I’ve been studying the Middle East since I was in college in the late 1990s. When September 11th 2001 happened it was shocking, but I wasn’t surprised given what I had learned about emerging radical jihadist movements.

In the years after the attack I read much more on the Middle East and its politics. As the neoconservatives launched their war I sought to understand what I could about the people we were fighting and why. I still find the region endlessly interesting.

It should be remembered that just because a fatwa is issued by an imam somewhere doesn’t mean that suddenly every Muslim is going to listen. In fact this fatwa may have little to no impact whatsoever. But this bit of news did remind me of one of the themes during the “why do they hate us?” era.

The theory was that many people in the Middle East resented their relative backwardness and their anger grew from a general humiliation as it looked to the more prosperous West. The Middle East had fallen behind in terms of technology and innovation and had stagnated politically and economically. According to this theory “jihad” was a giant societal “acting out.”

An important part of this theory of jihad argued that Islam’s general diastase for banking, or more specifically usury, had kept it back.

I have to say that I have issues with banking as it is (to say the least) and usury to some degree. And I can absolutely see the appeal of the gold dinar some in the Middle East have championed. Gold is God’s money after all. (Gold is doing quite well as of late by the way.) But when I saw this proclamation all of the Islam vs banking vs West vs innovation arguments came flooding back.

We’re interested to see what comes of the statement. We understand why it was issued. We wonder whether it was wise. Indeed whether what we see here is just fundamentally a fear of freedom. All the powers that be seem to hate Bitcoin.

But good to see that JPMorgan, many of the world’s central bankers, and the Grand Mufti all agree on something – I guess.

(From Newsweek)

Egypt’s top imam has endorsed a ban on trading in bitcoin, declaring the cryptocurrency “forbidden” under Islam.

Sheikh Shawki Allam, the Grand Mufti, issued a formal fatwa on Monday stating that trading in the digital currency is “forbidden in Sharia, as it causes harm to individuals, groups and institutions.”

The imam argued that bitcoin carries risks of “fraudulence, lack of knowledge, and cheating,” Egyptian daily Ahram reported. Allam likened the trading of the cryptocurrency to gambling, which he said is also forbidden under Islam “due to its direct responsibility in financial ruin for individuals.”

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