The serious issue of corruption
Akhbar Satar 

Early this year, anti-graft agency Transparency International (TI) released its World Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 results. The CPI ranks 176 countries by their perceived levels of corruption. It is interesting to note the trend in fighting corruption in Muslim and Muslim majority countries. Currently United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the “cleanest” Muslim country in the fight against corruption based on the CPI 2016 published) TI.

A country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries in the index - the smaller the number of the rank the less corrupt a country is perceived to be.

A country’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Thus, the countries with higher scores will rank much higher in position (as being less corrupt) compared to the lower score countries.

The 2016 CPI results clearly shows there is no Muslim country ranked in the top 20 (of being least corrupt) out of the 176 countries surveyed. However, UAE took the 24th place out of 176 nations with the score of 66/100, topping all the Muslim countries.

UAE’s ranking dropped one spot compared to 2015 even though their score improved four points. The score of CPI 2015 was 70/100 and ranked 23th. Qatar meanwhile dropped sharply and only ranked 31st with the score of 61/100 compared 22nd place out of 168 nations with the score of 71/100 in 2015.

Brunei not in 2015 survey

Based on CPI 2016, Brunei ranked 41st with the score of 58/100. Brunei was not included in CPI 2015 due to insufficient survey information.

Jordan ranked 57th with the score of 48 /100 compared to being ranked 45th and with a score of 53/100. Saudi Arabia ranked 62nd  with the score of 46/100 dropped 14 spots compared to CPI 2015 where Saudi Arabia was ranked 48th with the score of 52/100. While Bahrain was in 70th position with the score of 43/100 compared to 50th in raking with score 51/100 in CPI 2015.

All the above five Muslim countries namely UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have declined in scores, including Malaysia from 50 to 49. The country’s ranking has dropped significantly from 54th to 55th. Malaysia is the fourth least corrupt country among Muslim countries.

The other rankings and CPI scores of other Muslim countries are: Turkey 75 (41/100) 66 (42/100),Egypt 108 (34/100) 88 (36/100), Kosovo 103 (33/100), Pakistan 117 ( 30/100), Yemen 154 ( 18/100), Iraq 161 (16/100), Sudan 165 (12/100), Afghanistan 156 (11/100) and Somalia 167 (8/100). Somalia, Syria and Yemen have the lowest score and low in CPI 2015’s rankings.

For believing Muslims, there is from a religion and spiritual standpoint the added concern of accountability to God for acts of corruption. In fact there is indeed a strong emphasis in Islam against corruption and support for just and equitable transactions. 

The nineteenth century Egyptian scholar and jurist, Muhammad ‘Abduh, once said: “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.” About 200 years later, corruption still remain the main problem in many Muslim-majority governments in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

Most of the core values of Western countries, such as transparency, integrity, accountability, freedom, human rights, and justice are universal values and do not conflict with Islam or any religion.

A recent study conducted by Professor Hussain Askari of George Washington University entitled How Islamic are the Islamic Countries showed that most of the countries that apply Islamic principles in their daily lives are not ones that are traditionally Muslim.

The values in most Muslims countries are still not improved. Perhaps the countries where corruption is a serious problem can learn from experiences and strategies on how to fight corruption from the least corrupt countries in the world such as Denmark, New Zealand and Finland.

To obtain better CPI scores the leaders of particular countries must have good governance, easy access to information system, improve accountability in the public sector, openness of contracts and independent oversight committees to monitor the procurement process.

CPI standing

It is widely accepted that the practice of good governance contributes to the economic development and higher investment of any country. Furthermore, studies show that there is a correlation between CPI standing and economic growth. CPI standing plays an important factor and it can influence the rate of investment as investors increasingly recognise the evils of corruption.

Being a good Muslim is not just about praying, fasting, reading Quran and giving charity but also being good citizens and having a high degree of ethics and integrity. A Muslim’s faith should be true, sincere and having good manners. Professor Hussain added that we listen to religious lessons and sermons more than other people on earth, but we are still not the best of nations. In the last 60 years, we have listened to 3,000 Friday sermons. We  must practice what we preach or hear being preached. And surely in Islam as stated above, corruption is a sin.

But above all, the best solution to prevent corruption is to restore strong ethical and moral values based on Islamic principles and an ideal Islamic administration model.

If we do not take real steps to practise our religion sincerely, including rejecting corruption, it will be our downfall and truly the God whom we worship and honour will hold us accountable in His judgment in the afterlife. In the Islamic faith there are eternal consequences to being corrupt. 

Datuk Akhbar Satar is the director of Institute of Crime & Criminology, HELP University, a criminologist and certified fraud examiner. Comments:

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 248.