Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A Glimmer of Hope: Nobel Prize Winner Muhammed Yunus and the True Spirit of Islam | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In light of the desecration of the image of Islam by fanatical groups who completely deviate off its following, it comes as a pleasant relief to see a graceful and virtuous example of a true Muslim. Those were my thoughts when I watched the news in which Muhammed Yunus and his Grameen Bank were being jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Born in 1940 in Bangladesh, Muhammed Yunus was a university professor who taught economics, and was the pioneer behind the innovative model [micro-credit lending schemes] where the economy is put to its best use to serve the poor. Introducing a unique prototype for microfinance, he established what has come to be known as the poor people’s bank – an idea that took shape after watching his mother never sending away those stricken by poverty from their doorstep. This strengthened and formed his personal conviction that everyone should have a mission in life.

After graduating, he tried to assist 42 women, giving them interest-free personal loans, and without setting a return date for repaying the loan. Succeeding at his experiment, he approached banks and tried to get support for the idea, however the central bank and the commercial banks ridiculed him saying that the poor do not deserve support. Later, he personally borrowed a loan and distributed it among a group of 500 families, and once again, his experiment saw an overwhelming success.

In 1979 the central bank adopted his idea and the Grameen Bank was born, literally ‘village’ bank. The experiment soon expanded to include other areas, raising the bank’s employees to 59,000 people in 1983, servicing in 86 branches. During this time, Muhammed Yunus decided to end his academic career and dedicate himself to this unique economic innovation. A remarkable experiment, the crux of its principles and values guarantee the poor the right for a decent life, enabling them and necessitating their right to borrow money equally and justly while creating suitable conditions for the needy to be able to help themselves. Moreover, the system emphasizes the belief that improving the living conditions for poor families can also be achieved through improving the status of women, empowering them to be a productive and an active work force, including utilizing domestic skills to provide income. This extraordinary paradigm saw the world’s admiration and was implemented successfully and with positive results in more than one country such as in the United States, the Philippines, Bolivia, Malaysia, Peru and Tanzania.

Muhammed Yunus epitomizes the civility of the true face of Islam, embodying the religion’s humane quality and its compassionate attitude that creates opportunities for others to help them lead a decent life. This is a far cry from the practices of some people in the Arab world who do not help others and can only offer unkindness and cause strife. Muhammed Yunus has gone against that reality to become a positive figure who respects his place in the world, recognizing man’s role to develop the earth as God’s representative without heeding the voices that undermined or lacked faith in his ideas. We offer our sincerest congratulations to Muhammed Yunus, a wonderful role model for Muslims, and someone who has restored hope to millions of youth in desperate search of a role model to respect and admire.