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Consider Timur Kuran's Analysis of the Influence of Sharia Law

Reader comment on item: Tantawi – The New Mubarak?

Submitted by Sigmund (United States), May 30, 2011 at 11:24

Closely related to this discussion is the April 29, 2011 NY Times Op-Ed, "The Weak Foundations of Arab Democracy" by Timur Kuran. Kuran is a Turkish economist and Professor of Economics and Political Science, and Islamic Studies at Duke. His main thesis appears to be that Sharia Law has inhibited both economic and political development of the Islamic world because it discourages the development of independent "corporate" institutions such as corporate businesses, professional organizations, and civic groups that promote divergent interests and opinions in most other societies.

I think his analysis is important. So often the comments in this group focus on the negative effects of Islamism (and often on Islam itself) without giving a deeper foundation to explain why the negative effects occur. Without a deeper foundation, anti-Sharia comments are easily dismissed as discrimination and even "hate speech" against the Islamic religion. Kuran's analysis gives a cogent foundation to criticism of Sharia law and its effect on Islamic society and also suggests that there is hope for future changes. Broadly speaking, his overall conclusions fit quite well with Dr. Pipes arguments that Islamism is a serious problem but that Islam itself need not be. By going into the economic underpinnings of Sharia, Kuran adds an additional dimension to Dr. Pipes thoughts.

I am far from an expert on these issues and I was previously unaware of Professor Kuran. I have not read his book, "The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East" which apparently lays out his thoughts in great detail. The Amazon reviews indicate that it is a very thorough treatment of this topic but very technical, detailed, and difficult to read.

Perhaps Dr. Pipes and/or one of his associates, or one of the readers of this blog can plow through it for us and give us a review that might fit these ideas into policy recommendations. I suspect that Kuran's ideas would be very valuable if they can be widely disseminated and worked into foreign policy.

Submitting....

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Daniel Pipes replies:

I admire Kuran and wrote a column on a prior book of his: http://www.danielpipes.org/4973/islamic-economics-what-does-it-mean

I hope to take up his new book, on which the oped you cite is based.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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