Political Instrumentalization of Islam and the Risk of Obscurantist Deadlock
Summary The empirical literature has established a strong link between being a Muslim country and indicators of political performance and democracy. The idea of the "clash of civilizations" put forward by Samuel Huntington and applied to Islam by Bernard Lewis and others points to unique aspects of the Islamic religion and culture that make the advent of democracy especially difficult. In this paper, I show that there is a systematic misconception about the true nature of the relationship between Islam and politics: far from being fused into the religious realm, politics tends to dominate religion. Because of some characteristics, namely the lack of a centralized religious authority structure and the great variability of interpretations of the Islamic law, there is a risk of an "obscurantist deadlock" in the form of a vicious process whereby both the ruler and his political opponents try to outbid each other by using the religious idiom. This risk looms particularly large in crisis situations accentuated by international factors such as witnessed during the second half of the 20th century. From a short comparative analysis, it is however hard to conclude that unique aspects of the Islamic faith are ultimately responsible for the persistent autocratic feature of Muslim polities.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries," Scholarly Articles 3708464, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Marcus Noland, 2005. "Explaining Middle Eastern Authoritarianism," Working Paper Series WP05-5, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
- North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
- Kuran, Timur, 2003. "The Islamic Commercial Crisis: Institutional Roots of Economic Underdevelopment in the Middle East," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(02), pages 414-446, June.
- Noland, Marcus, 2005. "Religion and economic performance," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1215-1232, August.
- Jean-Philippe Platteau, 2008.
"Religion, Politics, and Development: Lessons from the Lands of Islam,"
434, Economic Research Forum, revised Sep 2008.
- Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2008. "Religion, politics, and development: Lessons from the lands of Islam," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 329-351, November.
- Desai, Meghnad, 2005. "Development and Nationhood: Essays in the Political Economy of South Asia," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195667608, March.
- Timur Kuran, 2004. "Why the Middle East is Economically Underdeveloped: Historical Mechanisms of Institutional Stagnation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(3), pages 71-90, Summer.
- Noland Marcus, 2008. "Explaining Middle Eastern Political Authoritarianism I: The Level of Democracy," Review of Middle East Economics and Finance, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-30, January.
- Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1996.
"Trust in Large Organizations,"
NBER Working Papers
5864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Badawi, Ibrahim El & Makdisi, Samir, 2007. "Explaining the democracy deficit in the Arab world," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 46(5), pages 813-831, February.
- World Bank, 2003. "Better Governance for Development in the Middle East and North Africa : Enhancing Inclusiveness and Accountability," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15077, August.
- Weiffen, Brigitte, 2008. "Liberalizing Autocracies in the Gulf Region? Reform Strategies in the Face of a Cultural-Economic Syndrome," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2586-2604, December.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:39:y:2011:i:2:p:243-260. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.