Moushumi Khan on Muhammad Yunus

Moushumi Khan has written an excellent personal chronicle, which was published on November 1 in India Currents, about the extraordinary impact that Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have had on her personal convictions and her professional life.

Mou and I met in 2005 through the Socrates Society at the Aspen Institute and are currently collaborating on new interfaith initiatives to promote greater tolerance and understanding in the United States and Europe between Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

I have reprinted her conclusion from the article below and encourage readers to read the full story:

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank has wide-ranging significance. It is not only a victory for Yunus as an individual and for his visionary institution, it is a vote of confidence for a nation in desperate need of such international recognition. It is also an acknowledgement that the Muslim world has something valuable to offer. Bangladesh is at a critical juncture in its socio-political development while the Muslim world is more often feared than revered. The power of this award is heightened by the combination of micro-enterprise as a tool of economic empowerment, and the fact that it was innovated in a developing Muslim nation.

Perhaps the Nobel award for peace rather than for economics makes this point best. Not only has the Grameen Bank financed small business enterprises, it has demonstrated that the poor have the ability to improve their own lives, thus addressing one of the major sources of global conflict—economic disparities.

Yunus has given people hope, some through loans to fund their enterprises, others to believe that they can make a difference. He has demonstrated that we all have a stake in the world, that all people are creditworthy. He taught an idealistic girl, who thought that she had to be prime minister of Bangladesh to fix its problems, the practical lesson that we can all make a difference. He has taught the world that capitalism works when we all have a fair chance to access capital.

The example of Grameen’s success should not be lost on those who persist in arguing that promoting interfaith dialogue and reconciliation through economic empowerment is a pipe dream.

The example of Saudi Arabia shows us that affluence does not mean  individuals will not become radicalized and that education does not mean  frustrated people will not turn to terrorism.  But upward mobility at least means that violence and nihilism will not be their first or only choice when they choose to assert themselves as individuals.

Terrorists need to be marginalized, not mainstreamed.

I continue to believe that the economic empowerment of individuals– especially through promoting entrepreneurship for those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, can make a material and positive difference for peaceful social relations in the world.  Muhammad Yunus is showing the way– hopefully more countries will follow his beacon.   

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