Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa have issued an Islamic Ruling (Fatwa) which expressly forbids using Bitcoin as a means of exchange on religious grounds. According to multiple government ministers, the cryptocurrency threatens the economy, funds terrorism, and because it lacks set rules, it is “considered as a contract annulment in Islam”. These factors have influenced the decision by the government body concerned with ensuring that legislation is inline with religious creed within the nation of Egypt.
Counsellor of the Republican’s Mufti, Dr. Magdy Ashour told Egypt Today on Sunday:
This currency is used directly to fund terrorists.
The announcement comes less than a month after the Head of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority, Mohamed Omran, recommended that citizens there should refrain from trading digital currencies. On December 17, 2017, he declared that Bitcoin trading was illegitimate in Egypt.
The staunch anti-Bitcoin sentiment of Egypt’s legislators has been echoed elsewhere in the Muslim world too. According to the Middle East Monitor, Saudi Minister, Assim Al-Hakim recently declared the currency as contraband:
“…it is a cryptographic form of money that is vague and gives namelessness to crooks… We know that bitcoins remain anonymous when you deal with it… which means that it’s an open gate for money laundering, drug money and haram [forbidden] money… Muslims should not get involved in such dubious transactions simply to make a quick buck, to make a quick profit. This is not an Islamic concept.”
Whilst it’s hardly surprising that a belief system which exerts as much control over people as Islam finds the anarchic digital currency that is Bitcoin a threat, it is a shame that Egypt is not more welcoming of financial innovation. According to Egypt Today, most of the 93 million people living there are without bank accounts. It’s in such localities that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could be most effective. Bitcoin allows its users to become their own bank. They needn’t get permission from any entity to transact using the network, and they can do so without access to traditional banking infrastructure. It represents a form of financial freedom that many governments across the globe are understandably wary of. However, in the case of Egypt, because electronic banking lacks regulations for digital currency, retailers are unable to accept it as a means of payment. This unfortunately dramatically reduces the revolutionary potential of Bitcoin.