*Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment*

That is a recent book by Ahmet T. Kuru, published in August.  All books should have a (non-Amazon) abstract, and here it is for this book:

Why do Muslim-majority countries exhibit high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socioeconomic development in comparison to world averages? Ahmet T. Kuru criticizes explanations which point to Islam as the cause of this disparity, because Muslims were philosophically and socioeconomically more developed than Western Europeans between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Nor was Western colonialism the cause: Muslims had already suffered political and socioeconomic problems when colonization began. Kuru argues that Muslims had influential thinkers and merchants in their early history, when religious orthodoxy and military rule were prevalent in Europe. However, in the eleventh century, an alliance between orthodox Islamic scholars (the ulema) and military states began to emerge. This alliance gradually hindered intellectual and economic creativity by marginalizing intellectual and bourgeois classes in the Muslim world. This important study links its historical explanation to contemporary politics by showing that, to this day, the ulema–state alliance still prevents creativity and competition in Muslim countries.

I don’t really have my own view on these issues, and due to various duties and also the slowness of my on-line reading, I have read only a segment of this book.  I can report it is clearly written, to the point, and well argued, and I am happy to recommend it to anyone interested in these issues.

I think I will use MR today to catch up on some “book news,” after that back again to coronavirus for a while.

Comments

If you listen to muslim thinkers, we underdevelopment in the muslim world is never because of islam of course. Too obvious. This time the culprit is 11th century crusades. What a joke.

By the way, if you look closely to the real chronology of the rise of islam, the constitution of the Arabic military state in the 7th century (war against Persia, Constantinople siege) PRECEDES the constitution of the ideological corpus of islam. Muhammad is an invention of the early 8th century (Sira). Hadiths were progressively published in 8th and 9th century. Mecca was founded around 9th-10th century. So it is not an alliance, islam is consubstantial to military states.

Several computers ago I had links for an Iranian chap who wrote a lot online about the Arab Conquest and the following couple of centuries. He emphasised how much of the intellectual elite in this new world were not Arabs but rather Persians and Greeks. Their connection to Islam was rather tenuous, he said. If anyone has any links to the chap I'd be glad of them. He was partisan, of course, but his arguments were fascinating.

More likely completely contemptuous of the ignorant camel herders that conquered Persia.

Cursory look at the significant figures in philosophy, science and mathematics gives a few Persians and Arabs, but seems no Greeks. Who were these prominent Greeks?

(No Jews, Armenians, etc either it seems).

Socrates. Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher who is credited with being one of the founders of Western philosophy. ...
Plato. ...
Aristotle. ...
Pythagoras. ...
Thales of Miletus.

Somewhat predating the Islamic Golden Age.

(I would hope MR readers would be smart enough to realize that when dearieme mentions prominent Greeks in the Islamic Golden Age, and I respond to ask who these Greeks were, they would at least be able to follow the topic enough to not think this is a request to list the philosophers of early classical antiquity. But perhaps MR readers really are that dumb and lacking in ability to even follow the thread of a dialogue).

I assume that by "Greeks" he meant Christians.

Indeed. Have a look at the list of the main authors of the hadiths and their origins. A good part of them are from Persia. These authors are the true fathers of Islam.

Almost as if an ideology with the central tenet of "everything you will ever need to know is in The Book, including provably false statements", isn't overly conducive to development and independent thinking.

The problem is fundamentalists, not whatever book they claim is infallible.

says a fundamentalist.

I think what you believe does matter, which is why the Pilgrim Fathers built America and al Qaeda tried to destroy it.

"I don’t really have my own view on these issues": how very wise. Best not to be beheaded unnecessarily, eh?

Well played.

However, in the eleventh century, an alliance between orthodox Islamic scholars (the ulema) and military states began to emerge.

So it wasn't Islam per se, it was Islam + militarism. Glad we got that cleared up.

Is Islam and Orthodox Islamic Scholars the same set or a larger set that contains the other?

The latter is a product of the former; are we all supposed to ignore that? Does the Catholic Church get off the hook for the Spanish Inquisition because, hey, it was just those crazy Spaniards?

No but it does call for perspective. The Catholic Church is an organization of well over a billion people today that spans the globe. It has existed for over 2000 years.

If burning people at the stake was integral to the Catholic Church, there'd be a shortage of stakes in this world bigger than the shortage of N95 masks.

If you wanted to understand the Spanish Inquisition I think it would be sensible to look at it as a combination of the failings of Spanish society at that moment combined with the failings of the Catholic Church. A deeper question might then be are those failings resolved or if the right combination came together again would it happen again?

An analogy here might be Capote's In Cold Blood. In that book he noted the killers on their own would have never committed the murder and robbery they did. You could extend that further and say late 1950's US culture was also necessary. But if you're just going to say "America does things like that"....errr well not very helpful or insightful IMO.

I sort of agree, but I would also note that institutionalized religious orthodoxy holding society back is not an uncommon theme throughout history, and not just in Islam...and yes, I mean the Catholic Church here, in, just as an example, clinging to the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings into the 18th and 19th centuries. So I think it's odd that the abstract quoted in the OP basically tries to say "no, it had nothing to do with Islam" and then two sentences later says "it was a combination of Islam and something else." Self contradict much? I guess you could argue that institutionalized religions are the culprit, rather than any specific religion, but I don't really think that absolves specific institutionalized religions of any or all criticism.

Well from the paragraph quoted I think the same argument would be applicable to Christianity. It's not as simple as Christianity 'holds society back', 'rejects science', etc. There are plenty of examples of Christian thinkers challenging unlimited authority by monarchs and tyrants. Advancing knowledge, science and innovation. A historian whose thesis is "Christianity bad, the less of it you have the faster you advance" is probably going to be too simplistic.

True, but at the same time, if you accept that institutionalized, politically powerful, orthodox Christianity tends (or tended) to retard social or scientific progress, I would argue that widespread piety and adherence to Christian doctrine among the general population is what allows it to become instituationalized and politically powerful in the first place. Call it the Goldilocks theory of Christianity (or Islam).

I think the gist of the argument would be is it's not incomprehensible to imagine a society that is Christian but not behaving like the Spanish Inquisition. It is also not incomprehensible to imagine a Muslim society that is developed and not authoritarian. Both have in fact happened hence should be able to happen again.

There’s been a non-authoritarian Muslim country?

Islam has a number of features that makes this difficult: the shunning of women from the public sphere, Shariah law , jihad, dhimma, the penalty for apostasy, or criticizing the prophet and so on.
It’s not just a religion but also a political and administrative system. Versus Christianity, I would say the number of scriptural literalists of the Quran is much higher and they often dominate the discourse unfortunately.

And yet women in Saudi Arabia dressed in French fashion in the 70's? Had the country failed to read the Koran until 1980? Indonesia is super-majority Muslim yet appears to look nothing like either some Taliban hell hole or Iran's theocracy.

Not saying you won't find plenty of problems. Nor am I saying majority Muslim nations can just automatically look like the most non-authoritarian of majority Christian (or post-Christian depending on how you view some European nations) nation. Those, I suppose are open questions.

However the thesis that Muslim nations are behind non-Muslim ones and must be authoritarian because of X,Y,Z passages in the Koran doesn't hold historical weight. People have often in the past blatantly ignored (sorry 'interpreted') their way around what would seem to be the plain reading of their rules, constitutions, holy scriptures all over the world.

Ability of the public/Imams to read Arabic and understand the Koran might be the independent variable you’re looking for.

Because the Catholic Church hides the Bible in Latin? Last I checked there's no problem with Christians in the public and in the clergy being able to read the Bible.

@ Boonton I wish I were as optimistic as you are. Around the world, I don't see a lot of Muslim democracies ( Indonesia might be a counter example). I see strong men or at best democracies in name only with no independent media or the military looming shadow over the politicians (Pakistan/ Algeria). In Pakistan Asia Bibi was jailed 11 years for blasphemy. Islamists hold a lot of sway in these matters. The examples of liberalization in Muslim countries seem temporary and usually limited to the big cities. They are usually followed by an Islamic backlash ( under the Shah for example then followed by the 1979 revolution).
In France a teenager who crudely insulted islam on social media ( Mila) got many death threats and had to be placed under police protection and could not attend her school any more. The president of the “ Islam of France “ a mainstream Muslim organization commenting on the episode on the radio said “she was asking for it”
OK then , she was asking for it, the statement is revealing. Underneath the veneer of being a modern mainstream religion Islam is remarkably intolerant of criticism sometimes violently so as we know. Islam only seems moderate when it is weak but rarely when it is strong.
In recent years, most armed conflicts have taken place in Muslim countries. Is that a coincidence ? There’s always a tension between the two major sects. I see the lack of women’s participation in public life , not just political life and polygamy ( legal in 58 states most of them Muslim, but not Indonesia or Malaysia ( coincidence they’re doing better ?)) as an absent moderating force: young men with no jobs or prospect for a wife, fed up with their life turning to radicalism .or protest.
As to what the contribution of Muslim countries to science might be , it doesn’t register much. I would say it is dismal or very small. So is Islam a force for progress ?. It appears to promote and satisfy itself with an unchanging static world that finds progress irrelevant. I would say countries of Islamic background that are more successful , flourish in spite of Islam not because of it.

Around the world, I don't see a lot of Muslim democracies ( Indonesia might be a counter example).

Counter-example? It's about 89% Muslim and with 225M Muslims has more Muslims than any other country in the world.

You mean that country steeped in Buddhist/Hindu/South-East Asian culture? Wonder why they are doing better?

The 'bad culture' theory has a long history of failure to make lasting predictions. Russians supposedly had a culture of ruthlessness. The Germany 'hun'. Japan of course. Yet none of this really stands the test of time as those who advocate it spin out endless just so stories to keep the theory going.

Are we talking religion or culture? If we are talking culture then Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey are NOT the same culture. If we are talking religious doctrines, Indonesia is a pretty glaring exception.

"Russians supposedly had a culture of ruthlessness."

Supposedly!

>it's not Islam
>it's the influence of Islamic thought on the way states are run

lol

>militarized religious states "began to emerge" in the Islamic world in the 1200s

come on

How is what you wrote supposed to give information to a reader, or to potentially sway their opinion?

That was my first reaction as well.
If course the influence itself is paramount, as we saw also in Europe history, when separation between the Christianity and state was weak.

In this respect it seems as another illustration of importance of such separation, and also an indication of possible perspectives in the modern Muslim world.

By the way, one may argue, that a similar development emerges in cases when Western states defacto withdraw from affairs in large Muslim communities, effectively creating a situation with the only actual 'state' power being the religious community itself.

Islamophobia is so 2017. Mexicophobia is so 2018. 2020 is all about Sinophobia!

You left out Russophobia. But since the left has turned against Russia, I thought you leave that one out. What with the others being irrational and all.

Is Tulsi still a Russian asset?

His supervisor would likely have some guidance from the head office.

I think this works two ways. One is the basis of the alliance as a mutually beneficial arrangement; the state provides and protects the space within which the religious authorities can function, and the religious authorities maintain a backwards and dependent population that is easy to control. Not uncommon with political/religious systems.

The second is more interesting. There was a lady from U of T I think that wrote a paper describing how islam and commercial relationships functioned. Essentially you have warlords or tribes who have territory and armies that are constantly pushing each other looking for advantage. But to get the things that you need via trade, you need some kind of trusted institution to handle payments, make sure the transactions are completed, etc. That is where Islam comes in. Devout Muslims do commerce across the territories of warlords, are trusted by everyone and are the conduit through which transactions can take place; a devout Muslim in this city deals with a devout Muslim in the other city, and the warlords leave them to it. There is an implied transcending of the petty differences towards a common belief and practice.

Of course these devout Muslims wouldn't have their exalted position without the political instability. Other forms of trust relationships that would allow commerce would be dangerous to their position. It would be quite easy to use the religious fervour to drive out competitors. So the system that perpetuates their position is maintained.

Both are quite ugly.

But is it really political instability? I freely admit that I'm nowhere close to the intellectual firepower of most posters here, but I also subscribe to the theory that the easiest answer is usually the most correct.

What you're describing in para 2 is precisely how Jews ended up being "bankers" and "money launderers" that all nationalities wanted to use (pretend Hebrew/Yiddish was an encryption algorithm) financial services. That came largely from the fact that Jews were unable to own property or stores (varying over time) in many societies. So we focused on services, because we were allowed to own businesses/property etc.

I'd argue repeatedly that people like Jews *find a way* (This extends to Koreans, Filipinos, many parts of Africa, most of Eastern Europe, etc.) We're the ultimate, "you've been thrown under the bus, get back up and make it happen," people. There are a number of populations that exhibit the same behaviors (shout out to Armenians!) that do something similar. If anyone has been to the Gulf Arab states, I would presume you have a different view of the Sri Lankans, Filipinos, etc. that are in the UAE, etc.

The disdain I've felt from middle easterners over 25 years for the "worker" from Saudis, Bahrainis, etc., has solidified my stance on gulf Arabs. I sat in high school in the fall of 1991/Spring of 1992, when I had Kuwaitis tell me that we (Americans) stuck our noses in the business of Yugoslavia and we shouldn't be. Note: early 90s, Oil fields still burning, Kuwaitis still being tortured in southern Iraq, etc.

TL;DR: Living in the Gulf States were a large part of me deciding that I didn't give a damn about anyone's opinion of of the USA, as I realized how hypocritical and ridiculous most of it was. Every country is the exact opposite of the Koreans. While odd, there is a parade EVERY WEEKEND in Seoul that is Pro America (and oddly, pro Israel, about three blocks away.) They don't forget.

I would *love* to have a Sikh neighbor, because I know we will both throw down to protect each others' houses. But that's the same thing I think about the family from the west bank of New Orleans. I know that family comes first, and they'll both come to bat when needed, just like I would for them.

TL;DR2: A basic tenet of Islam is submission. A basic tenet of capitalism is adaptation, without such broad submission. One is successful and relies on voluntary participation, the other, not so much. I would have thought the utter failure of most non voluntary (ie. Islamic, Socialist, etc) societies would have borne a pretty clear lesson.

I mention the Sikh neighbor, because I have another Indian neighbor two doors down that wouldn't be active in "community protection." The Sikh family three doors down, at least the grandparents and parents would pull a Kirpan and stab someone if they thought someone was trying to steal a neighbors' kid. A Kirpan to a Sikh is an AR-15 and a .45 to a Texan.

The Texans you praise and the Gulf States you deride are connected in a fairly obvious way.

Indeed, they are both arid, oil producing regions. However, he was comparing a Sikh to a Texan. Sikh's aren't from the Gulf States.

I've been cuckolded in humiliating ways you couldn't imagine. That's why I come here.

As you say there are lots of examples like this, and could be some of the origins of the odd practices that make religious people stand out; in the middle of a complex negotiation, time to pray. Or funny hats, not open on Saturday.

But this isn't banking. This is delivering a load of fruit.

I would characterize it more as a relative haven of sanity surrounded by insanity. The characteristics of the religion and practice, very strict, regimented and fatalistic make it a perfect fit in times of turmoil. And strangely unsatisfying where there is stability and prosperity.

Something to never forget is that Christendom, the political Catholicism especially in many ways was very similar to what we see in Muslim countries. A religious structure held in place by the political utility and influence. That system disappeared shockingly quickly in the last half of the 20th century. The leaders of Islam saw it happen, and took measures to make sure it didn't happen to them.

+1

The political influence of Catholicism had been waning for a long time, though; since before the reformation. The interesting question for me, I think, would be why that happened in Christendom, to borrow an antiquated term, and didn't happen in the Islamic world. The Young Turks had a nice go at implementing Western style reforms, but eventually that broke down. Other examples seem few. What gives?

Joe: What you're describing in para 2 is precisely how Jews ended up being "bankers" and "money launderers" that all nationalities wanted to use (pretend Hebrew/Yiddish was an encryption algorithm) financial services. That came largely from the fact that Jews were unable to own property or stores (varying over time) in many societies. So we focused on services, because we were allowed to own businesses/property etc.

Not really. Not in the sense that it's not like you had large populations of Jews all over the place and then they weren't allowed to do anything else...

It's more that as the urban towns and cities started to really get going across Europe in the late Middle Ages, no one in greater Germany and the great Slav-dom really knew much about finance, and various religious prohibitions and cultural traditions imposed transaction costs.

Ashkenazi Jews entered into the new niche and were enormously successful. They got very rich, very quick, from charging noblemen very high interest rates and mostly collecting (with the king backing them up, because they lent to him at lower rates, or he could tax them). They used this money to reduce child mortality and otherwise have many, many surviving children.

Farming was not so much forbidden as a niche which they did not select themselves into.

And indeed I am! I am a tremendous CUCK!

The seige of Vienna is 1683, the glorious revolution is 1688.
Wellesley in 1815 said
“It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life” which could have been applied at many points in history including 1683.

What is overlooked is that prior to Islam the near East was far more advanced than Western Europe. If it was still in front in 1100 (which is arguable) it is largely the due to the residual Roman/Greco-persian culture.

The cultures of Mesopotamia and North Africa were destroyed by invasions of militarist tribal cultures. First the Gulf Arabs, then the Mongol/Turkish invasions. The latter don’t get as much historical credit for destroying the culture of the Middle East as they probably should.

Yeah, you still hear about the burning of the Library of Alexandria, but never about the sacking of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad by the Mongols. If you want an event that changes the way Islam viewed academic progress, there's a good spot to analyze.

I agree, "Muslims were philosophically and socioeconomically more developed than Western Europeans between the ninth and twelfth centuries" is doing a lot of work here and I think it is unproven and probably not at all true.

It is at least partly true. It seems to me undeniable that the contribution
to the progress of science and of philosophy (if there is such a notion of progress in philosophy) during the ninth and twelfth centuries of the Muslim world was far greater than the contribution of the Chistendom during that period.

Not to say that these progress in the muslim world were huge by historical standard. Those progress during four centuries pale in comparison with any half-century i Europe after 1500.

Quite poignant. You must have been triggered by my mention of Armenians. Or should we mention Ukraine Airlines? Many Turks are just like Russians disputing shoot downs of civilian airliners. It's not really relevant to the conversation who rules Cyprus (for instance) but you float it as a way to turn the conversation to the intellectually absurd, probably in an effort to get any criticism of your viewpoint shut down.

I'm sure you'll win and get our comments flagged or removed, but thanks for adding to the thoughtful discourse. You've won many supporters.

I would prefer a hybrid of this theory and Daron Acemoglu’s Why Nations Fail theory of the Middle East, because that would explain the crack pot secular regimes as well (Syria under Assad, Iraq under Hussein, Egypt...).

Bashar Al Assad is committing the biggest genocide of the century even though he is a secular dictator. Neither he nor the majority of the opposition are fighting because of religion. He is genociding to stay power. On the other hand, the revolution began because of the Assad family’s brutal anti-majority rule, which is like minority oppression but on a greater scale. Religion is only a useful frame insofar as Assad is Alawite while the majority of Syrians are, for a lack of a common English descriptor, “Syrian Sunni Arabs.” Syrian Sunni Arabs are the ones being genocided so that Assad’s Alawite minority maintains a grip on society. They are a distinct ethnoreligious identity and culture, with genetic, cultural, and religious markers, just like with Jews. The same applies to Alawites.

Over 200,000 civilians, most of them from the SSA majority, have been slaughtered by Assad. Another few thousand were killed by foreign terrorists including ISIS and Hezbollah (both were allowed into Syria by Assad. The former was invited indirectly through a deliberate void of power in order to create a global PR opportunity for Assad, and the latter was directly brought in). This was all because they dared to ask for a multiethnic and multi-religious democracy with no majority oppression. Assad is holding onto rule because of ardent support from Russia and Iran, global ignorance/indifference (partly thanks to Russia misinformation bot swarms), and some members of non-Alawite minorities and rich Sunni families who tacitly want to keep the status quo because they are beneficiaries of Assad’s crony regime. Notice how Islam barely enters the picture there. Neither Assad nor the average resident of Aleppo (largest city in Syria. It revolted against the government en masse) are very religious in the traditional sense.

The factors in Why Nations Fail would explain the situation in Syria much better than the explanation in the OP, while the OP might apply better to Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabis for example. A hybrid theory would explain the end of the Islamic Golden Age. It is only under subjugation by non-Arabs (Ottoman Turks) that the conditions arose for anti-intellectualism and militarism. The loss of agency for centuries was tragic. The Ottomans went as far as to ban Arabs and other subjugated populations from reading printed books, again this went on for centuries.

"Neither he nor the majority of the opposition are fighting because of religion" - who fights for religion in the Middle East? I think nobody, not even the diehard mullahs. It's all politics seems to me.

This book is similar to another book on exactly the same thing from a few years ago, but I can't find it in my virtual library.

The religious wars in the Middle East are like the ones in the former Yugoslavia- religion is as much a marker for tribal/ ethnic solidarity as much as anything else. PJ O’Rourke said it best “the Bosnians are the ones who don’t bow to Mecca, the Croats are the ones who don’t listen to the Pope, and the Serbs are the ones who ignore the Patriarch”.
Another point is that the United Arab domination of the near East after the Muslim conquest was very brief- things quickly fractures and in the resulting civil wars they moved to slave armies who then began to call the shots. Soon Turks were the muscle and Persians and Greeks the brains.

"who fights for religion in the Middle East?"

Echoes of the Thirty Years War....

Islamic conservatives merely accomplished what Christian conservatives want and try to do by supporting successive GOP politicians.

Saudi Arabia was rather modern in the 70s with women in cities free to dress like the French.

Like the GOP uses the lure of Christian authoritarianism to gain power, so is Islamic authoritarianism used to gain and hold power in many nations with large Muslim followers.

The Iranian revolution was a threat that required an opposition Islamic ideology similar to Catholics v Protestants v anabapitists. The American experiment was built out of religious war in England especially, but also in Europe.

Islam created 600 years after Christianity just needs to catch up and seek authoritarian rule by elections, like in Iran.

But when elections suggest a "socialist" government, the US and Europeans promote the Muslim Brotherhood toward power to justify a reactionary movement toward military rule bought by US, et al weapons "sales".

After all, Hungry is a current example of Christian nationalism that like the KKK and Nazis uses Christianity to justify ethnic purity. The Islamic State and Nazis had a lot in common.

Christian Conservatives like what, Mitt Romney? The Pilgrim Fathers? Calvin? Tolkien?

I know I should just ignore you and Margaret Atwood but people listen to this false equivalence rubbish and think there's something to it.

This isn't getting as much coverage as it should:

CDC zombie apocalypse outreach campaign[edit]

On May 16, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's blog published an article instructing the public on what to do to prepare for a zombie invasion. While the article did not claim that such a scenario was possible, it did use the popular culture appeal as a means of urging citizens to prepare for all potential hazards, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods.[68]

According to David Daigle, the Associate Director for Communications, Public Health Preparedness and Response, the idea arose when his team was discussing their upcoming hurricane-information campaign and Daigle mused that "we say pretty much the same things every year, in the same way, and I just wonder how many people are paying attention." A social-media employee mentioned that the subject of zombies had come up a lot on Twitter when she had been tweeting about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and radiation. The team realized that a campaign like this would most likely reach a different audience from the one that normally pays attention to hurricane-preparedness warnings and went to work on the zombie campaign, launching it right before hurricane season began. "The whole idea was, if you're prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you're prepared for pretty much anything," said Daigle.[69]

Once the blog article became popular, the CDC announced an open contest for YouTube submissions of the most creative and effective videos covering preparedness for a zombie apocalypse (or apocalypse of any kind), to be judged by the "CDC Zombie Task Force". Submissions were open until October 11, 2011.[70] They also released a zombie-themed graphic novella available on their website.[71] Zombie-themed educational materials for teachers are available on the site.[72]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centers_for_Disease_Control_and_Prevention#CDC_zombie_apocalypse_outreach_campaign

Combining state and illusion is widely destructive everywhere, especially among our favorite economists. We all do it. When my illusions are shattered you will find me first in line for a bailout.

Sounds like real academic nonsense -- that something (the author says) happened 1000 years ago and that is a good explanation for something today. You have to wonder who writes these sorts of books and who reads them.

Robert Wright, in his book The Evolution of God, attributes the growth of trade and hence the economy in the West in part to the spread of Christianity. No, not because Christians are better at business, but because the spread of Christianity increased trust between potential trading partners who shared the same religion. The connection between openness to trade and economic growth has been shown in study after study. Many Islamic cultures and countries are distrustful of outsiders, even to the point of being distrustful of Muslims who are from different sects. The economies of Iran and Saudi Arabia would be greatly enhanced by engaging in mutually beneficial trade, but sectarian differences preclude it. But sectarianism isn't restricted to Islam: today's evangelical Christians are highly sectarian and, not surprisingly, distrustful of outsiders, preferring to limit their personal and economic relationships to like-believing evangelicals. In sum, religion can be a catalyst to trade and economic growth, or it can be an impediment.

>"I don’t really have my own view on these issues"

Translation: "I am a gutless coward."

Authoritarianism and poverty? Yeah, why would a highly-political economist ever opine on such matters?

Now, back to how Trump's fascism is ruining the economy!

So do I think. It's absolutely true. Muslims and their authoritarian religious cultures are the root cause of their evils. As far as my observation goes, a Muslim is always a Muslim and more than a Muslim - and nothing else. Nobody can save them and nobody is there to stem this rot.

I'm a Muslim, and I think that's a terrible, dehumanizing thing for you to say. It is also profoundly ignorant and absurdly reductionist. You, Thiago, and other (rare) sectarian posters are a negative marginal contribution to this forum. You lower the quality of discourse by almost any standard of intelligence and dignity. Find something better to do with your time, like reading books that may not confirm your negative priors on entire groups of people.

"an alliance between orthodox Islamic scholars (the ulema) and military states began to emerge."

Umm, you are talking about a religion founded by a warlord. Why, then, would it be surprising to find a continuing alliance between the military and Islamic scholars?

Perhaps it would be more interesting to explore how Islamic countries might evolve away from a close coupling of government and the military on one hand, and Islam while somehow retaining the support of the Islamic faithful?

Peculiar and ironic choice of name given your bigoted statements. The Albigensian Crusade, ordered by Pope Innocent III himself, resulted in an utter and complete genocide of the Cathar people. A group of anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million people were completely eradicated. With the critical assistance of French royalty, crusaders laid waste to towns which hosted Cathars, not even sparing farm animals. After Cathars were basically extinct, their land was gifted to the perpetrators of their genocide. Almost 2000 years of such horrors finally ended in the mid-20th century, after the Christ-like European people found that the marginal cost of slaughtering each other was now greater than the marginal cost of uninterrupted modern industrial production and trade. After almost 2000 years of terror, they have the luxury of peace. I do not believe that Christianity was the primary cause of all that, just like I don't believe that Islam is the primary cause of the Middle East's current woes. You should know better.

I have always found it interesting that the border between those regions that embraced liberalism and openness and those that stuck to militarism and closed societies matches the boundaries of the expansion of the Mongol horde in the 13th century. The Islamic world was notably progressive relative to feudal Europe (as was China) until the sack of Baghdad in 1258, when it lost many of its leaders and intellectuals. It seems that the psyche of those regions have yet to fully recover, and still more likely to favor authority and security over openness and liberalism (China, Russia, the Middle East). The brutality of the Mongols, and the genes their warriors left behind, linger today. It's a good thing Kublai Khan died before the Mongol horde had a chance to extend even further west. They had plans to, and there was no military that would have stopped them.

Kuru: "However, in the eleventh century, an alliance between orthodox Islamic scholars (the ulema) and military states began to emerge. This alliance gradually hindered intellectual and economic creativity by marginalizing intellectual and bourgeois classes in the Muslim world. This important study links its historical explanation to contemporary politics by showing that, to this day, the ulema–state alliance still prevents creativity and competition in Muslim countries."

So far, so plausible (with the caveat that others have raised that they'd guess that alliance was earlier).

But the essential question is; Does Kuru treat this as a chance event, or something deeper than that? Because you have to ask, if simply a chance event, why is this equilibrium as stable as Kuru suggests it is? (If he is right!). Why did it never "right itself"?

A tentative model here is that Halakha (a bad idea which Islam got as Sharia) basically sucks. Net of everything else, it constrains the progress of the development of new and more productive forms of business in not very useful ways, even if you start out "ahead".

These problems with dealing with business mean that religion and productive business activity can become opposed over time, leading to reinforcement of the tendency of religion to ally with military states (rather than urban traders who end up opposed to them, even if you have the "good luck" to start with Mohammad as a merchant).

Rabbinical Judaism swerved this issue by the good luck of trying to mandate universal literacy. This meant that Rabbinic Jews generally turned into trade specialists, and that the disadvantages of religious law were balanced by the fact that firstly the Rabbis were more sympathetic to business than Imams (they had to be!), and secondly that it "doomed" Jews to be small urban minorities in a sea of a larger culture, which meant limits to how much power religious authorities had to make things go wrong.

(Or, this all could all just be post-facto analysis of a trend that isn't there, and mostly serves to explore our biases).

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