Commercial Banks in Somaliland: A battle of ideas and interests. Part-I

Aadan Muuse Jibriil

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The debate that has taken place in the House of Representatives in Hargeisa, in the second week of January concerning the attempt to block the law which permits Commercial Banks to be established in Somaliland challenged by Islamists is more of a political issue than a religiously motivated action. The very argument is a true reflection of the scope to which the conflict between Somaliland, as an independent and democratic state, and a conglomeration of political Islamists has extended. This is a factor which remained to be a formidable obstacle to all efforts required for the achievement of reforms that continued for more than ten years.

Some Somalilanders further argued that besides the Islamists trickery, the issue is closely related to Mogadishu’s conspiracy to isolate Somaliland and considered the Islamist’s notion that these banks will bring ‘Ribah’ (Haram) as a pretext only. Therefore, the argument in the Somaliland House of Representatives is neither an isolated event nor a new one.

The long history of human society, had been a history of different interpretations to the issues under consideration. There is no doubt that the diversity of opinions had been about everything, about Nature, Life and Demise, but these had always been more about battlefields of ideas that represent different interests of man on earth.

All these ideas remained as an expression of political, economic, and social interests that their supporters belong to one of the sides in contention. This as in the logic of history has continued to be pertinent to either progressive or regressive camps. Those whose political and economic interests lie in keeping history rotate in the same place where their interests did exist and thus wish to see the status-quo as everlasting and irreversible.
The forces of regression everywhere in the world ferociously engage in a struggle in defense of their selfish interests, which contradict with the historical wind of change.

These types of political force are bound to resist any step toward social, economic and political reform as long as they are failing to be direct beneficiaries of this or that kind of change.

What is happing right now in the Arab world (to a great extent) is true evidence of conflicting relations of ideas and interests, between conservative regimes, who resist the long overdue reforms and the ordinary people for whom their urgent aims and demands can only be materialized in political, social and economic reform.

The direct outcome of the desperate situation where the Arab public is in despair and the conservative ruling classes remain stubborn against any change with the exception of the ones that replicate the existing reality, which is a reproduction of the same historical deadlock.

The precise meaning of the historical deadlock in the Arab world is the fact that neither the ruling classes nor the public is able to conduct a peaceful change. The popular revolutions wrongly known as the ”Arab Spring” lacked a common program for change and united platform and leadership, and thus, the situation remains as a bomb-shell under the sites of the anti-reformists, whose interpretation of history is on religious terms. But the ”Arab spring” experience is not an isolated phenomenon, it is a fact pertinent to every situation wherever conservative social and political forces reject the reforms that is dictated by the needs of the majority.

Worthy to mention here is that in reality, not all Islamic scholars favored the interpretation of religion according to the conformists in their endeavors to justify the conservative state elite’s interests. There had been solid examples that displayed progressive tendencies in Islam. Three hundred and half years earlier, before Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Marx, unlike the majority of Islamist scholars, Ibn Khaldun laid down the basis of the economic theory, introduced the theory of value, and divided all earnings into ‘Ribh’ (Gross Earning) and ‘Kasab’ (Earning of Living) and considered human labor as the source of the wealth of nations.
According to Joseph A. Schumpeter, who discovered Ibn Khaldun’s writings, Ibn Khaldun was a true believer in the free market Economy before Adam Smith. (Ibn Khaldun and Adam Smith: contribution to theory of economics, Wikipedia free encyclopedia).

These facts clearly accentuate that Islam is not responsible of the disease that led to the collapse of the Islamic Empire, which lasted more than eight hundred years (from 7 to 17 century) as the vanguard of human civilization. However, the wrong interpretation of Islam by the backward-looking dark forces ought to be blamed for the decay and finally disintegration of Islamic Empire.

For his principled stubborn stands against those conformist Islamic Olema and their corrupt Sultans, Ibn Khaldun was ruthlessly punished, downgrading as the chairman of the Council of Justice (Qaadi Al-Qudaad) of the Islamic Empire to the head of justice in Egypt Province, where he become blind and wrote his last Epic book Muqadamat Ibn Khalddun, assisted by son of his brother, (Ibn Khaldun: Father of Economics, Ibrahim M. Oweiss).
However, the contrasts and similarities between the situations in the Arab and Islamic worlds both on antiquity and contemporary levels, and the one of Somaliland today reflect realities that ought be seen as considerable fact but on relative details. The common aspect of this is the need to an unending movement towards renovations, reforms and changes.

Financial reform is an urgent task and challenging need to achieve the requirements of the free market economy that connects Somaliland to the global financial system. This is the real challenge that divides between Somaliland’s aspirations to be part of the modern world and the attempts to turning it back to fourteenth century’s realm. Unfortunately, Somaliland has got itself plunging into this battle without Ibn khaldun type amongst the Islamic Olema on its side against the attempts to blocking the law which favors Commercial banks to operate in Somaliland.

By Adam Muse Jibril