Whilst chomping down on a chicken wrap, I've just checked the BBC website for the Nobel Peace Prize winner...and wept for joy.
Many, many congratulations to the Nobel Committee for showing courage and integrity in choosing an unknown Bangladeshi who has done more for the world's poor than all the yammering rock stars and politicians put together.
I nearly wept with shock and horror when I saw that George W. Bush and John Bolton had been nominated. I rolled my eyes when Bono and Geldof were nominated, but better them than Dubya or Bolton the Bellicose. Speaking of the latter, get this (pay attention, Alanis, THIS is ironic) - Bolton was nominated by a Swedish *LIBERAL* party leader (virtual Heimlichs as needed - Per Ahlmark, left of centre, my a**) for:
"their repeated warnings and documentation of Iran's secret nuclear buildup and revealing Iran's "repeated lying" and false reports to the International Atomic Energy Agency." (Wikipedia)
EXCUSE ME? HE WAS NOMINATED FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR CAUSING DISSENSION AMONGST COUNTRIES? MR. AHLMARK, DID YOU READ THE REMIT OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE?
Oh yeah, you're right-wing - probably not.
Above all, shame on the Nobel committee for *accepting* such a nomination.
It's enough to make one want to pray for a meteor to strike the Earth and hit the reset button. "Human race beyond redemption, evolution: take 2."
But with God's hand centimetres from the reset button, the Nobel Committee comes to our rescue and presents the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus, professor of economics at Chittagong University in Bangladesh and the pioneer of microcredit - the lending of money to entrepreneurs too poor to borrow from a traditional bank. 97% of his borrowers are *women* - so often disenfranchised in the Third World. In fact, his first loan was $27 of his own money to a group of women making bamboo furniture in a nearby village who needed to repay loan sharks, since traditional banks wouldn't touch them with a, erm, bamboo pole.
Since then, his Grameen bank has made $5.1 billion in loans from 2185 branches, with a recovery rate of 98.45%. How has he managed that without collateral? By creating support groups where individuals act as supporters and co-guarantors for eachother - every group of five is loaned money, but they are denied further loans if one person defaults. His borrowers own 94% of the bank. More than half of his borrowers have pulled themselves up out of poverty by their bootstraps, doing what Band Aid and the West have failed to. He has done in practice, through the simplest of ideas and a real understanding of the culture and needs of the people he serves, what the big boys like the World Bank couldn't.
HSBC, eat your heart out - and meet the world's true local bank.
I don't say this about South Asian men terribly often, but I could HUG him. He makes me proud to be able to claim him as one of our own. And so, Professor Yunus, I raise my glass of lhassi to you and say "Masha'Allah!"