Islamic World: Wither a Muslim Gold Standard?
Written by Kazi Mahmood
Saturday, 25 October 2008
The last few times we heard of the Muslim world using Gold to replace currency was during the time of Prime Minister Tun Mahathir's reign. He was sure and certain that Gold cold bring the downfall of the paper money era.
Since then, the idea fizzled amid a few attempts at promoting Gold itself as a currency and as a means to make payments internationally. The business of gold minting in Malaysia, which started with a few companies minting gold for sale locally, went bust.
A type of Gold Dinar from UK
One wonders how doing business with gold can go bust but it is a reality in Malaysia since the people involved in the business were after the quick profit, not after the long haul of becoming rich and solid after years of patience and perseverance.
Though it is relevant to sell gold coins, it must be done with much publicity and the right approach. Trying to impose gold as the currency to be carried around does not work in the modern age. People need cards, gold cards that can help carry thousands of dollars around like in credit cards. We are in the age of the digital money too, and the gold coins providers could shift their businesses more into the cyberspace.
Now what about the gold as Islamic currency?
During that period, writing for Islamonline.net, I suggested that we use gold as the standard, not as the currency necessarily and that this will mean backing the currency we use with pure, existing gold stocks. This idea did not take up since it does not bring ready, quick bucks to any of the would be investors in this business.
Now let me tell you about the US. The much hated and much criticized US governments over the years did one right thing. They used gold as the standard and created a unique type of gold currency investment.
This gold currency investment sores in price after gold prices rise. The profit can be huge and dramatically turn the investments into windfall gains, unexpected and much wanted.
How do they do it?
Everybody knows that gold is a safe investment in times of economic chaos--that's why the U.S. mint recently ran out of gold bullion coins to sell to investors (source: The Los Angeles Times).
The US print money, paper money, to pay for its follies and yet the more it prints, the better it is for Gold prices. In that case, you do not need to own gold itself to earn the benefits of the current US policies. What you need is follow the price of gold on the market and invest in gold currencies that exists for decades in the US.
What about the Islamic world?
What the Mahathir followers in the gold coins business failed to understand is how to use a gold standard system to back the Muslim world's currencies. What the US did was to back their currency with gold standards = the US remains one of the major gold hoarding nations on earth.
Simply follow the US principle and integrate gold in the modern currency system by backing one's entire currencies on gold would have created support for gold currency standards but no one will do that since there is no 'profit' to be made by 'brokers'. That is the real problem faced in the Muslim world and it has escaped the promoters of gold currencies in countries like Malaysia.
The question is will there be a gold standard for the Muslim world? There can be such a standard only if the Arab world with the Asians and Africans in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) pushes for gold to become the standard currency to be used to back the existing paper money.
Its a long shot and it may not see the light not with this generation of Muslims anyway.