Today, in the Star Tribune, an article was published that explained a culture of bribery within the Afghanistan government. The article continued to explain how many Afghani citizens felt it was normal to have to pay a little extra money every time they wanted fair and equal treatment on anything from getting a driver’s license to higher end government procedures.
This same article mentioned that according to a report published by the United Nations, the average bribe cost about $160 at a time, which equaled out to about $2.5 billion paid in bribes last year alone. According to this same report, the average bribe made up about 23% of the country’s gross domestic product last year. So, what is the reason behind all of the bribery? Many blame this corruption on the lack of a stable government. Others say it is a result of the Taliban’s influence on Afghan society. One thing is for sure, the teachings of Islam are not a reason for this bribery.
From its conception, Islam has been a religion based on a system of brotherhood, much like Christianity and Judaism. This strong sense of community suggests that bribery comes from a corrupt ideology outside of Islam. Before Islam became a religion, usury, or the charging of interest on certain services, was a common part of Middle Eastern society. This early kind of usury continued to double over a short amount of time keeping the elite wealthy and the poor desperate for survival. Once Muhammad began teaching, this practice of usury became known as an outlawed act by Allah and it still is today, as recorded in the Quran (surah 2:276).
Surah 30:39 also mentions riba, or interest, and explains that anyone who invests in riba to advance their own wealth will not advance or increase in their relationship with Allah, which is a main goal of Islam. While bribery is different than charging interest on something, the same principle is at work, they both enable the individual to gain wealth from doing nothing. The idea for enforcing the act of bribery may have come from pre-Islamic Arabia and this usurious society. In the same respect they both allow someone to steal money from a fellow Muslim to further their own wealth instead of building community.
Currently, the bribery problem in Afghanistan is one without a certain solution. President Karzai has acknowledged the problem but says that it is not an issue because the media has blown the situation out of proportion from how it really is. The Star Tribune article also mentioned that the bribery has become a current issue after the recent elections. A council will be meeting in London next week to decide what action will be taken to help the Afghani government become more stable and to cease the use of bribery to get fair and equal treatment for the citizens of Afghanistan.