Chris Baines says that in Islam "we don’t deal in usury". That may be the reason why Arab and Muslim countries have been so unsuccessful in the 20th and 21st centuries. Before, during and within the various Islamic empires, these empires didn’t really need usury - or rates of interest on loans - and other transactions because they taxed the non-Muslims (dhimmis) of the nations and states they had conquered and subdued.
Mr Baines talks about Islamic zakat: he doesn’t talk about Islamic jizya - the extra tax that all non-Muslims had to pay for ‘protection’ (protection from Muslims usually) when living in Muslim or Islamic states. In addition, these empires raised money in the form of the ‘booty’ and ‘bounty’ of the conquered non-Muslim nations and states. (Just like the ‘Western imperialism’ or ‘colonialism’ we hear so much about from Muslims and their left-wing defenders.)
The other thing to point out is that Chris Baines says that in Islam ‘we’ do this, that and the other. Doesn’t he really mean that Islam states that Muslims should do this, that and the other? It’s certainly not the case that all Muslims do all the (good) things he states in his letter.
My experiences of Muslim ‘business dealings’ have been bad. That can be explained simply. How Muslims are told to treat other people really means how they are told to treat other Muslims - not everyone! So the ‘business dealings’ of Muslims, in terms of renting out property or drug-pushing, are far from exemplary. In fact, many of the business dealings between Muslims are that way too.
In terms of the Islam tax - zakat. Now, I’m not an arithmetician or good with percentages but if every Muslim has to pay 2.5% of their earnings then that isn’t very fair. For example, take the admittedly extreme case that if a person earns £5,000 a week, 2.5% of that will be very insubstantial. However, if a Muslim earns only £50 a week, then 2.5% of that would be a real burden. Of course, it is said, by some Muslims, that there is a minimum level of wealth below which no zakat is payable. So that would depend on what that ‘minimum rate’ is and by whom it is set, as well as when it is set. Rather than this being fair, then, it may be the opposite of fair.
Further, the 2.5% diktat is simply a result of Islam’s rule-fixation:
i) Muhammad didn’t sleep on his left side, so Muslims shouldn’t sleep that way either.
ii) Muhammad didn’t like the Jews, so Muslims shouldn’t like the Jews either.
iii) And, in this case, Muhammad set the zakat rate at 2.5% so it should stay at that rate, regardless of fairness or practicality.
This rule-bound nature of Islam is seen as a virtue by Chris Baines. He glories in the fact that everything that he has said about benefits, zakat, etc. can be deduced "from a few very simple statements found in the Qur'an and sayings of the prophet Muhammad". You bet! And maybe that’s the problem. Not enough money may be going to the poorer sections of the Muslim community. And as Leftists would state about non-Muslim versions of zakat - this is an explicit acceptance of poverty in that it is taken for granted that there will be poor people who need help. The Leftist, like the Islamist, promises us Utopia instead (though that word is never used).
There is also an implicit lack of altruism in the things articulated by this Muslim letter-writer. He extols the beneficence of zakat, Islam’s anti-usury position, the benign business dealings, etc. However, he also says that Muslims do all this because "Allah will increase our provision" in Paradise (or maybe before). So Muslims, and Chris Baines, get a payback from Allah for all this philanthropy and fairness. Thus how can it be altruistic in a genuine sense?
The letter from Chris Baines:
‘Leave benefits alone’
8:53am Friday 9th November 2012 in Readers' letters By Telegraph & Argus
“SIR – In Islam, we need less because we look for the barakah (blessings) in things; we don’t deal in usury; we tell the truth and reveal defects when we have business dealings; we help our neighbour and everyone shares and looks out for everyone else – which includes prayers and paying the poor due (zakat). By having more children, we know Allah will increase our provision, as he says he will in the Quran.
This principle of increased provision may seem counter-intuitive to today’s received wisdom. On this principle, however, employing more married people is a means of an employer gaining more profits, while encouraging people to marry and have more children is a means of society benefitting and flourishing.
This puts the focus back on children and the family and away from business and making profits primarily, and sees business and family as functions of each other, but with the emphasis being on the family – foremost, the children.
It is imperative from this viewpoint to ensure benefits remain as they are. The Government would be more better placed to introduce programmes to create cohesive behaviours in society.
An Islamic society exhibits the positive characteristics I have mentioned which spring from a few very simple statements found in the Quran and sayings of the prophet Muhammad.”