Divine Revelation

A blog with an Islamic perspective

Although climate change is a natural phenomenon the term "climate change" is used to refer to those changes that have been identified since the last 100 years or so and those predicted over the next 80 years due to human behavior rather than natural changes in the atmosphere.
Some of the possible effects of climate change include:
1) Rise in sea levels causing an increase in number of people whose lives will be in danger because of flooding. Low lying countries like Bangladesh may loose 17.5 % of their land area
2) Negative impact on crops and productivity
3) Expose more people to diseases like malaria, dengue and yellow fever4) Cause serious damage to finely balanced ecosystems causing global warming and widespread disappearance of forests.

What causes climate change?The sun rays warm the earth. The earth sends some of those sun rays back. But not all can bounce back. The atmosphere which is made up of greenhouse gases absorbs some of these rays trying to escape the earth. This absorption by greenhouse gases is crucial for maintaining the optimum temperature of our planet. One of the main greenhouse gases is Carbon dioxide, which is the principal pollutant caused by running cars and power plants. Thus the ever increasing air pollution and deforestation causes an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, preventing reflected rays from escaping the atmosphere, leading to an increase in global warming and climate change.
At the heart of international efforts to combat global warming lies the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 for its signatory nations to assign mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Till date a total of 169 countries and other governmental entities have ratified the agreement.
Some of the significant points of Kyoto Protocol are:
a) Industrialized countries have committed to cut their combined emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008 – 2012
b) It exempts developing countries like India and China from emission reductions, even though they are one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases. It is estimated that it has taken around a 100 years for the existing extra cloud of greenhouse gases to be formed, and the developing countries have obviously no share in its formation.
c) Kyoto initiated the concept of emission trading through Carbon Credits (CC). These are basically certificates issued to countries that reduce their emission of greenhouse gases. One credit is equivalent to reduction of one ton of CO2 emission. Thus we have the developed countries with CC deficit, whereas a developing country like India has one of the highest surpluses of CC. Carbon credits can be traded in Climate Exchanges. Highly polluting countries can buy these unused "credits" from those with surplus CC.

The most notable exceptions to Kyoto are Australia and the United States. America has less than 5 percent of the world's population but produces close to a quarter of the world's emissions. It still has the audacity to reject Kyoto and oppose all proposals for significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The US dubs the treaty "fatally flawed", partly because it does not require developing countries to commit to emissions reductions. Further it sees the higher energy costs to have calamitous consequences on the US economy and believes that emissions reductions must be achieved through voluntary action and new energy technologies.

Everyone should first realize the importance of preserving and safeguarding the ecology. Man has been sent on this earth by Allah as His vicegerent. Thus it is the duty of man to protect the earth and the fine balance of the ecosystems that has been gifted to us by God. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity." He (peace be upon him) also said: Whenever a Muslim plants a tree, he has the reward of charity for him, for what is eaten out of that is charity; what is stolen out of that, what the beast eat out of that, what the birds eat out of that is charity for him. (In short) none incurs a loss to him but it becomes a charity on his part." Let us rise above politics and protect the environment to the best of our ability.

Posted by Arshad on Saturday, July 28, 2007.

Neocolonialism is defined as a policy where a major power uses economic and political means to perpetuate or extend its influence over underdeveloped nations, former colonies and new dependencies. The origins of neocolonialism can be traced to the historical Brenton Woods Agreement in 1944. The planners at Bretton Woods set up a system of rules, institutions, and procedures to regulate and control the international monetary system. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were thus established.

Both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are headquartered in Washington. An unwritten rule establishes that the IMF's managing director must be European and that the president of the World Bank an American. Decisions are made by a vote of the Board of Executive Directors representing member countries but unlike the United Nations, where each member nation has an equal vote, voting power at the World Bank and IMF is determined by the level of a nation's financial contribution. The United States has roughly 17% of the vote with the G7 holding about 45 %. This clever scheme ensures that the United States always has a dominant voice and can exercise an effective veto at will. Even though the World Bank is a multilateral institution of 184 member governments, its presidency is widely assumed to be owned by the White House. Europe seems happy to play along, presumably to ensure its own "ownership" of other international posts. The 150-plus developing countries are relegated to the back benches.

Both the Bank and the Fund aim at global poverty reduction and improvement of living standards. They claim to provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and help them overcome short-term balance-of-payments difficulties. However, financial assistance does not come free and the recipients have to agree to policy reforms in their economies which is ingeniously termed structural adjustment program (SAP). This structural adjustment calls for currency devaluation, slashing government spending, privatization and opening up countries to exploitative foreign investment.

The ill effects of structural adjustment are well known and have been well documented.Since the 1980s, SAP has helped create a net outflow of wealth from the developing world, which has paid out five times as much capital to the industrialized countries of the North as it has received. In the two regions with the most structural adjustment experience, per capita income has stagnated ( Latin America) or plummeted (Africa). As the Bank is a lender of foreign currency, it demands to be repaid in the same currency. The borrower countries, in order to obtain the currencies to repay the loans, must sell to the rich countries more than they buy from them. Many Third World countries then end up competing with each other on a limited range of commodities creating a collapse in prices of export goods. Export revenues stagnate while the import bill continues to go up. The only way of repaying loans is to engage in other loans, resulting in a huge accumulation of debts.

Some typical cases of WB-IMF administered disasters include the severe economic contraction of unprecedented scale in Russia in the 1990s with the number of Russians in poverty rising from 2 million to 60 million. The Asian financial crisis triggered by the IMF encouraging Asian countries to open their borders to "hot money" or speculative finance invested in currency, stocks and short-term securities. The crisis resulted from the hot money brokers' herd-like decision to quit Asian countries en masse. Later the IMF made things worse by extracting structural adjustment as a condition for IMF loans. The result was a surge in bankruptcies, layoffs and poverty. In Indonesia, poverty rates rose from an official level of 11 percent to 40 to 60 percent. Indonesia's food shortage became so severe that then-President Habibie implored citizens to fast twice a week.

Instead of targeting the poor people through projects that help augment their income through relevant education, training, and capital, the bank seems to exclusively favor large-scale, capital intensive, mega-projects. Yet, many of these mega-projects have resulted into mega-failure. The hydroelectric dam on the Narmada River in Gujarat at $450 million threatened the habitat of 100,000 tribal poor. Another 140,000 families would have been affected by the attendant canals. The examples of such "flawed" mega projects of the Bank abound in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Yacyreta the largest hydroelectric dam in the world along the Argentina-Paraguay border that has already claimed $760 million of World Bank fund, will result in forced relocation of 50,000 people from their homes. Many more countries have courted similar disasters after after heeding to the Bank- Fund advice. The Bank prides itself on fighting corruption both within and outside. However it's current President Paul Wolfowitz (the neoconservative hawk and architect of the disastrous invasion of Iraq) is fighting a loosing battle to salvage his seat amidst allegations that he used his position to influence a pay and grade increase for his partner Shaha Riza.

Neocolonialism is not a new phenomenon. It's roots lie in the belief that man is the sole owner of all material resources and he has by all means fair or foul to acquire more and more in order to satiate his hunger. There is no scope for morality, divine guidance and ethics in the race for world dominance. Its survival of the fittest and no mercy for the weak. Islam came to end this dominance of man over man and guide him into the light of justice equality and universal brotherhood by making all as equal slaves of God. Since everything in this world belongs to God man has no right to appropriate these things according to his will. Man should deal with these things according to the rules set by the Master to Whom they really belong. Similarly, all men who inhabit this earth and whose lives are interlinked with each other are the subjects of God. Therefore, they have no right to formulate their own rules and regulations. The entire range of their mutual relationships should be governed by laws made by God. Unless this world view is accepted,neocolonialism is bound to flourish.

Posted by Arshad on .

The Council of Europe an international organization of 47 member states (not to be confused with the European Union) held a conference on cybercrime on 11 and 12 June in the Franco-German border city of Strasbourg. The conference aimed at encouraging countries to sign up to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and its Additional Protocol related to criminal acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, and improving international co-operation in tackling new forms of cybercrime.
Cybercrime is a term used to describe activity in which computers / computer networks are a used as a tool to commit a crime or the computer / computer networks are itself a target or a place of criminal activity.
Examples of cybercrime wherein the computer is used as tool are:
1) Spamming: which means sending endless emails or bulk messaging for the purpose of advertising or plain nuisance.
2) Intellectual Property and Copyright infringement related
Examples of cybercrime wherein the computer is a target include:
1) Breaching network security i.e. trying to access computer networks illegally by cracking passwords and other security measures.
2) Spreading malicious code commonly known as computer virus to damage / disrupt computer resources.
3) Denial of service attacks: can be understood as a deliberate attempt to slow down or disrupt internet networks / servers so that users may not be able to access internet websites or services.
Some traditional crimes in which computer networks are used may also fall under the category of cybercrime like:
1) Phishing: means trying to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity over the internet.
2) Identity theft occurs when a person's means of identification has been exploited for an unlawful purpose. A good example of identity theft is when a Bob obtains a loan from a financial institution impersonating Peter. Thus Bob uses Peter's personal secret identifiers that he has somehow acquired, committing economic fraud.
3) we have some well known crimes like child pornography, online gambling and securities fraud.
4) Harassing and abusing women online has given rise to a new cybercrime called Cyberstalking.
Crimes like trade secret theft and industrial or economic espionage are sometimes considered cybercrimes when computers or networks are involved.
Cybercrime can also be analyzed in the context of propaganda related web-warfare in which attempts are made to hack into sites that espouse causes that one may be opposed to politically or ideologically. For example attempts by anti-Islamic groups to hack into Islamic sites and turned many of them into pornographic sites. Other cybercrimes are online scams by cyber-criminals which include setting up bogus companies on the Internet. Unsuspecting buyers are offered products at tempting prices, and then supply their credit card details - only to find that the site suddenly does the vanishing act ripping off people of their hard earned money.
Most companies are by now sufficiently aware about the threat from cybercrime and they now employ ways and means to test the security of their computer networks. This has spawned a new breed of IT specialists called Network Security Consultants or Ethical Hackers and given rise to a spate of Anti Virus program companies.
Islam says that the criterion of right and wrong can be correctly determined only after ascertaining man's place and status in the universe. Islam tells us clearly that the status of man in this world is that of an `abd (God's servant or slave) who is also Khulifat-ul-Allah (Allah's deputy and vicegerent). All things in the world belong to God. Man has been appointed as a vicegerent to follow and implement God's rules and regulations which have been sent through Divine books and Gods chosen Prophets.
Man sins if he disobeys God and commits a crime if he crosses the Hudood (limits) imposed by God. Islam considers crime an act of injustice towards society, a sin against oneself and a transgression against Allah. Punishment is not atonement nor does it erase the sin. A sin is only forgiven through repentance. However, crime is an act of inflicting harm upon society that cannot be forgiven by repentance alone. There must be a penal system to punish the offender and protect society from reoccurrence of the crime. An environment of healthy morality and faith must be the norm, where to do right is encouraged and to do wrong is discouraged and found difficult. In fact, commanding right and forbidding wrong is a foremost duty in Islam.
Thus all measures that are taken to tackle cybercrime need to be welcomed and offered wholehearted cooperation.
This article also appeared in Radiance Viewsweekly and can be seen by clicking LINK

Posted by Arshad on .

It is estimated that one third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes. Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday. In 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day.800 million people go to bed hungry every day. Contrast this with the fact that for the year 2005 " 8.7 million people globally held more than US$1 million in financial-asset wealth. Also note that the number of millionaires grew faster than the number of people in the world the same year. Many such numbing statistics can be provided to prove how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The various reasons citied for poverty include unequal distribution of natural resources, overpopulation and historical factors like imperialism and colonialism. Some say the lack of democracy and free trade with the lack of education, infrastructure, health care and education make more and more people poor.
While the above causes of poverty cannot be denied, it is important to probe a little deeper and try to get at the root cause of this global menace. It is the bounden duty of every government to help its needy citizens. This is achieved by providing subsidies on goods and services and through various poverty alleviation and aid distribution programs. But how can a government be expected to be generous if its coffers are empty and it is heavily in debt ? Let us look at the national debt of just 2 countries. The US with a $ 13.22 trillion ( 1 trillion is a 1000 billion or 100,000 Crore) economy has a government or public debt of nearly $ 9 trillion, almost 64 % of its GDP. India with a booming economy of nearly $ 1 trillion has a public debt of almost 60%. of its GDP. This high debt level forces the Indian government to spend 29.3% of its revenue on debt-interest payment.
But how did we land in this debt-trap that is draining all our resources? As a taxpayer, you must know why the Government is taking your hard earned money from you and to whom is all that money going?
For the purpose of understanding, as an oversimplification, suppose you want to spend more money this month than your income. This situation is called a "budget deficit". So you borrow. The amount you borrowed (and now owe) is called your debt. You have to pay interest on your debt. If next month you don't have enough money to cover your spending (another deficit), you must borrow some more, and you'll still have to pay the interest on the loan. If you have a deficit every month, you keep borrowing and your debt grows. Soon the interest payment on your loan is bigger than any other item in your budget. Eventually, all you can do is pay the interest payment, and you don't have any money left over for anything else. Government debt can be categorized as internal debt, owed to lenders within the country, and external debt, owed to foreign lenders like the World Bank and IMF. Governments usually borrow by issuing securities such as government bonds and bills, which entail interest payments, that governments find increasingly difficult to service with increased non-developmental expenditure and dwindling revenues.
Is there a way out of this debt trap or is it a fait accompli of the existing economic system that we all have to endure? Islam has its own socio-politico-economic system besides a mechanism for governance and social welfare. It addresses every aspect of human life and gives guiding principles and specific laws and regulations to achieve peace, progress and prosperit.
Some of the salient features of Islamic economy are:* Each person to cater for his subsistence by his own labour* The final owner of all is Allah, man is a temporary custodian of material resources and will be accountable both in this world and the Hereafter on how well he carried out his responsibilty of spending the resources at his disposal according to the Will of the Creator* Right to private property and means of production is permissible but subject to regulation * Wealth accumulation is permissible through work and inheritance, but wasteful expenditure (israf) is not allowed* Charity and mutual support is highly encouraged and multiple reward promised in the Hereafter * Rights of the poor and needy are institutionalized in the system of Zakat as a compulsory levy of 2.5% on wealth and 5 to 10 % on agricultural produce to be distributed to specified categories in society when annual wealth exceeds a minimum level called nisab.* Prices must be just and can be formed based on competitive market mechanism.* Monopolization and hoarding to be combated and eliminated* Monetary policy to ensure that there are sufficient funds to boost the economy and at the same time ensure that there is no inflation. This can be achieved by abandoning the exisiting fiat currency and going back to the gold standard. * Fiscal policy to ensure a balanced budget whereby income and revenues will match public expenditure.* State to provide basic infrastructure facilities and a just legal system that manages a level playing field for all economic players.
Islam strictly prohibits interest or usury. In an interest based transaction the settlement of interest between the creditor and the debtor is always on unequal terms. The dice is always loaded in favour of the creditor. He always gets his fixed amount of interest which he terms his profit. The debtor however is completely exposed to the whims of market conditions, his own ability to manage labour capital and technology etc to produce and sell. He bears all business risks and is still not sure whether his business will return any fixed profits. Thus the only way to come out of debt trap is to promote an interest free economy. Interest is never in anyone's interest.
This article appeared in RADIANCE magazine. You can also view the article by clicking this LINK

Posted by Arshad on .