The birth of Eurozone was hailed as a successful model of unity. It sought to accumulate Europe’s economic and political power into one block. With years of meticulous work, the formation of this block came with a multitude of advantages for businesses and investors, promising to promote both trade and travel through some uniformity of laws and ease of mobility throughout the zone; and this economic unity also invariably implied ‘aggregated’ political power in decision making in world events.

In the Muslim world, the debate on the role and importance of unity now had an additional reference point, i.e. the EU. The Organisation of Islamic Conference, commonly known as the OIC, had primarily been the focal point for discussions on unity of Muslim nation states. For years, it served as a vent for political opinions of the Islamic nations. The platform provides a means for Muslim-majority nations to come together and discuss various issues, ranging from politics to trade and commerce. Over the years, it has passed several resolutions voicing the opinion of the Muslim nations. But the OIC, despite expressing the desire for greater unity, had made little progress in articulating a roadmap to achieve it. Nevertheless, the formation of EU and its adoption of single currency have been looked up at, by various academics and opinion makers in the Muslim world, as an example for the Muslims to replicate.

The EU is a union of independent nation-states, which all embrace as a common model of governance, i.e. democracy and are essentially capitalist states. On the other hand, the Muslim world has a range of governance types, i.e. from dictatorships - with monarchs or generals - to democracies. While the governance model in the EU (based mostly on democracy) enjoys indigenous support and greater stability, the regimes in the Muslim world remain gripped in political instabilities in various degrees.

As the Muslim world yearns for unity, it is imperative to critically evaluate any model of unity, which may be presented to it as adoptable alternatives. At present, primarily two specific models of unity are often discussed: one is the EU and the other is the Islamic state, i.e. caliphate.

The EU is primarily a voluntary union of sovereign states in which member states have democracies, where elections can affect the political decisions made by the state. These decisions may be made independent of the benefits or effects on other member-states. Hence, the union, in essence, is for a ‘win-win’ situation, where common interests are what bind the member states. Contrary to this, the Islamic state’s model of unity is centralised. It is neither a union, nor a federation. Member ‘states’ (lands) effectively merge within the Islamic state, and are designated as ‘wilaya’ (province). A wilaya cannot opt to disembark from the central state and this ensures that pursuit of local interests cannot dent the overall interests of the state.

The currency is another key factor in any model of unity. The common currency, Euro, adopted by member states, is used in parallel to the local currencies. While this comes with advantages, it also creates complexities. The Islamic state has single currency backed by gold and silver and so its value is not susceptible unlike Fiat currency. It ensures that wealth throughout the state has an even representation and is not subject to any internal imbalances.

In the EU model, which is based on a union of democracies, the adherence to rules of the union can be terminated, if the citizens of any state no longer accept to abide by them. In an Islamic state, the wilaya do not have their independent status and, therefore, adherence to rules is mandatory.

In today’s world, with global trade and commerce, often the economies of different countries are interconnected. This interconnection is fortified, when countries assist each other through loans, bailout packages and investments. For example, the current problems in Europe can have an effect on the US and it is for this reason that presidential candidates in this election year are eager to resolve the crises. In the recent G8 summit, in a bilateral talk that was held between Barack Obama and David Cameron, the British PM stated that he detected a "growing sense of urgency that action needs to be taken" on the Eurozone crisis. In contrast, the Islamic state will seek to have a robust economy that is least dependent on other major economies. It will not engage in interest-based loans with other countries; it will avoid any investment venture in stocks of other economies and will not lend assistance - i.e. in the form of bailouts - to other economies based on capitalist principles.

In a union, sovereign states pursue their own interests along with the mutual interests. However, interests of one member state may eclipse that of another. For example, Germany, which has Europe’s relatively larger economy, imposed tight austerity measures as criteria for international loans to relatively small economies in the zone, such as Greece. According to critics, these policies resulted in fuelling unemployment in Greece and pushing it to near bankruptcy. In Italy and Spain, it added to the already existing crises. An Islamic state, on the other hand, is not prone to such skewed and biased policies. The accumulated wealth of the state is put to effective use and shared on need basis. A wealthier wilaya cannot impose its policies on poor or less wealthy wilaya by influencing the centre. This ensures that generally and in particular at times of crises, the single unit state acts as ‘one for all and all for one’.

In a union, there is a possibility that the people may vote a new government, which representing its electoral vote bank, chooses to ignore the promises made by previous governments. In such a scenario, the centre cannot force it to abide by the promise of previous government. In Spain, for example, the new government, led by Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy, stated that its government did not feel bound by the ‘adjustment programme’ agreed by the previous administration. But later, this stance was rebuked. However, it carried weight; yet, the programme was being considered to have been made more lenient. A caliphate structurally is not prone to such weakness because the caliph has the legal authority to ensure merger states comply by the rules agreed upon.

The EU is technically designed on the assumption that a member state will not consider departure from the union because the cost of it will be high as compared to the benefits of staying with the union. However, recent events, especially in the case of Greece, indicate that this assumption may not perpetually hold valid. An overburdened state, unable to meet its obligations to the union, may consider an exit as advantageous. In an Islamic state, the burden (needs of citizens) is shared horizontally amongst the merger states.

Today, while there is a huge potential for economic growth and political power, much of the Muslim world remains mired in a plethora of problems. Discussions on need for greater cooperation are often restricted within the apparatus of OIC or other groupings that so far have failed to effectively deliver. As the debate for greater unity gains momentum, it is imperative for the intellectuals, opinion makers and key power holders to approach this topic with sincerity and critically evaluate all models of unity hat are presented to it.

   The writer is an engineer.

    Email: shariq_n@hotmail.com