French Colonialism Lives Strong in West Africa: A Look at the CFA

By Alex Gladstein

In the fall of 1993, Fodé Diop’s family was saving up for his future. A brilliant 18-year-old living in Senegal, Fodé had a bright path in front of him as a basketball player and an engineer. His father, a school teacher, had helped him find inspiration in computers and in connecting with the world around him. And his athletic talents had won him offers to study in Europe and in the United States.

But when he woke up on the morning of January 12, 1994, everything had changed. Overnight, his family lost half its savings. Not due to theft, bank robbery or company bankruptcy — but a currency devaluation, imposed by a foreign power based 5,000 kilometers away.

The previous evening, French officials met with their African counterparts in Dakar to discuss the fate of the “franc de la Communauté financière africaine” (or Franc of the Financial Community of Africa), known widely as the CFA franc or “seefa” for short. For Fodé’s entire life, his CFA franc had been pegged to the French franc at a rate of 1 to 50, but when the late-night meeting concluded, a midnight announcement set the new value at 1 to 100.

The cruel irony was that the economic fate of millions of Senegalese was completely out of their own hands. No amount of protest could overthrow their economic masters. For decades, new presidents came and went, but the underlying financial arrangement never changed. Unlike a typical fiat currency, the system was far more insidious. It was monetary colonialism.


In their eye-opening book, “Africa’s Last Colonial Currency: The CFA Franc Story,” economic scholars Fanny Pigeaud and Ndongo Samba Sylla tell the tragic and, at times shocking, history of the CFA franc.

France, like other European powers, colonized many nations around the world in its imperial heyday, often brutally. After its occupation by Nazi Germany in World War II, the “Empire colonial français” began to disintegrate. The French fought to keep their colonies, inflicting a massive human toll in the process. Despite waging a costly series of global wars, Indochina was lost, then Syria and Lebanon, and, eventually, French territory in North Africa, including cherished oil and gas-rich settler colony Algeria. But France was determined not to lose its territories in West and Central Africa. These had provided military manpower during the two World Wars and offered a cornucopia of natural resources — including uranium, cocoa, timber and bauxite — which had enriched and sustained the metropole.

As 1960 approached, decolonization seemed inevitable. Europe was united in disengaging from Africa after decades of depredations and state-sponsored looting. But the French authorities realized they could have their cake, and eat it too, by ceding political control while retaining monetary control.

This legacy still stands today in 15 countries that speak French and use a currency controlled by Paris: Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of Congo and the Comoros. In 2021 the French still exert monetary control over more than 2.5 million square kilometers of African territory, an area 80% the size of India.

France began formal decolonization in 1956 with “La Loi-cadre Defferre,” a piece of legislation giving colonies more autonomy and creating democratic institutions and universal suffrage. In 1958 the French constitution was modified to establish La Communauté (The Community): a group of autonomous, democratically-administered overseas territories. President Charles de Gaulle toured colonies across West and Central Africa to offer autonomy without independence through La Communauté or immediate total independence. He made it clear there would be perks and stability with the former, and great risks and even chaos with the latter.

In 1960, France actually had a larger population — around 40 million people — than the 30 million inhabitants of what are now the 15 CFA nations. But today, 67 million people live in France and 183 million in the CFA zone. According to UN projections, by the year 2100, France will have 74 million, and the CFA nations more than 800 million. Given that France still holds their financial destiny in its hands, the situation is increasingly resembling economic apartheid.

When the CFA franc was originally introduced in 1945, it was worth 1.7 French francs. In 1948, it was strengthened to 2 French francs. But by the time the CFA franc was pegged to the euro at the end of the 1990s, it was worth .01 French francs. That is a total devaluation of 99.5%. Every time France devalued the CFA franc, it increased its purchasing power against its former colonies, and made it more expensive for them to import vital goods. In 1992, the French people were able to vote on whether or not to adopt the euro through a national referendum. The CFA nationals were denied any such right, and were excluded from the negotiations that would peg their money to a new currency.

The exact mechanism of the CFA system has evolved since its creation, but the core functionality and methods of exploitation are unchanged. They are described by what Pigeaud and Sylla call “dependency theory,” where the resources of peripheral developing nations are “continually drained to the benefit of core wealthy nations… the rich nations do not invest in income-poor nations to make them richer… [this] exploitation evolved over time from brutal slavery regimes to the more sophisticated and less obvious means of maintaining political and economic servitude.”

Three central banks service the 15 CFA nations today: the Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO) for West African nations, the Banque des États de l’Afrique Centrale (BEAC) for Central African nations and the Banque Centrale des Comores (BCC) for the Comoros. The central banks hold the foreign exchange reserves (i.e., national savings) for the individual nations in their region, which must keep an astonishing 50% with the French Treasury at all times. This number, high as it is, is a result of historical negotiations. Originally, the former colonies had to keep 100% of their reserves in France, and only in the 1970s did they earn the right to control some and cede “just” 65% to Paris. The CFA nations have no discretion whatsoever with regard to their reserves stored abroad. In fact, they do not know how this money is spent. Meanwhile, Paris knows exactly how each CFA nation’s money is spent, as it runs “operation accounts” for each country at the three central banks.

As an example of how this works, when an Ivorian coffee company sells $1 million worth of goods to a Chinese buyer, the yuan from the purchaser gets exchanged into euros in a French currency market. Then the French treasury assumes the euros and credits the amount in CFA francs to the Ivorian account at the BCEAO, which then credits the coffee maker’s account domestically. Everything runs through Paris. According to Pigeaud and Sylla, France still manufactures all of the notes and coins used in the CFA region — charging 45 million euros per year for the service — and still holds 90% of the CFA gold reserves, around 36.5 tons.

The CFA system confers five major benefits to the French government: bonus reserves to use at its discretion; big markets for expensive exports and cheap imports; the ability to purchase strategic minerals in its domestic currency without running down its reserves; favorable loans when CFA nations are in credit, and favorable interest rates when they are in debt (for stretches of history the French inflation rate has even exceeded the loan interest rate, meaning, in effect, France was forcing CFA nations to pay a fee to store their reserves abroad); and, finally, a “double loan,” in which a CFA nation will borrow money from France, and, in looking to deploy the capital, have little choice given the perverse macroeconomic circumstances but to contract with French companies. This means the loan principal immediately returns to France but the African nation is still saddled with both principal and interest.

This leads to a kind of “petrodollar recycling” phenomenon (similar to how Saudi Arabia would take dollars earned through oil sales and invest them into U.S. treasuries), as CFA exporters historically would sell raw materials to France, with part of the proceeds being collected by the regional central bank and “reinvested” back into the metropole’s debt through French or, today, European government debt. And then there is the selective convertibility of the CFA franc. Businesses can easily sell their CFA francs for Euros today (previously French francs), but citizens carrying CFA francs outside of their central bank zone cannot exchange them formally anywhere. They are about as useless as postcards. If an Ivorian is leaving her country, she must exchange the notes for euros first, where the French Treasury and the European Central Bank (ECB) extract seigniorage through the exchange rate.

The monetary repression at play is that France forces the CFA nations to keep a huge amount of reserves in Parisian coffers, preventing the Africans from creating domestic credit. The regional central banks end up loaning out very little at very high rates, instead of loaning out more at low rates. And the CFA nations end up, against their wishes, buying French or, today, European, debt with their strategic reserves.

The most surprising part, perhaps, is the special privilege of first right of refusal on imports and exports. If you are a Malian cotton producer, you must first offer your goods to France, before you go to the international markets. Or if you are in Benin and want to build a new infrastructure project, you must consider French bids, before others. This has historically meant that France has been able to access cheaper-than-market goods from its former colonies, and sell its own goods and services for higher-than-market prices.

Pigeaud and Sylla call this the continuation of the “colonial pact,” which was centered around four fundamental tenets: “the colonies were forbidden from industrializing, and had to content themselves with supplying raw materials to the metropole which transformed them into finished products which were then resold to the colonies; the metropole enjoyed the monopoly of colonial exports and imports; it also held a monopoly in the shipping of colonial products abroad; finally, the metropole granted commercial preferences to the products of the colonies.”

The result is a situation in which “the central banks have ample foreign exchange reserves remunerated at low or even negative rates in real terms, in which commercial banks hold excess liquidity, where access to household and corporate credit is rationed and in which the states are increasingly obliged, in order to finance their development projects, to contract foreign currency loans at unsustainable interest rates, which further encourages capital flight.”

Today, the CFA system has been “Africanized,” meaning the notes now show African culture and flora and fauna on them, and the central banks are located in Dakar, Yaoundé and Moroni — but these are only superficial changes. The banknotes are still made in Paris, the operation accounts are still run by French authorities, and French officials still sit on the boards of the regional central banks and hold de facto veto power. It is a remarkable situation where a citizen of Gabon has a French bureaucrat making decisions on her behalf. Just as if the ECB or the Federal Reserve had Japanese or Russians making decisions for Europeans and Americans.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have historically worked in concert with France to enforce the CFA system, and rarely, if ever, criticize its exploitative nature. In fact, as part of the post-WWII Bretton Woods system — where Americans would lead the World Bank, and Europeans would lead the IMF — the position of IMF managing director has often been held by a French official, most recently, Christine Lagarde. Over the years the IMF has helped the French pressure CFA nations to pursue its desired policies. A prominent example was in the early 1990s, when the Ivory Coast did not want to devalue its currency, but the French were pushing for such a change. According to Pigeaud and Sylla, “at the end of 1991, the IMF refused to continue lending money to the Ivory Coast, offering the country two options. Either the country reimbursed the debts contracted with the Fund or it accepted devaluation.” The Ivory Coast and other CFA nations caved and accepted devaluation three years later.

Contradicting the values of “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” French officials have propped up tyrants in the CFA zone for the past six decades. For example, three men — Omar Bongo in Gabon, Paul Biya in Cameroon and Gnassingbé Eyadéma in Togo — have amassed 120 years in power between them. All would have been tossed out by their people far sooner had the French not provided cash, weapons and diplomatic cover. According to Pigeaud and Sylla, between 1960 and 1991, “Paris carried out nearly 40 military interventions in 16 countries to defend its interests.” That number is certainly higher today.

Over time, the CFA system has served to allow the French state to exploit the resources and labor of the CFA nations, without allowing them to deepen their accumulation of capital and develop their own export-led economies. The results have been catastrophic for human development.

Today the Ivory Coast’s inflation-adjusted GDP per capita (in dollars) is around $1,700, compared with $2,500 in the late 1970s. In Senegal, it wasn’t until 2017 that inflation-adjusted GDP per capita surpassed the heights reached in the 1960s. As Pigeaud and Sylla note, “10 states of the franc zone recorded their highest levels of average income before the 2000s. In the last 40 years, the average purchasing power has deteriorated almost everywhere. In Gabon, the highest average income was recorded in 1976, just under $20,000. Forty years later, it has shrunk by half. Guinea-Bissau joined the [CFA system] in 1997, the year in which it recorded the peak in its average income. 19 years later, this fell by 20%.”

A staggering 10 of the 15 CFA nations are considered among the “least developed countries” in the world by the United Nations, alongside the likes of Haiti, Yemen and Afghanistan. In various international rankings, Niger, the Central African Republic, Chad and Guinea-Bissau are often counted as the poorest countries in the world. The French are maintaining, in effect, an extreme version of what Allen Farrington has called the “capital strip mine.”

Senegalese politician Amadou Lamine-Guèye once summed up the CFA system as citizens having “only duties and no rights,” and that “the task of the colonized territories was to produce a lot, to produce beyond their own needs and to produce to the detriment of their more immediate interests, in order to allow the metropole a better standard of living and a safer supply.” The metropole, of course, resists this description. As French economic minister Michel Sapin said in April 2017, “France is there as a friend.”

Now, the reader may ask: Do African countries resist this exploitation? The answer is yes, but they pay a heavy price. Early nationalist leaders from the African independence era recognized the critical value of economic freedom. 

“Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs [..] unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist control and interference,” declaredKwame Nkrumah in 1963, who led the movement that made Ghana the first independent nation in sub-saharan Africa. But throughout the history of the CFA region, national leaders who stood up to the French authorities have tended to fare poorly.

In 1958, Guinea tried to claim monetary independence. In a famous speech, firebrand nationalist Sekou Touré said to a visiting Charles de Gaulle: “We would rather have poverty in freedom than opulence in slavery,” and shortly therafter left the CFA system. According to The Washington Post, “in reaction, and as a warning to other French-speaking territories, the French pulled out of Guinea over a two-month period, taking everything they could with them. They unscrewed lightbulbs, removed plans for sewage pipelines in Conakry, the capital, and even burned medicines rather than leave them for the Guineans.” 

Next, as an act of destabilizing retribution, the French launched Operation Persil, during which, according to Pigeaud and Sylla, the French intelligence counterfeited huge quantities of the new Guinean banknotes and then poured them “en masse” into the country. “The result,” they write, “was the collapse of the Guinean economy.” The country’s democratic hopes were dashed along with its finances, as Touré was able to cement his power in the chaos and begin 26 years of brutal rule.

In June 1962, Mali’s independence leader Modibo Keita announced that Mali was leaving the CFA zone to mint its own currency. Keita explained in detail the reasons for the move, such as economic overdependence (80% of Mali’s imports came from France), the concentration of decision making powers in Paris and the stunting of economic diversification and growth.

“It is true that the wind of decolonization has passed over the old edifice but without shaking it too much,” he said about the status quo. In response, the French government rendered the Malian franc inconvertible. A deep economic crisis followed, and Keita was overthrown in a military coup in 1968. Mali eventually chose to re-enter the CFA zone, but the French imposed two devaluations on the Malian franc as conditions for reinstatement, and did not allow re-entry until 1984.

In 1969, when President Hamani Diori of Niger asked for a more “flexible” arrangement, where his country would have more monetary independence, the French refused. They threatened him by withholding payment for the uranium that they were harvesting from the desert mines that would give France energy independence through nuclear power. Six years later, Diori’s government was overthrown by General Seyni Kountché, three days before a planned meeting to renegotiate the price of the Nigerien uranium. Diori wanted to raise the price, but his former colonial master disagreed. The French army was stationed nearby during the coup but, as Pigeaud and Sylla dryly note, they did not lift a finger.

In 1985, the revolutionary military leader Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso was asked in an interview, “Is the CFA franc not a weapon for the domination of Africa? Does Burkina Faso plan to continue carrying this burden? Why does an African peasant in his village need a convertible currency?” Sankara replied: “If the currency is convertible or not has never been the concern of the African peasant. He has been plunged against his will into an economic system against which he is defenceless.” 

Sankara was assassinated two years later by his best friend and second in command, Blaise Compaoré. No trial was ever held. Instead, Compaoré seized power and ruled until 2014, a loyal and brutal servant of the CFA system.


In December 1962, Togo’s first post-colonial leader Sylvanus Olympio formally moved to create a Central Bank of Togo, and a Togolese Franc. But on the morning of January 13, 1963, days before he was about to cement this transition, he was shot dead by Togolese soldiers who had received training in France. Gnassingbé Eyadéma was one of the soldiers who committed the crime. He later seized power and became Togo’s dictator with full French support, ruling for more than five decades and promoting the CFA franc until his death in 2005. His son rules to this day. Olympio’s murder has never been solved.

Farida Nabourema’s family has always been involved in the struggle for human rights in Togo. Her father was an active leader of the opposition, and has served time as a political prisoner. His father opposed the French during colonial times. Today, she is a leading figure in the country’s democracy movement.

Farida was 15 years old when she learned that the history of Togo’s dictatorship was intertwined with the CFA franc. By that time, in the early 2000s, she had started to get close to her father, and asked him questions about her country’s history. “Why did our first president get assassinated just a few years after we gained independence?” she inquired.

The answer: he resisted the CFA franc.

In 1962, Olympio began the movement toward financial independence from France. The parliament voted in favor of beginning such a transition, and of creating a Togolese franc and holding their reserves in their own central bank. Farida was shocked to learn that Olympio was assassinated just two days before Togo was supposed to leave the CFA arrangement. As she put it: “His decision to seek monetary freedom was seen as an affront to hegemony in Francophone Africa. They were afraid others would follow.”

Today, she says, for many Togolese activists the CFA is the major reason to seek broader freedom. “It is what animates many in the opposition movement.”

The reasons why are clear. Farida said France keeps more than half of Togo’s reserves in its banks, where the Togolese people have zero oversight over how those reserves are spent. Often, these reserves, earned by Togolese, are used to buy French debt to finance the activities of the French people. In effect, this money is often loaned to the former colonial master at negative real yield. The Togolese are paying Paris to hold their money for them, and in the process financing the living standards of the French people.

In 1994, the devaluation that stole the savings from Fode Diop’s family in Senegal hit Togo hard, too, causing a huge increase in national debt, a reduction in public funding to local infrastructure and an increase in poverty.

“Remember,” Farida said, “our government is forced to prioritize holding our reserves in the French bank over spending at home, so when a shock hits, we have to degrade ourselves, to ensure that a proper amount of cash is in Parisian hands.” 

This creates a national climate of dependence, where Togolese are forced to ship raw goods out, and bring finished goods in, never digging their way out.

Farida said that about 10 years ago, the anti-CFA movement started to gain more traction. Because of mobile phones and social media, people were able to unite and organize in a decentralized manner. It used to just be Ivorians and Togolese struggling separately, she said, but now there is a regional effort between activists.

For decades there has been the idea of an “Eco” currency, for all of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) nations, including regional economic powerhouses Nigeria and Ghana. Farida said that the French tried to hijack this plan, seeing it as a way to expand their own financial empire. In 2013, then-president François Hollande formed a commission which created a document for the French future in Africa. In it, they stated it was an imperative to get Anglophone countries like Ghana involved.

Emmanuel Macron’s administration is now trying to rename the CFA franc the Eco, in a continuing process of “Africanizing” the French colonial financial system. Nigeria and Ghana backed out of the Eco project, once they realized the French were going to continue to have control. Nothing has formally happened yet, but the countries currently managed by the BCEAO central bank are on track to switch to this Eco currency by 2027. The French will still have decision-making ability, and there are not any formal plans to adjust the central banking of the Central African CFA nations or of Comoros.

“It is the high point of hypocrisy for French leaders like Macron to go to Davos and say they are done with colonialism,” Farida said, “while in fact, they are trying to expand it.”

She said that originally, the CFA franc was created on the basis of the currency plan used by the Nazi occupiers of France. During WWII, Germany created a national currency for the French colonies so it could easily control imports and exports by just using one financial lever. When the war ended and the French regained their freedom they decided to use the same exact model for their colonies. So, Farida said, the foundation of the CFA franc is really a Nazi one.

The system has a dark genius to it, in that the French have been able to, over time, print money to buy vital goods from their former colonies, but those African countries have to work to earn reserves. 

“It’s not fair, it’s not independence,” Farida said. “It’s pure exploitation.”

France claims that the system is good because it provides stability, low inflation and convertibility for the Togolese people. But the convertibility tends to end up facilitating capital flight — when it is easy for businesses to flee the CFA and park their profits in euros today — while trapping the Togolese in a seigniorage regime. Whenever the CFA is converted — and it must be, as it cannot be used outside of a citizen’s economic zone — the French and the ECB take their slice.

Yes, Farida said, inflation is low in Togo compared to independent nations, but a lot of their earnings are going to fight inflation instead of supporting infrastructure and industry growth at home. She pointed to the growth of Ghana, which has an independent monetary policy and higher inflation over time than the CFA nations, compared to Togo. By any metric — healthcare, middle class growth, unemployment — Ghana is superior. In fact, when one zooms out, she said that not a single CFA nation is among the 10 richest countries in Africa. But of the bottom 10 poorest, half are in the CFA zone.

Farida says that French colonialism goes beyond money. It also affects education and culture. For example, she said, the World Bank gives $130 million per year to support Francophone countries to pay for their books for public schools. Farida says 90% of these books are printed in France. The money goes directly from the World Bank to Paris, not to Togo or to any other African nation. The books are brainwashing tools, Farida said. They focus on the glory of French culture, and undermine the achievements of other nations, whether they be American, Asian or African. 

In high school, Farida asked her dad: “Do people use any other language but French in Europe?” He laughed. They only learned about French history, French inventors and French philosophers. She grew up thinking that the only smart people were French. She had never read an American or British book before she traveled abroad for the first time.

In general, Farida said, French Africa consumes 80% of the books that the French print. President Macron wants to expand on this dominance, and has promised to spend hundreds of millions of euros to boost French in Africa, declaring that it could be the “first language” of the continent and calling it a “language of freedom.” Given current trends, by 2050 85% of all French speakers could live in Africa. Language is one pillar of support for the CFA franc’s survival.

Read the full article here.

Read the full article here

IMF Structural Adjustment, Case Study: Bangladesh & the Shrimp Fields

This is an excerpt from an essay by Alex Gladstein titled, “Structural Adjustment: How The IMF And World Bank Repress Poor Countries And Funnel Their Resources To Rich Ones”

Everything is gone.”
–Kolyani Mondal

Fifty-two years ago, Cyclone Bhola killed an estimated 1 million people in coastal Bangladesh. It is, to this day, the deadliest tropical cyclone in recorded history. Local and international authorities knew well the catastrophic risks of such storms: in the 1960s, regional officials had built a massive array of dikes to protect the coastline and open up more territory for farming.

But in the 1980s after the assassination of independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, foreign influence pushed a new autocratic Bangladeshi regime to change course. Concern for human life was dismissed and the public’s protection against storms was weakened, all in order to boost exports to repay debt.

Instead of reinforcing the local mangrove forests which naturally protected the one-third of the population that lived near the coast, and instead of investing in growing food to feed the quickly growing nation, the government took out loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in order to expand shrimp farming. The aquaculture process — controlled by a network of wealthy elites linked to the regime — involved pushing farmers to take out loans to “upgrade” their operations by drilling holes in the dikes that protected their land from the ocean, filling their once-fertile fields with saltwater. Then, they would work back-breaking hours to hand-harvest young shrimp from the ocean, drag them back to their stagnant ponds, and sell the mature ones to the local shrimp lords.

With financing from the World Bank and IMF, countless farms and their surrounding wetlands and mangrove forests were engineered into shrimp ponds known as ghers. The area’s Ganges river delta is an incredibly fertile place, home to the Sundarbans, the world’s biggest stretch of mangrove forest. But as a result of commercial shrimp farming becoming the region’s main economic activity, 45% of the mangroves have been cut away, leaving millions of people exposed to the 10-meter waves that can crash against the coast during major cyclones. Arable land and river life has been slowly destroyed by excess salinity leaking in from the sea. Entire forests have vanished as shrimp farming has killed much of the area’s vegetation, “rendering this once bountiful land into a watery desert,” according to Coastal Development Partnership.

The shrimp lords, however, have made a fortune, and shrimp (known as “white gold”) has become the country’s second-largest export. As of 2014, more than 1.2 million Bangladeshis worked in the shrimp industry, with 4.8 million people indirectly dependent on it, roughly half of the coastal poor. The shrimp collectors, who have the toughest job, make up 50% of the labor force but only see 6% of the profit. Thirty percent of them are girls and boys engaged in child labor, who work as much as nine hours a day in the salt water, for less than $1 per day, with many giving up school and remaining illiterate to do so. Protests against the expansion of shrimp farming have happened, only to be put down violently. In one prominent case, a march was attacked with explosives from shrimp lords and their thugs, and a woman named Kuranamoyee Sardar was decapitated.

In a 2007 research paper, 102 Bangladeshi shrimp farms were surveyed, revealing that, out of a cost of production of $1,084 per hectare, the net income was $689. The nation’s export-driven profits came at the expense of the shrimp laborers, whose wages were deflated and whose environment was destroyed.
In a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation, a coastal farmer named Kolyani Mondal said that she “used to farm rice and keep livestock and poultry,” but after shrimp harvesting was imposed, “her cattle and goats developed diarrhea-type disease and together with her hens and ducks, all died.”

Now her fields are flooded with salt water, and what remains is barely productive: years ago her family could generate “18-19 mon of rice per hectare,” but now they can only generate one. She remembers shrimp farming in her area beginning in the 1980s, when villagers were promised more income as well as lots of food and crops, but now “everything is gone.” The shrimp farmers who use her land promised to pay her $140 per year, but she says the best she gets are “occasional installments of $8 here or there.” In the past, she says, “the family got most of the things they needed from the land, but now there are no alternatives but going to the market to buy food.”

In Bangladesh, billions of dollars of World Bank and IMF “structural adjustment” loans — named for the way they force borrowing nations to modify their economies to favor exports at the expense of consumption — grew national shrimp profits from $2.9 million in 1973 to $90 million in 1986 to $590 million in 2012. As in most cases with developing countries, the revenue was used to service foreign debt, develop military assets, and line the pockets of government officials. As for the shrimp serfs, they have been impoverished: less free, more dependent and less able to feed themselves than before. To make matters worse, studies show that “villages shielded from the storm surge by mangrove forests experience significantly fewer deaths” than villages which had their protections removed or damaged.

Under public pressure in 2013 the World Bank loaned Bangladesh $400 million to try and reverse the ecological damage. In other words, the World Bank will be paid a fee in the form of interest to try and fix the problem it created in the first place. Meanwhile, the World Bank has loaned billions to countries everywhere from Ecuador to Morocco to India to replace traditional farming with shrimp production.

The World Bank claims that Bangladesh is “a remarkable story of poverty reduction and development.” On paper, victory is declared: countries like Bangladesh tend to show economic growth over time as their exports rise to meet their imports. But exports earnings flow mostly to the ruling elite and international creditors.

After 10 structural adjustments, Bangladesh’s debt pile has grown exponentially from $145 million in 1972 to an all-time high of $95.9 billion in 2022. The country is currently facing yet another balance of payments crisis, and just this month agreed to take its 11th loan from the IMF, this time a $4.5 billion bailout, in exchange for more adjustment. The Bank and the Fund claim to want to help poor countries, but the clear outcome after more than 50 years of their policies is that nations like Bangladesh are more dependent and indebted than ever before.

During the 1990s in the wake of the Third World Debt Crisis, there was a swell of global public scrutiny on the Bank and Fund: critical studies, street protests, and a widespread, bipartisan belief (even in the halls of the U.S. Congress) that these institutions ranged from wasteful to destructive. But this sentiment and focus has largely faded. Today, the Bank and the Fund manage to keep a low profile in the press. When they do come up, they tend to be written off as increasingly irrelevant, accepted as problematic yet necessary, or even welcomed as helpful.

The reality is that these organizations have impoverished and endangered millions of people; enriched dictators and kleptocrats; and cast human rights aside to generate a multi-trillion-dollar flow of food, natural resources and cheap labor from poor countries to rich ones. Their behavior in countries like Bangladesh is no mistake or exception: it is their preferred way of doing business.

White, Whiteness & White Supremacy, Dr. Yassir Morsi

In a recent detailed conversation with Dr. Yassir Morsi, commenting on the opening paragraphs of Charles Mills’ book the Racial Contract, Dr. Morsi elaborated and unpacked the three terms: white, whiteness & white supremacy.

Mills’ book begins with the following,

White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. You will not find this term in introductory, or even advanced, texts in political theory. A standard undergraduate philosophy course will start off with Plato and Aristotle, perhaps say something about Augustine, Aquinas, and Machiavelli, move on to Hobbes, Locke, Mill, and Marx, and then wind up with Rawls and Nozick. It will introduce you to notions of aristocracy, democracy, absolutism, liberalism, representative government, socialism, welfare capitalism, and libertarianism. But though it covers more than two thousand years of Western political thought and runs the ostensible gamut of political systems, there will be no mention of the basic political system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years. And this omission is not accidental. Rather, it reflects the fact that standard textbooks and courses have for the most part been written and designed by whites, who take their racial privilege so much for granted that they do not even see it as political, as a form of domination. Ironically, the most important political system of recent global history—the system of domination by which white people  have historically ruled over and, in certain important ways, continue to rule over nonwhite people—is not seen as a political system at all. It is just taken for granted; it is the background against which other systems, which we are to see as political, are highlighted. This book is an attempt to redirect your vision, to make you see what, in a sense, has been there all along.

The Racial Contract - Wikipedia

Relating this to the experience of growing up in Australia as people of colour, children of Muslim immigrants, or whatever other title used for the ‘other’ Dr. Morsi refers to there always being a distinction and difference of what it means to be Aussie –

The fact is, as I grew up, when people said Aussie, they weren’t referring to me, they were referring to white people. That’s because there’s a racial assumption of what the citizen ought to look like; in a contest between you who carries a passport, i.e. the citizen, and you who carries a racial body and cultural, linguistic aesthetic, spiritual, religious history; and that contest between the two is inevitably one that continues to happen.  Now Mills comes and resolves that contest by arguing well, that’s because partly the social contract is also a racial contract; and it is placed within people globally through colonialism and otherwise various different relationships, positions, expectations and so forth. So one way of reiterating this, is that the citizen or the “human” in “human rights”, the main subject of the liberal order… is actually White… and the rest of us are trying to be white when we’re trying to be human.

The fact is, as I grew up, when people said Aussie, they weren’t referring to me, they were referring to white people. That’s because there’s a racial assumption of what the citizen ought to look like; a contest between you who carries a passport, i.e. the citizen, and you who carries a racial body and cultural, linguistic aesthetic, spiritual and religious history.

Now Mills comes and resolves that contest by arguing well, that’s because partly the social contract is also a racial contract; and it is placed within people globally through colonialism and otherwise various different relationships, positions, expectations and so forth. So one way of reiterating this, is that the citizen or the “human” in “human rights”, the main subject of the liberal order… is actually White… and the rest of us are trying to be white when we’re trying to be human.

Mills refers to the unnamed system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years.   What is this unnamed system? White supremacy, racism.

There are two key terms we have to understand to understand this book, “the unnamed” and “white supremacy”. What Mills is doing is bringing back the unnamed, bringing back a system of dominion and domination upon which white people were both constructed, placed and ordered in such a way that they were the drivers and vehicles of modernity – and various others were placed accordingly beneath them in a hierarchy. 

So what is white supremacy? What’s the difference between white supremacy and whiteness?

White supremacy is the advocacy, advancing, the institutionalising, the repeating, the colonising of the world according to its standards, and advancing of its standards, that has created and built the modern world.

Imagine whiteness as the Aqeedah (core belief system), and white supremacy as the military, the economy, the culture and the political institutions that advocate and advance this creed. When we speak of white supremacy we are speaking about the materialising and concretising of whites.

What is the difference between white and whiteness? Let’s take the example of a Muslim and Islam. A Muslim is the subject, the acceptor, as the believer, submitter to a creed. White was a construction of an identity and a personhood and a people, do not shy away from the fact it was biological, but not exclusively; it was about the way you looked, it was also about the way you spoke, but it was also about the heroes, history, lineage and the blood that you carried. It was about where you came from more than all else, like all national stories it was a myth about who you were.

White is a construction of a people. Whiteness is the thing that they constructed… the belief systems, the philosophies, the ideas, the details of the myth. The mythologies do a couple of things; they tell us who we are, they tell us where we come from, and they tell us where we’re going; and one who internalises they belong to that mythology, creates an identity, entrenched, grounded, raised within that mythology. So when we say you are white, we are talking to the people who are drowning in belief of whiteness, the ideology. So think of whiteness as the Aqeeda, culture, soft power… whilst white supremacy is the hard power that advances it, and white as the idea of a personhood

In my experience in the Muslim community that has raised, haunted, celebrated & traumatised me, I have had Turks, Albanians, Turks, Lebs & others flash me their forearms and told me, “hey! Look, I’m white”. Okay, what’s really important to understand about white and its people is that it is a historical term that typically spoke about North Western Europe and its Atlantic offshoots and its colonies, like the bastardised daughters of north-western Europe: the Americas (North-America), Canada, Australia, New Zealand and so forth. Eventually it expands, how white evolves, changes its boundaries, its borders, and adopts more and more different things… but historically that’s what it meant… we’re not talking about just your skin colour, we’re talking about your language, lineage, belief, your religion.

It’s often been said Islam is not a race, which is total nonsense; Islam is raced, and Islam is not a white religion, Islam is predominantly the religion of Asia and Africa, Christianity was predominantly the religion of Europe, even though it was born in the Middle East. Depending on which Church you’re looking at, particularly the Catholic one and the Protestant one, it was a religion of North-western Europe, hence Christianity, as the famous images of Christ with blue eyes and blonde hair is often a white religion, a white God, a white people, a white story… it’s whiteness Whiteness therefore overlaps with Christendom, it overlaps with Enlightenment Philosophy, it overlaps with Capitalism, democracy and the European story that has inevitably become the standard for all other stories.

We cannot separate, and you should never separate, nor should you begin to separate any history-telling about the expansion of whiteness, politically, militarily, economically in Europe. So whether it be the scramble of Africa, whether it be the world wars, whether it be the evolution of mercantilism into capitalism; whatever it may be, whether it be Shakespeare, the whole point of Charles Mills is to argue that we cannot be colour-blind, or remain neutral, and we must name the unnamed; that this thing that was borne out, the civilisational project of Europe through its colony, through its expansion, through its military successes, also carried within it the expansion of its racial creed, the expansion of whiteness as the standard for all other human beings.

But this standard, was unachievable. It’s not like the peoples of India, Africa, South America, the Indigenous peoples – quote unquote of the “fourth world” – could become white – so when we say the standard in many ways for many of them was unachievable… but it was the standard upon which we were to be measured, the standard  upon which we were to be judged, the standard upon which we were to be violently executed and displaced, or tried to be reformed, shaped and inevitably institutionalised in the service of whiteness. 

Home - Critical Whiteness Studies - LibGuides at Duquesne University

So white, whiteness and white supremacy: it’s really important to understand these terms, and we find on the social media debates, they become interchangeable – and just like race, racism and racists are different terms, and racialising and raced are different terms – these three different terms have a relationship, and it’s important to understand it.

So as a way of clarifying in summary:

  • White is the personhood, the subject, the identity, the construction of an idea what it means to be a human and in this imagination, the leading human, the best example of human, that’s white.
  • Whiteness is the belief, the Aqeedah, the cultural aspects that inevitably  make this human: it’s the mythology, time, the story, where it’s come from, where it’s going, and inevitably how it is if you will, the standard of all else.
  • White supremacy, the military, political, economic, cultural soft and hard power, mostly hard, advancement and institutionalising of whiteness for the benefit of white people, and for the disadvantage and enacting institutional violence against all non-whites.

Those three terms when you understand them, you’ll understand what Mills is saying about the construction of the modern world: we people in order to succeed today, have to be fluent in whiteness: I work at an Islamic school, I have to be fluent in whiteness, even if 90% of the school is non-white, we are training them to be successful in whiteness, even though they’re not white, and in some cases for the benefit of white people, because the curriculum, the education system, the State, the economy is a white supremacist one… [unfortunately] we are not working for the establishment of the Khilafah or the bringing back of an Islamic order upon which we are all inevitably liberated, we’re not working for that.

So way back in the day when I used to criticise and attack certain Muslim leaders for being white or white aspiring and so forth, I was inevitably suggesting this: here is an important recognition of the power that racism has; we are continually aspiring to be white – not because of the trash the museums are telling us or the proud leaders of the Mashaykh are telling us, not because we don’t want to hold on to our culture or grow our beards or wear our hijabs; this is irrelevant… we are aspiring to be white because in this system, success & power & material well-being is synonymous with white, it’s synonymous with whiteness, you cannot do any of these – it’s rare – even like the Saudi oil Kings or whatever, they inevitably – look what, Saudi owes 7% of the American economy, it has to create technology & partnerships with various different markets – so one way to understand this is that whiteness becomes centred at the heart of this economic and global system – so that you are working for its success, even if you get rich in the process, you are still working for its success. So “white aspiring”, “being white” means that you are working for a white supremist order, and that my friend, is Mills’ point about the Racial Contract – we are all in an unnamed, unsaid, unstated contract, whether you like it, agree with it, recognise it or don’t… to continue in our day jobs and in our consumption, we are the builders, you and I, brown and black Muslims, we are the builders of white supremacy.  

Lessons From the Life of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabaaz – Malcolm X, Part 1

By Tarek ‘Abdur-Rahman

Anyone acquainted with El-Hajj Malik El-Shabaaz – Malcolm X and his life story will know this was a very special man, whom Allah had especially protected and guided in specific moments in his life. Though only an orthodox Sunni Muslim for a short period of time, he had the honour of dying the death of a Shaheed (martyr).

There are a large number of practical & social life-lessons that can be learned from reading his autobiography as told to Alex Haley, which this series of posts will look to shed light on succinctly, though each point could be elaborated on in great length. Part 1 will look at 5 important practical lessons we can glean from his special life.

Lesson 1: Destiny

Malcolm had a rough childhood, where due to systemic imbalances he was swayed into leading a life of crime. This included many years as a drug-dealer, seasoned robber and assisting crime gangs in various projects. There were a number of moments in his life during this stage he almost certainly should have been killed. Yet for some seemingly inexplicable reason he was saved by decisions he himself did not know he carried out.

“I have thought a thousand times, I guess, about how I so narrowly escaped death twice that day. That’s why I believe that everything is written.”

“Sometimes recalling all of this, I don’t know, to tell the truth, how I am alive to tell it today. They say God takes care of fools and babies. I’ve so often thought that Allah was watching over me.”

“All praise is due to Allah that I went to Boston when I did. If I hadn’t, I’d probably still be a brainwashed black Christian.”

Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

If he had been killed, we would never have had the personality of Malcolm and his contributions for humanity.

Lesson 2: The Best often had the worst of pasts

This is something we saw in the life of Rasulullah ﷺ with ‘Umar (ra). A man who was on his way to kill Rasulullah ﷺ, not only became Muslim a few moments later, but reached the absolute pinnacle of human history.

Similarly when Malcolm was in prison his nickname was “Satan” due to how perverse and ungodly his character and attitude was. Yet Allah (swt) had a special plan for him, to be a force of social change and Da’wah on a cataclysmic scale for American society and the world at large.

“You know what my life had been. Picking a lock to rob someone’s house was the only way my knees had ever been bent before. I had to force myself to bend my knees. And waves of shame and embarrassment would force me back up. For evil to bend its knees, admitting its guilt, to implore the forgiveness of God, is the hardest thing in the world. It’s easy for me to see and to say that now. But then, when I was the personification of evil, I was going through it. Again, again, I would force myself back down into the praying-to-Allah posture. When finally I was able to make myself stay down—I didn’t know what to say to Allah.”

Malcolm in his youth & life of crime

This also raises an interesting sociological question, why is that people with the worst pasts often turn out to be the best and most brilliant of people later in life?

My hypothesis is that each person has been endowed with a certain level of energy/creativity/intelligence (ECI). Those with the highest units of ECI have the capacity to use it in whichever field they want to exert themselves in, almost always excelling in that field.

“I’ve never been one for inaction. Everything I’ve ever felt strongly about, I’ve done something about.”

Autobiography of Malcolm X

Lesson 3: Have hope for the worst of people to change

From the life of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabaaz and many others in history like ‘Umar (ra), Khalid bin Walid (ra), Ikrimah bin Abu Jahl (ra) we have real-life examples of the worst of people reaching the absolute peaks of Maqaam with Allah.

Next time you come across a criminal/the most despicable of people, pray for their guidance, have hope that they can change and try delivering the message of Islam to them. I personally have come across a number of criminals face to face who have robbed me point blank with the threat of violence or stolen from me through deception. Although I do feel anger towards them, I still ask Allah to guide them.

When meeting with Fir’aun the worst of creation, Musa ﷺ was commanded by Allah (swt) to speak with him gently and mildly, perchance he may pay heed.

Lesson 4: The racist system inhibits social mobility for people of colour

During high school Malcolm was a very bright student achieving excellent marks. However one day when alone with his teacher, he advised Malcolm that his aspirations for a lawyer were completely unrealistic for a black man, and that he should consider carpentry instead. This was a huge psychological blow to Malcolm and the decisive turning point in his life, discouraging him to pursue his studies seriously further, and eventually leading him to a life immersed in drug-dealing & crime.

“In one sense, we were huddled in there, bonded together in seeking security and warmth and comfort from each other, and we didn’t know it. All of us—who might have probed space, or cured cancer, or built industries—were, instead, black victims of the white man’s American social system.”

Autobiography of Malcolm X

Can you imagine the implications and tragedy of this scenario? A young boy with dreams of being a successful lawyer- his hopes crushed due to a society where only white people could ascend and take respectable roles. Leading him to live a life of crime instead, living in the ghettoes, bound to be murdered.

A racist system that does not afford the same rights & social mobility to people of colour invariably leads to a volatile & imbalanced society, destroying the lives & potential of bright youth, carrying the impact downward to generations.

Lesson 5: Your knowledge could inspire others; someone who may achieve much more than you

When Malcolm entered prison he did not care much about learning at all. He had practically forgotten how to read and write. The person to inspire him and plant the seeds of acquiring knowledge and engage in public speaking was an inmate named Bimbi.

He would have a cluster of people riveted, often on odd subjects you never would think of. He would prove to us, dipping into the science of human behavior, that the only difference between us and outside people was that we had been caught. He liked to talk about historical events and figures. When he talked about the history of Concord, where I was to be transferred later, you would have thought he was hired by the Chamber of Commerce, and I wasn’t the first inmate who had never heard of Thoreau until Bimbi expounded upon him. Bimbi was known as the library’s best customer. What fascinated me with him most of all was that he was the first man I had ever seen command total respect…with his words.

Bimbi seldom said much to me; he was gruff to individuals, but I sensed he liked me. What made me seek his friendship was when I heard him discuss religion. I considered myself beyond atheism—I was Satan. But Bimbi put the atheist philosophy in a framework, so to speak. That ended my vicious cursing attacks. My approach sounded so weak alongside his, and he never used a foul word.

Out of the blue one day, Bimbi told me flatly, as was his way, that I had some brains, if I’d use them. I had wanted his friendship, not that kind of advice. I might have cursed another convict, but nobody cursed Bimbi. He told me I should take advantage of the prison correspondence courses and the library.When I had finished the eighth grade back in Mason, Michigan, that was the last time I’d thought of studying anything that didn’t have some hustle purpose. And the streets had erased everything I’d ever learned in school; I didn’t know a verb from a house.”

Bimbi’s breadth of knowledge which he was able to communicate effectively in speech was the turning point of redemption for Malcolm, ultimately inspiring his voracious appetite for reading and a life of learning and activism.

Bimbi was able to completely inspire a criminal nicknamed ‘Satan’ through his learning and knowledge. This is why our Deen emphasizes the seeking of knowledge to such a degree and passing this knowledge on to others.

Perhaps through you, you will inspire someone who will end up achieving much more than you. The enduring part though, you will receive a full share of all the good they do as a result.

An Amazing Dream.. Tidings of the Coming Khilafah & Great Days


Six weeks ago, saw the same dream three mornings in a row. I told only one person, and though I thought about sharing it publicly, I ultimately backed off.

But considering what happened overnight in Damascus, with the assassination of a top general (Shaykh Zahran Alloush), I feel like sharing it for some reason.

Basically, I was praying Fajr at the Umayyad Mosque. As I stepped out onto the courtyard after prayer, it was a warm summer morning and there was a gentle breeze.

I remember being barefoot and the courtyard being very cool and absolutely silent with no-one in sight. There was a surreal stillness and tranquility.

As I walked towards the exit, a man runs up and taps me on the shoulder and asks me, ‘aren’t you going?’

I responded, ‘to where?’

Him: ‘To the pledge of allegiance.’

Me: ‘What are you talking about?’

So I followed him into a room adjacent to the main praying space and was very curious.

When I walked in, the first thing I saw were the crosses held by Christian priests and the hats of the Druze mashayekh standing right in front of me.

Everyone was streaming in the same direction, to a distant corner of the room. I was impatient and felt like pushing through, but ultimately decided against it.

Eventually, reached the front.

There was a man dressed in black from top to bottom, maybe in his late fifties, who was taking a pledge of allegiance from everyone to be the leader over us.

There was incredible contentment in that room. A sense of dignified victory, celebration and collective accomplishment for Muslims everywhere and the non-Muslims of Syria too.


Now, I pray and hope there’s some glad-tidings in that.

But even if there isn’t and just a figment of my imagination, something remains: this is a fertile city and land.

This is the city of Umar bin Abdul-Aziz, of Saladin, of Ibn Qudamah, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim, Ibn Abidin and hundreds of others whose legacy and greatness we seek guidance and inspiration from every single day.

This is the city of the Messiah’s return to earth. The city of Imam al-Mahdi.

Damascus is the city at the heart of Bilaad Ash-Sham; the Abode of Islam and the cream of Allah’s Lands into which the pillars of monotheism were planted by the angels, according to a Hadith Qudsi.

This city never leaned on a leader or another; it always knew another one was coming who would be even greater, capped by the return of one of the greatest men to set foot on earth: Jesus, the Son of Mary, peace be upon him and his mother.

So great leaders are coming, and days of victory, security and tranquility will accompany them.

Nasih ud-Deen Khumartakin, Unsung Hero, Saviour of Salahudeen


Salahudeen al-Ayyubi (Saladin) is in Aleppo.

He’s in a camp with his generals and soldiers.

Quietly, a group of assassins (‘Hashashin’ of the Shi’ite-Isma’ili sect from west Syria) slip into the camp wanting to kill Salahudeen.

But a nobleman in the camp, by the name of Nasih ud-Deen Khumartakin, who was Emir of the fortress in the picture, identifies these assassins and likely recognises what they want to do.

He hurries towards them and confronts them very loudly, leading them to stab him many times and kill him.

But though his body is lying on the floor, he did enough to raise attention of nearby guards who ultimately killed the assassins and saved Salahudeen’s life.

Salahudeen would of course, twelve years later, go on to liberate Jerusalem and become a shining example in the Muslim World.

But back to Nasih ud-Deen, who received little to no credit throughout Islamic history. The fact that his actions helped keep Saladin safe from assassination, while risking and ultimately paying with his own life, is not widely known.

In fact, very few know this man’s name and he’s largely been buried into the obscurity of history. Well and truly forgotten.

But Allah didn’t forget him, or his sacrifice and actions.

Not in the least.

Similarly, all the sacrifices made by the ‘forgotten’ and ‘silent’ people, or by people in private… or anything that is not appreciated by the people, will not go to waste or be forgotten. Rather, it may be the greatest of actions with the most fruitful of results.

So may Allah accept Nasih ud-Deen Khumartakin into the ranks of the martyrs, and may Allah have mercy on both he and the man whose life he helped save.

Erdogan is not a hero


Erdogan is not a hero.
Yes, he’s the best Turkey has to offer at the moment and is infinitely better than the alternative, and should be supported against that alternative. And his good policies should be praised and encouraged.
And if you know me well, you’d know I’ve defended him against a lot of misplaced criticism in the past and celebrated his victories over the Kemalists and in crushing the military and helping Turkey recover economically.
But he is not a hero and should not be idealised as one by the Muslim World.
A hero doesn’t watch 100,000 Muslims killed in northern Syria, a few kilometers away from Turkish airbases and the barracks of the second largest NATO army, and not directly come to the aid of the oppressed as barrel bombs fall on their heads.
A hero doesn’t enable Turkish businesses to maintain growing billion-dollar trade relations with Israel, which continue today and will only grow further as relations will be normalised soon with the Netanyahu government.
If that is a hero to you, your standards are low and you should not speak in the political affairs of the Muslim World.
When are we going to learn balance and give political issues the careful and objective deliberation they require?
The man has good and bad, but he’s no hero and should not be treated as one.
Lift the standards and expectations.

Chess Haram According to Saudi Grand Mufti, Yet..

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti says chess is Haram (impermissible).

Okay, no problem.


Do you know what else is Haram?

Six of the seven worst countries for child mortality (deaths at birth) are Muslim. In Afghanistan, one in seven children die at birth, while in Japan it’s 1 in 500.

Seven of the ten worst countries for literacy in the world are Muslim-majority. In Niger, a country where 99% of people are Muslim, only 19% of people know how to write their name.

Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Algeria and Nigeria — with a combined 800 million Muslims — don’t have a single university ranked in the world’s top 300 (QS, 2015).

California, a US state, has a bigger economy than Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan combined.

Pakistan has had 70 polio workers killed in the past five years, has the world’s highest volume of internet searches for gay pornography, and shows more collective emotion over a cricket game than the mass-slaughter of Syrians.

Bosnia’s unemployment rate is 43%. Lebanon is a rubbish dump. Cairo is the sleaziest city in the world and one of the most polluted. Jordan is overrun with refugee girls having to prostitute themselves to eat.

200,000 killed in Syria. Thousands forgotten in Egypt’s prisons. Iraq, Libya and Yemen are death. The Mediterranean Sea is a graveyard for the Ummah’s children.

You want to talk to me about Haram? You want to talk to me about chess and Mawlid? You want to tell me Jinn stories and the seven thousand steps to a successful marriage?


But the leaders, scholars and preachers of the Muslim World need to wisen up to the political, social, economic and military catastrophes paralysing us; we should talk about Syria, endemic poverty and modern ideological confusion a thousand times more than we do about chess, moonsighting or whether it’s permissible to eat mermaid meat (yes, there’s a fatwa on that).

The Ummah’s discourse and focuses MUST mature and change to the big and pressing issues before we can lift ourselves out of this mess.

Muslim or Australian?

by Uthman Badar


Prof. Mohamad Abdalla in a recent video (here: raises this question and answers it with the claim that the is no incompatibility between being Muslim and Australian.

The core of his argument is that Islam incorporates beneficial and harmless cultural practices. It did this wherever it went. In Africa, Islam looks African. In China, Chinese. The real, deeper values of Australia are things like caring for others, egalitarianism, free health and education, a good taste for architecture and art. These are compatible with Islam. Therefore, one can and should be both Muslim and Australian.

That is his argument and it is not only flawed and extremely superficial, but dangerous.

1. It assumes that identity is all about cultural practices. A matter as important as how one identifies oneself is reduced to clothing and architecture. If the argument was that Islam does not seek a monolithic culture but allows a large degree of cultural diversity, that would be one (rather uncontroversial) thing (although there is much to be said about this notion that Islam incorporates cultural practices but we’ll leave that for another time). But to make an argument about values and identity through cultural practices is superficial. What of beliefs, creed, values, ideology, conceptions of purpose, success, political/economic/social views? Are we to understand that the colour and design of one’s hijab is more important than one’s creed or worldview?

2. What does it mean to be ‘Australian’? We know there is no objective core to being ‘Australian’ (as there is to being Muslim for instance). It has a pejorative political usage and various disputed popular usages. If we are to define it, how can we reduce the matter to caring for others, free education and architecture? Australia is a modern secular, democratic, capitalist, liberal nation-state built on a brutal and unjust invasion. How in the world can all that be ignored when conceiving of any notion of being ‘Australian’? All of these are defining features of Australia.

3. Even when reducing the issue to cultural practices, Prof. Abdalla has to be contradictorily selective to do away with all the bad cultural practices. Thus he argues that alcoholism and drug abuse are not Australian values because they are not peculiar to Australia and happen everywhere, but then goes on to affirm ‘caring for others’ and ‘good taste of architecture and art’ as Australian values. Are these peculiar to Australia? The rest of the world don’t care for others or have good taste of art?

4. What makes this argument and the approach it pushes dangerous is that it does away with the Islamic conception of the world and people and the clear distinction between Islam and its people and kufr and its people. It ignores all the factors that determine and distinguish iman and kufr, foregrounds cultural practices and as a result conceives of collectivities on other grounds. So instead of the Prophetic conception of the Muslim ummah as “one to the exclusion of others” – that is, identity and loyalty determined based on iman and kufr – we have people identifying and dividing on nationalities. Out with al-wala wa al-bara. Out with the struggle between Islam and kufr. Out with the struggle to establish the deen of Allah and make the word of Allah the highest.

5. Such an approach is political suicide for the Ummah and facilitates the agenda of western governments against Islam and Muslims. This is why such views are promoted and used by the governments. It is no coincidence that an extract from a khutba by Prof. Abdalla on this same topic with this same argument was hosted on the Abbott Government’s ‘Resilient Communities’ website in 2013 as a model sermon. It is also presented by the Government-initiated and funded National Imams Consultative Forum as a model sermon. This is because it facilitates government efforts to assimilate Muslims and strip from their core Islamic perspectives that don’t sit well in the modern secular liberal order.

6. Our message to the our youth should be to be proud and confident in their Islam and to identify as Muslims alone. Not as Australians, Americans, Europeans, or even Pakistanis or Lebanese for that matter. These are all shallow identifications and entities defined by matters contrary to Islam. Not identifying with being ‘Australian’ does not make one an outsider or a threat. Nor does it mean we isolate ourselves and don’t engage with wider society. Nay, it means that we are ideologically principled and honest. We engage with all and sundry, with respect and courtesy, but on the basis of our worldview. And it means that we carry a message and a call to change the world, instead of us merely accepting things as they are.

Tawfiq is from Allah.

The Campaign of Tabuk

The Tabuk Campaign contains many important lessons. It symbolises the Rasul’s courage, boldness & strategic nous in statecraft: in protecting the fledgling Islamic State from future threats despite being vastly inferior to the Romans in numbers & arms & resources. Against all odds, the Muslims were able to secure a remarkable victory without having to shed a drop of blood, strengthening the cause of Islam indefinitely. 


By Sayyid Abul ‘Ala Maududi, from his Tafsir of Surah At-Tauba

The Campaign to Tabuk was the result of conflict with the Roman Empire, that had started even before the conquest of Makkah. One of the missions sent after the Treaty of Hudaibiyah to different parts of Arabia visited the clans which lived in the northern areas adjacent to Syria. The majority of these people were Christians, who were under the influence of the Roman Empire. Contrary to all the principles of the commonly accepted international law, they killed fifteen members of the delegation near a place known as Zat-u-Talah (or Zat-i-Itlah). Only Ka’ab bin Umair Ghifari, the head of the delegation, succeeded in escaping and reporting the sad incident. Besides this, Shurahbll bin Amr, the Christian governor of Busra, who was directly under the Roman Caesar, had also put to death Haritli bin Umair, the ambassador of the Holy Prophet, who had been sent to him on a similar minion.

These events convinced the Holy Prophet that a strong action should be taken in order to make the territory adjacent to the Roman Empire safe and secure for the Muslims. Accordingly, in the month of Jamadi-ul-Ula A. H. 8, he sent an army of three thousand towards the Syrian border. When this army reached near Ma’an, the Muslims learned that Shurahbil was marching with an army of one hundred thousand to fight-with them and that the Caesar, who himself was at Hims, had sent another army consisting of one hundred thousand soldiers under his brother Theodore. But in spite of such fearful news, the brave small band of the Muslims marched on fearlessly and encountered the big army of Shurahbil at M’utah. And the result of the encounter in which the Muslims were fighting against fearful odds (the ratio of the two armies was 1:33), as very favorable, for the enemy utterly failed to defeat them. This proved very helpful for the propagation of Islam. As a result, those Arabs who were living in a state of semi independence in Syria and near Syria and the clans of Najd near Iraq, who were under the influence of the Iranian Empire, turned towards Islam and embraced it in thousands. For example, the people of Bani Sulaim (whose chief was Abbas bin Mirdas Sulaimi), Ashja’a, Ghatafan, Zubyan, Fazarah, etc., came into the fold of Islam at the same time. Above all, Farvah bin ‘Amral Juzami, who was the commander of the Arab armies of the Roman Empire, embraced Islam during that time, and underwent the trial of his Faith in a way that filled the whole territory with wonder. When the Caesar came to know that Farvah had embraced Islam, he ordered that he should be arrested and brought to his court. Then the Caesar said to him, “You will have to choose one of the two things. Either give up your Islam and win your liberty and your former rank, or remain a Muslim and face death.” He calmly chose Islam and sacrificed his life in the way of the Truth.

No wonder that such events as these made the Caesar realize the nature of the danger that was threatening his Empire from Arabia. Accordingly, in 9 A.H. he began to make military preparations to avenge the insult he had suffered at M’utah. The Ghassanid and other Arab chiefs also began to muster armies under him. When the Holy Prophet, who always kept himself well-informed even of the minutest things that could affect the Islamic Movement favorably or adversely, came to know of these preparations, he at once under- stood their meaning. Therefore, without the least hesitation he decided to fight against the great power of the Caesar. He knew that the show of the slightest weakness would result in the utter failure of the Movement which was facing three great dangers at that time. First the dying power of ‘ignorance’ that had almost been crushed in the battle-field of Hunain might revive again. Secondly, the Hypocrites of Al: Madinah, who were always on the look-out for such an opportunity, might make full use of this to do the greatest possible harm to it. For they had already made preparations for this and had, through a monk called Abu Amir, sent secret messages of their evil designs to the Christian king of Ghassan and the Caesar himself. Besides this, they had also built a mosque near Al-Madinah for holding secret meetings for this purpose. The third danger was of an attack by the Caesar himself, who had already defeated Iran, the other great power of that period, and filled with awe the adjacent territories.

It is obvious that if all these three elements had been given an opportunity of taking a concerted action against the Muslims, Islam would have lost the fight it had almost won. That is why in this case the Holy Prophet made an open declaration for making preparations for the Campaign against the Roman Empire, which was one of the two greatest empires of the world of that period. The declaration was made though all the apparent circumstances were against such a decision: for there was famine in the country and the long awaited crops were about to ripen: the burning heat of the scorching summer season of Arabia was at, its height and there was not enough money for preparations in general, and for equipment and conveyance in particular. But in spite of these handicaps, when the Messenger of Allah realized the urgency of the occasion, he took this step which was to decide whether the Mission of the Truth was going to survive or perish. The very fact that he made an open declaration for making preparations for such a campaign to Syria against the Roman Empire showed how important it was, for this was contrary to his previous practice. Usually he took every precaution not to reveal beforehand the direction to which he was going nor the name of the enemy whom he was going to attack; nay, he did not move out of Al-Madinah even in the direction of the campaign.

All the parties in Arabia fully realized the grave consequences of this critical decision. The remnants of the lovers of the old order of ‘ignorance’ were anxiously waiting for the result of the Campaign, for they had pinned all their hopes on the defeat of Islam by the Romans. The ‘hypocrites’ also considered it to be their last chance of crushing the power of Islam by internal rebellion, if the Muslims suffered a defeat in Syria. They had, therefore, made full use of the Mosque built by them for hatching plots and had employed all their devices to render the Campaign a failure. On the other side, the true Believers also realized fully that the fate of the Movement for which they had been exerting their utmost for the last 22 years was now hanging in the balance. If they showed courage on that critical occasion, the doors of the whole outer world would be thrown open for the Movement to spread. But if they showed weakness or cowardice, then all the work they had done in Arabia would -end in smoke.

That is why these lovers of Islam began to make enthusiastic preparations for the Campaign. Everyone of them tried to surpass the other in making contributions for the provision of equipment for it. Hadrat Uthman and Hadrat Abdur Rehman bin Auf presented large sums of money for this purpose. Hadrat Umar contributed half of the earnings of his life and Hadrat Abu Bakr the entire earnings of his life. The indigent Companions did not lag behind and presented whatever they could earn by the sweat of their labor and the women parted with their ornaments. Thousands of volunteers, who were filled with the desire of sacrificing their lives for Islam, came to the Holy Prophet and requested that arrangements for weapons and conveyance be made for them so that they should join the expedition. Those who could not be provided with these shed tears of sorrow; the scene was so pathetic that it made the Holy Prophet sad because of his inability to arm them. In short, the occasion became the touchstone for discriminating a true believer from a hypocrite. For, to lag behind in the Campaign meant that the very relationship of a person to Islam was doubtful. Accordingly, whenever a person lagged behind during the journey to Tabuk, the Prophet , on being informed, would spontaneously say, “Leave him alone. If there be any good in him, Allah will again join him with you, and if there be no good in him, then thank Allah that He relieved you of his evil company”.

In short, the Prophet ﷺ marched out towards Syria in Rajab A. H. 9, with thirty thousand fighters for the cause of Islam. The conditions in which the expedition was undertaken may be judged from the fact that the number of camels with them was so small that many of them were obliged to walk on foot and to wait for their turns for several had to ride at a time on each camel. To add to this, there was the burning heat of the desert and the acute shortage of water. But they were richly rewarded for their firm resolve and sincere adherence to the cause and for their perseverance in the face of those great difficulties and obstacles.

When they arrived at Tabuk, they learned that the Caesar and his allies had withdrawn their troops from the frontier and there was no enemy to fight with. Thus they won a moral victory that increased their prestige manifold and, that too, without shedding a drop of blood.

In this connection, it is pertinent to point out that the general impression given by the historians of the campaigns of the Prophet ﷺ about the Campaign of Tabuk is not correct. They relate the event in a way as if the news of the mustering of the Roman armies near the Arabian frontier was itself false. The fact is that the Caesar had begun to muster his armies, but the Holy Prophet forestalled him and arrived on the scene before he could make full preparations for the invasion. Therefore, believing that “discretion is the better part of valor,” he withdrew his armies from the frontier. For he had not forgotten that the three thousand fighters for the cause of Islam had rendered helpless his army one hundred thousand strong at M’utah. He could not, therefore, even with an army of two hundred thousand, dare to fight against an army of thirty thousand, and that, too, under the leadership of the Holy Prophet himself.

When the Prophet ﷺ found that the Caesar had withdrawn his forces from the frontier, he considered thee question whether it would be worthwhile to march into the Syrian territory or to halt at Tabuk and turn his moral victory to political and strategical advantage. He decided on the latter course and made a halt for twenty days at Tabuk. During this time, he brought pressure on the small states that lay between the Roman Empire and the Islamic State and were at that time under the influence of the Romans, and subdued and made them the tributaries of the Islamic State. For instance, some Christian chiefs Ukaidir bin Abdul Malik Kindi of Dumatul Jaiidal, Yuhanna bin D’obah of Allah, and the chiefs of Maqna, Jarba’ and Azruh also submitted and agreed to pay Jizyah to the Islamic State of Al- Madinah. As a result of this, the boundaries of the Islamic State were extended right up to the Roman Empire, and the majority of the Arab clans, who were being used by the Caesar against Arabia, became the allies of the Muslims against the Romans.

Above all, this moral victory of Tabuk afforded a golden opportunity to the Muslims to strengthen their hold on Arabia before entering into a long conflict with the Romans. For it broke the back of those who had still been expecting that the old order of ‘ignorance’ might revive in the near future, whether they were the open upholders of shirk or the hypocrites who were hiding their shirk under the garb of Islam. The majority of such people were compelled by the force of circumstances to enter into the fold of Islam and, at least, make it possible for their descendants to become true Muslims. After this a mere impotent minority of the upholders of the old order was left in the field, but it could not stand in the way of the Islamic Revolution for the perfection of which Allah had sent His Messenger.