback for United Technologies, which is trying to transform itself into an aerospace giant. But the penalties are unlikely to affect the company's sales in China, which accounted for almost $10 billion of its 2011 sales. "It's certainly a black eye," said analyst Jeff Sprague of Vertical Research Partners. United Tech expects to close in coming weeks on its $16.5 billion acquisition of aircraft components maker Goodrich Corp. It has put three units up for sale, including the industrial arm of the Hamilton Sundstrand division. Jay DeFrank, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney, said the company continued to do business in China, but it had launched major efforts to educate all 70,000 employees in United Technologies' aerospace units about export controls. "China is and remains an important market for UTC and we will continue to do business there in full compliance with the law," he said. The Obama administration has lent high-level backing to United Technologies' work in China. Then-Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, now the U.S. ambassador to China, visited a Pratt & Whitney joint venture in Shanghai in May 2010, according to the company's website. (Reuters)
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