06 November, 2006

Islamic World Economic Forum.

The 2nd World Islamic Economic Forum is currently meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan. According to Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz:

Our eventual goal should be to create an Islamic Economic Union towards which we can begin by entering into multilateral free trade agreements as well as promoting the free flow of capital, labour, goods and services. We can also create a world-class capital market to attract international capital, which would enable us to finance our growth and development.
Much of Aziz's keynote address, about creating the type of workforce necessary to achieve the Islamic world's economic potential, will be eerily familiar to anyone acquainted with the decades of European rhetoric on the same issues. Aziz said,
The world of today is radically and profoundly different from the world of yesterday. We are living in an age of globalization where no nation can afford to live in isolation. We have,therefore, to begin our quest for economic revival by identifying the challenges and opportunities that the current global environment presents.

He said the new world order is characterized by economic integration,technological advancement, predominance of knowledge economy, and diffusion of democratic ideas. Broadly speaking, this process has brought about three fundamental changes. Firstly, a new governance paradigm is emerging whereby the private sector is leading the process of economic growth and governments are assuming the role of policy-maker, facilitator, regulator and enabler.

Secondly, supra- national institutions are laying the rules of the game and nation-states. are called upon to operate within that framework. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, buoyant expansion of global trade and capital flows as well as freer exchange of ideas and technology across the world provide vast opportunities for growth but at the same time pose serious challenges in terms of achieving better governance, higher efficiency and greater competitiveness.
It was meaningless verbiage when the European Union spouted it and the Islamic version is not likely to be any different. It reduces to an argument that in the future, on the one hand, there will be greater competition, on the other there will be less unskilled and semi-skilled jobs; meeting these challenges will require a more highly educated workforce . In Europe the argument remains unproven.

As usual the sense of Islamic victim-hood is never far below the surface. Aziz referred vaguely to "Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan,Palestine, Lebanon and Kashmir [who] continue to face insecurity, death and destruction." According to Pakistan Dawn, Abdullah Badawi, the Malaysian prime minister, was more forthright, in his keynote speech, in blaming the west for Islam's problems. The Islamic world, he said,
...should work for removal of antagonism existing between the West and the Muslim world.

This, he stressed, was not only the biggest challenge in the world but the biggest crisis facing the Muslim nations. Muslim nations have been humiliated by the hegemonic tendencies of global powers as exemplified by the subjugation of Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon and Muslims should remove the equation of Islam with terrorism.

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