The current eruptions of civil unrest and protest across North Africa and the Middle East – no wonder oil prices are surging – has also thrown into unflattering relief the issue of Western arms sales to some regimes, such as that of Libya. And no doubt the argument will be made that, for example in the case of the recent, unlamented Blair/Brown governments in the UK, the administration put export earnings (oil, arms contracts) above such niceties as basic morality or even, arguably, long-term national security.
But here is a thing: according to Shariah law, it is prohibited for Muslims to invest in things such as the arms trade. Making weapons of war is put on the same banned list as pork, gambling, usury and pornography (sounds like all the really good things, Ed). So let me get this straight: some of the most fanatically Muslim regimes on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, insist on sweeping prohibitions on making arms, but are more than keen to spend all that oil wealth on buying Typhoon fighters or whatever. This is surely an example of the contortions that Islamic law imposes on people. Another case being usury, as I have noted before.
Of course, all belief systems, secular and “religious” variety, come up against the issue of awkward realities and human hypocrisy. But when you next read a story bashing Western arms manufacturers for shipping instruments of death to the Middle East, perhaps it would be well to remember that the locals are apparently banned from making these instruments, but some of them are quite happy to reach for the wallet and buy them.
And lest you think this is just an issue for Islam, it is arguable that even those investors who put money into “ethical” funds that avoid arms trades would do well to reflect on where they think governments buy weapons for even strict self defence? I make this point in case anyone claims I am singling out Islam in general; I mention it in this case since obviously, much of the current buying of weapons is being driven by the Middle East.