Oman's Crypto Ambitions Amidst Religious Debates
Discover Oman's significant strides in the crypto world, as the nation aims to become a digital powerhouse in West Asia.
Oman, a nation on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, is making significant strides in the crypto world, signaling its intent to be a digital powerhouse in West Asia. However, these advancements come with their set of challenges, especially when viewed through the lens of religious beliefs.
Recent months have seen Oman making headlines in the crypto sector. In a series of strategic moves, the Omani government has sanctioned nearly $800 million in investments focused on cryptocurrency mining operations. One of the standout collaborations is with the Abu Dhabi-based Phoenix Group. This partnership, valued at $300 million, aims to establish a 150-megawatt crypto-mining farm named Green Data City. This venture is particularly noteworthy as it represents Oman's first foray into licensed crypto-mining.
In addition to the Phoenix Group collaboration, another significant endorsement came for Exahertz International. With an investment of $370 million, the company plans to roll out an additional 15,000 mining machines by October.
Oman's Minister of Transport, Communications, and IT, Said Hamoud al-Maawali, described these investments as a significant step forward in boosting the country's digital economy.
The Halal-Haram Debate
Oman's crypto initiatives are ambitious, yet they encounter hurdles. A key debate centers on how cryptocurrency aligns with Islamic law or Sharia. The main concern is whether cryptocurrency is halal (allowed) or haram (prohibited).
Sharia sets clear financial standards to classify activities. Due to the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, some Islamic experts view them as not allowed. This stance has prompted fatwas (Islamic legal decisions) from notable Islamic bodies in countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Indonesia.
On the other hand, some argue that since cryptocurrencies lack interest (riba) — which Sharia discourages — they might be seen as halal. The rising global use of cryptocurrencies supports this argument.
Even with these religious discussions, many Muslim-majority countries are embracing cryptocurrency. A 2022 Chainalysis report showed that areas like the Middle East and North Africa, mainly Muslim, led in crypto market expansion. In Chainalysis's adoption index, four of the top twenty were Muslim-majority nations, joined by countries with large Muslim communities, including India and Nigeria.
However, the regulatory approach to crypto varies across the Muslim world. While countries like the UAE are striving to be global crypto hubs, others, like Turkey, have a more mixed stance. They allow crypto trading but restrict its use for certain transactions and by specific financial entities.