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Judicial Biases in Ottoman Istanbul: Islamic Justice and Its Compatibility with Modern Economic Life

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  • Timur Kuran
  • Scott Lustig
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    Abstract

    The transition to impersonal exchange and modern economic growth has depended on courts that enforce contracts efficiently. This article shows that Islamic courts of the Ottoman Empire exhibited biases that would have limited the expansion of trade in the eastern Mediterranean, particularly that between Muslims and non-Muslims. It thus explains why economic modernization in the Middle East involved the establishment of secular courts. In quantifying Ottoman judicial biases, the article discredits both the claim that these courts treated Christians and Jews fairly and the counterclaim that non-Muslims lost cases disproportionately. Biases against non-Muslims were in fact institutionalized. By the same token, non-Muslims did relatively well in adjudicated interfaith disputes, because they settled most conflicts out of court in anticipation of judicial biases. Islamic courts also appear to have favored state officials. The article undermines the Islamist claim that reinstituting Islamic law (sharia) would be economically beneficial.

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    File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/665537
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    File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/665537
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

    Volume (Year): 55 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 631 - 666

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/665537

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    Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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    Cited by:
    1. Niklas Potrafke, 2012. "Democracy and Countries with Muslim Majorities: A Reply and Update," CESifo Working Paper Series 4039, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Niklas Potrafke, 2013. "Policies against Human Trafficking: The Role of Religion and Political Institutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 4278, CESifo Group Munich.

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