Yesterday I mentioned cursorily that the Islamic State promulgates the gold standard. I reported this based on the six minute version of the al-Hayyat propaganda video “The Dark Rise of Bank Notes and the Return of the Golden Dinar.” Well, there’s also a thirty nine minute full version. The fault for watching the entire thing with rapt attention is mine alone. Here’s what I saw, starting with a brief preface on how to approach any media material produced by the Islamic State:
The Islamic State presents itself as a millenarian force which seeks to redeem Islam as the locus of global hegemony, guided by what I’d consider two parallel tracks, each amounting to an auto-de-fe. The first is purification through battle, meaning that via jihad, mujahideen constantly re-consecrate the Islamic State as a worthy enterprise. The second imperative manifests within territory the Islamic State has already captured through jihad: theocratic utopianism. The Islamic State is just not only because it is consecrated in battle, but also because it administers its conquests along lines handed down by god himself, both in the Quran and in the Sunnah (life, deeds, sayings) of Muhammad. All of the weirdness which follows must be viewed through the lens of these two imperatives: just warfare and divinely inspired governance.
Our journey into the history of currency systems begins in Babylon (seriously), where a fluent English-speaking narrator with a vaguely Canadian accent explains the limitations of using raw foodstuffs as media of exchange. A question is posed: if a man buys a house with dates, where is the purchaser to store these dates? How can he be assured that the value of dates remains stable vis-a-vis real estate? Clearly, the barter systems based on foodstuffs has limits.
God, among others, I’m sure, acknowledged the problems with this system. Consequently, he created precious metals, and he instilled in mankind an innate affinity for them. So god created precious metals, he imbued precious metals with low melting points and easy divisibility (yes, this is specified), he made humans want these materials, and he created them in limited quantities to up their inherent value. Joseph got the ball rolling when he ran Egypt, where his system of coinage inspired China, Greece, and Rome to adopt coinage of their own.
Fast forward to the Hijaz during the time of Muhammad, and we see that the cities of Mecca and Medina are using the golden Roman Dinar and silver Persian Dirham as currency, along with the copper Fals for small transactions. The goodness of these coins is attested to in the Quran, where god mentions them favorably as units of exchange, to the point that they will even adorn believers in the afterlife.
As good as these coins might be, there was one noteworthy thing that god commanded Muslims to be on the lookout for: the use of coinage to generate interest (Rib’a). God commanded that the faithful wage war against anyone who did so.
Transition to a veiled Bedouin with a scimitar, cutting in half a giant computer-generated image of the Arabic word Rib’a, while the narrator chants “Wage war…wage war…wage war…” via a looped, slightly overlapping Foley track.
What follows is a fairly drawn out battle sequence ending with a map showing Islam spreading across Western Asia and North Africa. Note also that the “musical” track is well-arranged children’s chanting a capella. Instrumental music has long been haram within the Islamic State.
So now interest has been destroyed and god’s blessings are returned to the earth. There is a thriving caliphate in Damascus doing so well that the people aren’t even taxed for non-religious purposes. In 695 CE, this culminates in the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan announcing the first batch of Islamic coins, which will not include the offensive humanoid imagery found on the Roman Dinar and Persian Dirham. The light of civilization shone apace.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the myriad systems of coinage resulted in financial anarchy. In the process, banks realized that not everyone withdrew their accounts at the same time. And lo, their was fractional reserve banking. Unethical speculation and interest-dependent investments followed.During the process, paper bank notes came into circulation as a referent for how much gold one actually owned as it did or did not sit in the bank. The only redeeming feature of paper currency, literally, was that it could be exchanged to completely withdraw one’s own stockpile of gold from the bank’s custody. BUT THEN…
World War I happened. The major powers of Europe dispatched with the redeemability of bank notes for gold, transforming them into genuine fiat currencies (unsupported by tangible supplies of precious metals in the vault) while the governments appropriated the gold reserves to fuel their war. This led to rampant inflation, because paper could be printed infinitely without any fixed reference for value.
FYI, It’s hard to tell exactly what the war was about. The narrator focuses exclusively on how the British invaded Iraq with Iranian help (referring to them as Rafidah, or “refusers”) to secure its oil reserves. Sykes-Picot is dutifully mentioned, along with a helpful reminder that World War I was also about installing The Jews in a state “founded upon the massacre of countless Muslims” that was jointly protected by the House of Saud and the Hashemite Kingdoms.
At this point there are still twenty-three minutes of film to go, so I’ll speed things up a bit…
The U.S. spent World War I selling munitions to the Europeans, gobbling up all of that gold the Europeans had been stockpiling. Then the Federal Reserve forced Americans to give up all of their personal holdings of gold coins, and trade them in for pure bank notes. Fast forward to after World War II, and the U.S. solidified its global hegemony via these gold stockpiles by announcing, per the so-called Bretton-Woods System, that U.S. dollars would be internationally, though not domestically, redeemable for gold at a fixed rate. Countries therefore were enslaved by the American financial system.
As a result of its imperialist wars, most notably Vietnam, Richard Nixon eventually suspended the Bretton-Woods system of interchangeability. The dollar has concomitantly lost most of its value, and inflation will rise interminably because nothing can stop the government from simply printing more. The only genuine item of value that props up the dollar is oil. The Saudis, working as America’s lackeys, ensure that OPEC only deals in dollars. This allows the U.S. to print infinite amounts of money while effectively exporting its inflation overseas.
But this ability to infinitely cycle money through oil, bonds, and additional printing is also America’s Achilles’ heel, which will bring it to its knees: To keep U.S. debt circulating, it is dependent upon foreign countries buying U.S. treasury bonds and holding onto them as they mature. If other nations divested themselves of these bonds in favor of a more secure location, the entire American economic system would collapse.
This collapse has already begun, as Russia and China have dumped treasury notes for years, at an accelerating rate. As this dump continues, the value of the dollar will plummet, interest rates will rise, and basically the entire country collapses. These other countries are playing a waiting game, hoping some dramatic geopolitical event will provide the pretext for the mass divestment from U.S. bonds.
One, and only one, country has the courage to pull the trigger, and that is America’s greatest fear: a country willing to implement a genuine precious metal standard for its currency, devoid of fiat value. Cut to two minutes of explosions and mujahideen shooting huge guns, then embracing one another in brotherhood while the narrator talks about faith creating the Ultimate Soldier.
So the Islamic State will conquer the Middle East, get back the Muslims’ oil, and ensure that it is only sold using a legitimate currency: the newly-returned Gold Dinar. This destroys the petrodollar as a medium of exchange, which destroys America. Ka-bam!
The Coins Themselves
Note that every coin is lacking in imagery of humans, by design. The writing-filled obverse of each coin simply indicates the denomination, e.g. “One Dinar.”
Semiotically, the Dirham is a more interesting currency, as the video explains…
Natural Law: The video’s entire line of thinking is underpinned by an assumption that you either believe or you don’t: that gold, silver, and copper are divinely ordained to be made into currency because they have intrinsic value, both via rarity and via the labor required to extract them. In this video’s world, Allah created the precious metals explicitly in order to make them into coinage. Moreover, he even put it in men’s hearts to want to do this. Therefore, removing precious metals from the notion of exchange is an act of perversion, as surely as homosexuality or following a god other than Allah. Striking the Golden Dinar isn’t really a financial strategy, so much as it is a corrective rebalancing of the world back to its natural state.
Anti-Imperialism: Precious metal coinage isn’t just an attack on America. It is a blow against worldwide imperialism, and a rallying point for human liberation. Banks in the world of this video are singled out as tools of oppression, and destroying their corrupt practices is in fact an ecumenical act on the Islamic State’s part. You don’t have to agree with them on a conscious level, but practically speaking they’re doing this for you, buddy. You’re welcome in advance.
Resource Nationalism: The Islamic State is a firm believer in the Ummah–the mass of Muslims worldwide–and therefore approaches challenges to any Muslim group as challenge to the entire faith. This approach extends to oil reserves, particularly those controlled by the House of Saud, one of the Islamic State’s most reviled foils. Since the notion of the petrodollar binds the Islamic world’s top oil exporters firmly to the American fiat-currency system, the Islamic State views destroying the dollar as a prime way to reclaim the abundance of oil wealth that the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Emiratis, et al. have sacrificed to American hegemony in an act of treason against the rest of the Ummah.
Performed Identity: The narrator of this video speaks North American English fluently. Nonetheless, whenever he pronounces an Arabic word, be it a proper noun or Islamic concept, he flips into the full Arabic pronunciation. This might sound appropriate, but it’s actually hard to do naturally: For any American readers fluent in another language, imagine if you described yourself as “American” while speaking in your second language using the English pronunciation, with its dark vowels and infamously strange English “R” phoneme. It would stand out immediately, and have meaning in its own right. By insisting on using the Arabic phonetic palette while speaking English, I’d argue that the narrator is making a performance of orthodoxy; the speaker refuses to let Islamic concepts be adulterated by a non-Quranic tongue.
Marxism Lite: Throughout the video, the announcer harps on precious metals being valuable partially because of the labor required to extract them from the ground. Careful, Ya Dawla, you’re at the dangerous cusp of creating a value theory of labor.
Pejoratives: Throughout the video, non-Muslim governments are referred to as Tawaghit, meaning one who transgresses, in the sense of transgressing against god’s law by not being Muslim.
Guest Stars: Ron Paul, Alan Greenspan, Richard Nixon.