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The Brown Pandit's Brown Council, welcome to a new edition of the Brown funded broadcast we have today. With us, special guest, Professor Emeritus Professor Kunzru is a professor of political science at San Diego State University here in California, and he has written several books. He wrote a book about secularism in Turkey, France and the United States. He but his latest book is called Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment, Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment. I just came out last year and in fact, just won a prize.
I think it was the American Political Science Society or something we lost. Tell us more about the award. But it is a very topical book about the possible reasons why the Islamic world is sort of under relatively underdeveloped. And Professor Kourou has an interesting thesis about that. So we'll start by asking him to tell us a little about himself, about his interpersonally, what is his background, how did he come to study political science and how did he get interested in this topic?
Hi, thanks for having me. And I'll be happy to talk about the background very briefly. And I was born in Turkey, then came to the United States about two decades ago. In nineteen ninety nine, I came to University of Utah, Salt Lake City for Masters. Then I moved to Seattle, Washington, where I received my PhD in political science. Then I had a postdoc position at Columbia University in New York and spent two years there in a center studying non Arab Muslim majority secular democracies Turkey, Indonesia and Senegal.
And then I came to San Diego, as now I am full professor of political science in the politics at San Diego State University. And my first book on secularism 10 years ago was very much focusing on the constitutional principle of secularism in Turkey and comparing it to France, the United States. And at that time, I was very optimistic about the future of Turkish democracy. And I was arguing that the Kemalist, which means the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey, the Kemalist secularism, was too exclusionary.
So therefore, a more religious friendly secularism that we see in the United States and to a certain extent in India and Netherlands and in some other democracies may be a better model.
And then at that time, I was thinking that Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party AKP may provide us a middle ground between Kemalist assertive secularism, French type exclusion of religion on the one hand, and Iranian type Islamism on the other hand. And even Erdogan himself went to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya during the so-called Arab Spring and ask Islamists to embrace the secular state. But then things change. As a Hollywood movie, twist the the good story.
And in a nightmare, the dream became a nightmare. Turkey turned an authoritarian turn and a democracy broke down. And then meanwhile, I was writing this new book. About authoritarianism and what happened in Turkey as the breakdown of democracy, authoritarianism and populist Islamism and a broader sense in the Middle East by the failure of Arab Spring and the reproduction of authoritarianism in a worse cases in Egypt, Syria elsewhere encouraged me to analyze the more historical and deeper roots of authoritarianism in the region and in the Muslim world in general.
So that's the background of myself as an academic, as a person who is very much grappling with the problem of authoritarianism in the Muslim world and the link between my first book and optimistic analysis of secularism as a constitutional principle and possibilities of change. And this book, which may be seen as optimists or pessimists, I don't know. Some readers find my new book on Islam and authoritarianism as a very pessimist. Other says that there are seeds of optimism in the book.
And let me end with a Russian joke that there was a conversation between an optimist and pessimist. Then the pessimist says it cannot get worse, and an optimist replies, No, it can. So this is the optimistic optimism, it can't get worse, it can get worse. So can you tell us a little about your thesis in the book? What is your sort of core argument of why authoritarianism is so deeply embedded in the core Islamic world? So, as you may know, in the United States, Western Europe, India, even in Turkey and some Arab countries, there are people who criticize Islam for them.
Islam is the basis of many things, if not everything. And therefore, when you look at the Muslim world, we see many problems. And Islam is the culprit. Islam is responsible. And in the literature, we may call them Islamophobic, Orientalist, essentialist with different names, but basically they single out Islam as the source of problem. So from the beginning to the end in the book, I engage with this argument, criticize it, but I take it very seriously and try to understand what the possible problems of Islam is, that theology as a religion, as a culture, as a civilization.
Then I refute this argument, especially emphasizing many things, but particularly the fact that from the eight to 12 centuries, for five hundred years or so, Muslims were superior to Western Europeans in terms of philosophy, in terms of economy, in terms of urban life. Islam was not only compatible with this progress, but also it is at least a major part of this process because it's encouraged time, discipline for Muslims at a time when there was no clock watch and mechanical ways of understanding time, Islam and dividing time daily by prayer, monthly and then annually by Ramadan fasting and then the Hajj once in your life and a certain level of cleaning and hygiene and courage.
And in addition to that certain level of egalitarianism, as you know, Prophet Muhammad, one of closer companions, was Persian and other one was an African Abyssinian black person, Habila, Habashi and Islam challenge caste system.
And many hierarchical socially political statues were initially challenged by Islam. But I said this is only one part of the story because there were many Christian Jews, agnostic, 80 Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Hindus and others who contributed to Islamic civilization during this five century of so-called golden era.
So therefore, Islam was perfectly compatible at the time.
Why not today? And that's my major criticism of Islamophobia and Essentialists. And the second argument is that in the Middle East and elsewhere, many Muslims blame Western imperialism. If you ask them why so many problems in the Middle East and broader Muslim world, they say because it is all because of European and then later on in by adding United States Western colonization.
Some argue that it's the historical continuity started with crusades from the Crusades to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Western imperialism destroying Muslim institutions.
That's what to blame again, from the beginning of the book to the very end, I engage with this argument in a critical way and argue that. After the golden era, Muslims face a stagnation and eventually they lost their intellectual and economic dynamism. And when the Western colonization began in the early 19th century or so, Muslims already lost their dynamism. Therefore, colonization is by and large an effect rather than a cause of Muslims problems.
So after criticizing the argument about Islam and arguing about Western colonization, I developed my own argument, which is that in the early Islamic history, when Muslims were very successful, they had a dynamic and diverse social political life where four classes of people, political class, the ruling state elite and religious class, the clergy. Islamic scholars, ulema. And other sushi chefs and other parts of the religious class. Then the merchant class, you can call them the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals, mostly philosophers, these four coexist that each of the four had their own autonomy and which created a dynamic, competitive environment where you have an eclectic civilization, very productive and creative.
But things change in the mid 11 century, an alliance between the Ulama and the state emerge, and this alliance marginalize intellectuals and the merchants, and that led to little long term stagnation and even decline. And Western Europe was not different. I reject the idea of taking either Muslim world or the Western Europe as unique and exceptional. Neither of them is unique or exceptional. They are very similar. The difference is that between the eight and 12 centuries, when merchants and intellectuals were very influential in the Muslim world, the Catholic Church and the military aristocracy dominated Western Europe.
But later on, eventually starting again with the 11th century all the way to renaissance, the bourgeoisie emerge in Western Europe with universities in an intellectual class started to rise in Western Europe. And this bourgeois class and intellectual class achieve many reforms and revolutions, including Renaissance, Reformation, printing revolution, a certain level of industrial revolution, so and so forth. So therefore, in a nutshell, the argument is based on class relations. The four classes are important.
And when the religious class and the state class, in other words, ulamas, state lines dominate the country and in the European case, the clergy and the state airlines dominate the continent, you see stagnation. You need active, dynamic, productive intellectual and economic classes. That's what happened in the Muslim history. Then that's what they lost afterward. So that's not in a nutshell. That's the argument. I mean, that's a really fascinating argument and so your focus so far, you've been talking about, I guess, the Western merger interaction between Islam and Europe, did something similar happened on the India or the eastern side or or was it coming from the West European Islamic interaction that kind of filtered into the east?
So the case of India is always challenging for my analysis because it's very complex. You know better than me. What let me explain what I argue in the book about the case of India. So when you look at the quote unquote, Old World before the discourse of Americas and before the development of sub-Saharan Africa, you know, there was the Western Europe, Byzantium, Eastern Europe, dominated by Orthodox Church. There was the Muslim world, India and China, so the Muslim world integrated with India in many ways, starting at least with cousins of Muhammad and Muhammad's military attacks and occupations and expeditions, whatever you call them.
And afterwards, Muslims establish many political entities in India, like the sultanate of Delhi. Which escaped the Mongol destruction, but later on, unfortunately, Timor came and destroyed Dili and then the sultanate there, then eventually the big empire, the bubble. We called in the Turkish, but Mughal in English and the founder, of course, is the barber. And then it became one of the three gunpowder empires between the 16 and 18th centuries, Ottoman Safavids and Mughals.
So on the one hand, Mughals was Empire was different from Ottomans and Safavids, because it is obvious in that Muslim majority it was Muslim minority minority elites, but of course, with a very sizable large Muslim population, all these minority.
And the palace was much more eclectic even at the time of very so-called pious conservative Muslim sultan of Moghuls. There were more Hindus in the palace, in the army than you can imagine a Christian in the Ottoman police and army, because in the Ottoman case, a Christian had to be converted to Islam in order to be part of the army and the bureaucracy. And which was much more complex and different than Mughal empire, definitely, and what I see in the case of India and I try to explain in the book, in some chapters at least, and Muslims learn many things from the Indian civilization, like mathematical formulas, and then they develop them like the Arabic numerals.
They learn from Indian numerals, develop them, then taught to Western Europe. So and in addition to mathematical issues, there are certain crops in agriculture, Muslims learn from Indian crops, culture, cultivate them in Middle East and elsewhere, then taught them to Europe. In a way, they became a bridge between India and Europe on certain issues. And they also contributed substantially, Baroni was an 11th century Muslim scholar who learned local Sanskrit Indian language, then wrote a book about India, and they say the argument is that until the 17th century, no one wrote a much more detailed book about the culture, religion and language of of India, almost as in modern anthropology.
He wrote a major book or volume about India. So and then at the time of the reform, when Muslims reacted to less than colonization in the especially in the second half of the 19th century, once again, Indian Muslims played a major role because in addition, Muhammad updo in Egypt and later on, some Islamists like set up in Egypt, again in the Muslims, produced several eminent figures and like Muhammad Iqbal. And then later on my duty as a major Islamist, even if I disagree with him, he was he has been influential, a member of the subcontinent, Muslim population at large.
We think that Mr. So therefore, India is a complex case, important case. And on the one hand, the Islamic State lines shows some level of existence, but it could not dominate the social political life as it did in the Ottoman Empire.
I wanted to ask you about the first phase before we get to the decline part, Randi. When the Empire was having its during the Omayyad and later especially the Abassi period, when there was a lot of intellectual activity and ferment and so on. You have given a very interesting collected some interesting data on what the scholars who supported the scholars. And I was wondering if you can share with our listeners, because this was relatively new to me, that almost all these scholars were not state supported.
And in fact, most of them were made a very determined effort to stay out of the state orbit. So likable. And if I went to prison and others were murdered, raped or whatever, and how many what percentage was supported by the Persians and who were self supporting.
And this is a very important question. Thank you. And generally, when we think of the past, we think as Michelle Fuegos history of the present, we imagine history for a more present angle, the contemporary perceptions. And today, when we look at the Muslim world, in many cases like Turkey, Egypt, the mosques under state control, the imams are paid the salaries by the government agencies. And then we assume that it's always like that. But it was not.
How did it happen?
Because you may have heard the argument that separation between religion and state exists in Christianity, because Jesus in the Bible says render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but render on the God, what is God's? Whereas in Islam there is no such separation because the Prophet Muhammad says religion and state are twin brothers. Religion is the foundation, state is the protector or the guardian that without foundation collapse, that without guardian perish. Even Ghazal is ihala within. This is narrated as Hadith.
So I analyze this issue in the book. First of all, this is not an Hudis. Nothing to do with the Prophet Muhammad. Never said that it is a maksym by assassin in King Ardeshir who live centuries before Muhammad. But later on, Muslim thinkers wanted to make an alliance with the state. They used this Sasanian maksym the Persian idea of religion, state brotherhood and presented to the masses as a principle of religion. And in order to convince them, they say it's the Prophet's Hadith, which is not.
And even if there is such a Hudis, it's not very important because even if Jesus says in the Bible that you have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, we know the reality that the church never accept to be apolitical. The Catholic Church has always been a political actor and the separation in the case of Christianity occurred as an accident. It's an unintended consequence of the fact that in the middle of this century, from that time to early 12th century, the Pope of the time and the German kings of the time fought to dominate each other.
But both sides failed to dominate. That's why the separation emerged as a result of necessity, not that theology.
So in the Muslim case, yes, the prophet was a religious leader, plus a military commanders. And after him for caliphs were religious authorities and at the same level and political authorities. But in the book, I argue that this is an exception which cannot and which did not and which will not repeat itself. It's a one time event.
Never after him, after the profit, only the caliph had personal relations with him and after then it's ended no more connection between religious ground by political leaders because the profit and the four caliph's. Did not have an established state as an institution in Islamic history, the first person who used bodyguards who used throne and crown it was Morea, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and he was the real estate builder. So this is one explanation that the separation of religious authority and political authority started to emerge under Mahavir because he is the real state builder and a ruler with no religious charisma, religious duty and mission.
Second, Mahavir and Ali, the son in law of the Prophet, had a civil war. And after the civil war, more we established limits by persecuting Ali Ali's sons and other family members who are Prophet's family members. And this persecution creates a disenchantment, a dissolution in the eyes of many pious people, of course, Shia, but even certain Sunnis delegitimize the mayor.
Then coming up, buses in terms of religious point of view. They became just rulers, political rulers, but not the religious authority, with one exception, Omar bin Abdulaziz, the Amaia caliph for two years, who was famous with his piety and accord. And accordingly, he was poisoned by other members of your dynasty. And he was an exception that proves the rule that make rulers were secular rulers. So let me conclude this very long explanation. Sorry for making too much elaboration, directly addressing your question.
This historical legacy was articulated by leading Islamic scholars, leading ulema like Abu Hanifa, Imam Ibn Humble, Imam Shafi Malec and these major Sunni leaders. Plus, of course, the Shia leaders delegitimized. The men are basically from religious point of view and try to put a distance between themselves and the authorities. According to even Humble, it was religiously forbidden for an Islamic scholar to receive money from the government, and he was working in textile industry himself. Abu Hanifa was a merchant and his story with the basic caliph was well known and very important.
Abbasid caliphate invited him to become a judge and Abu Hanifa refused. And then the caliph as a reason for that. Then Abhinav, I said, I am not qualified. Then I reply, You are a liar. You are. Of course you are qualified. Then Abu Hanifa replied, A liar can never be a judge. Then the caliph put Abu Hanifa in jail them and he was eventually poisoned to that. But he never accepted the offer despite the death threats.
So at the insistence of these leading Ulama became a role model for other Ulama. Obviously, there were exceptions, a major student of Abu Hanifa abuse, except that the judgeship and he served up buses, but again, he was just one of the many scholars. He was not the majority opinion. He was minority opinion. And recently and modern scholars provide us in numerical data about the distance between religious authorities and political authorities. Have Olimar were funded privately?
This scholar, Cohen, in a 1970s article, analyzed three thousand nine hundred Islamic scholars between eight to meet 11 century. And out of this, about 4000 scholars around four hundred years. Ninety one person and their families were funded by commerce. They were either merchants or they have family members being merchant and supporting their science and scholarship by private funding only nine percent. So they exist. It's not zero percent, but only nine percent serve the state as a judge in other official capacities while being an Islamic scholar.
And 91 percent include a very, very large spectrum of jobs.
Being a barber, having a barber shop, being a porter, carrying things, being a large merchant like Abu Hanifa was. So this is an important data to show us that in the early Islamic history, there was a separation at a certain level of separation between Islamic scholars and political authorities. And this distance, this separation, make this scholars more creative, more innovative. And they refused to serve the state, which created an environment in which even secular scholars were able to produce new ideas.
There were certain level of freedom of thought, at least in comparison to Western Europe. Muslim world at that time had an environment where there was way more freedom of thought, and a major reason was the distance between religious scholars and state authority.
So the next question would be that we know that this arsenide empire was itself a sort of had a state religion, Zoroastrianism. And as you said, the the quote from Ardeshir about religion and the state supporting each other predates Islam. And, of course, the during the period of Catholic domination, at least Western Europe was heavily these church was heavily involved in politics and so on. But what changed? Why did the Europeans managed to break out of this sort of set up and the Muslim world did not and in fact, went in the other direction?
What made them susceptible to that change? So in order to answer this question in the book, I emphasize that, first of all, it is not a perennial theological difference because as I explained before, briefly, if it was if it had been theology, Koran and the Bible, Jesus and the Muhammad said it should have been much more stable and consistent. But in both cases, we see changes and transformations in Western Europe. Once there was an alliance between clergy and state, then they became separation in the Muslim world.
There was separation. Then it turned into an alliance. So it's not consistent. It's not religiously frozen. It's much more malleable, changeable and open to transformation. So what? Explain the change. First of all, change is very much taking time.
Sometimes it takes centuries in Europe. This alliance between the Kings and then the clergy took centuries. Eventually, they happened accident between the 11th century popes and German kings, then all the way to reformation. After Reformation, nation states declared their own states and churches and the process is still going on. There are still debates. In my first book, for example, I analyze the separation in France. Despite the popular perception, the 1789 French Revolution was not the time of the real separation between church and state, because after 1789 French Revolution, after Napoleon, the French, the Catholic Church became re-established in France, the real separation took very long process and very late.
Nineteen of five. So about a century ago, finally, they separated church and state in France. Therefore, even in the western case of Western Europe, it's very diverse and complicated process in the Muslim world. What explains?
So in order to summarize, I would say that the background of what happened in the 11th century. Has both economic and political reasons economically, the Abbass had any budgetary crisis, starting with the late 10th century, early 11th century, because of the declining fertility of Iraqi fields, the Abassi Treasury started to be almost empty. Therefore, the Abbasids developed a system of ICTA. It basically means land revenue distribution. Instead of providing cash to officers, military officers and other bureaucrats, the states started to allocate them lands.
And this weaken the private and intrapreneurship, the private land ownership due to an economic necessity. And after a the the bullets started to control Iraq as Shia military force and after boots came Seljuk.
As soon the military empire and Seljuk further develop ICTA system by distributing more lands to military commanders and civilian bureaucrats. And this system was later taken by a Hubert's Mamluks, Safavids, Ottomans, and therefore in the Muslim world, you see a declining private ownership of land. And this was very important because it eventually weakened private sector. And instead of monetary economy, you now have an exchange economy.
You now have a land is not taught to the feudal system, but with some similarities, more centralized way of semih feudal system this week and the merchant, the bourgeoisie, when it weakened the bourgeoisie and the merchants, it weakened a major pillar of the early golden era. Meanwhile, in addition to this economic transformation, there was a major religious transformation because as the budgets in the mid 10 century took care of Iraq, they marginalized the Abbasid caliphates.
Abasic caliph's became like almost the pops in Vatican today, just symbolic. Sinica lives in Baghdad, surrounded by Shia military forces and to Abassi.
Caliphs Calderon came to rule consecutively about 50 years next to each other, father and son. They wanted to revive the Sunni power as a reaction to the rise of Shias budgets in Iraq. Hamdan is in Syria. And then Fatima's especially far to me, is an alternative califate in today's Egypt and committees in Bahrain and Arabian Peninsula, the Abaza Calef says we have to bring together Sunni warlords, Sunni.
People, the masses and all the scholars, in order to do that, this caliph's. Father and son declare a creed. They say this is the card Dirichlet referring to the character's name Khadir, this creed excludes certain groups of Muslims and declared them infidel is the creed, says those who criticize Aisha. Therefore, most Shias are infidels. Those who argue that the Koran is created, the more Tesla, the rationalist Muslim theologians, are infidel because they say the Koran is created not an eternal word of God.
And then those who do not pray five times a day are also taken as infidel. So this is a very exclusionary creed which is designed to be to create an orthodoxy.
And this Orthodox is very exclusionary in order to bring together Sunni forces and the dream of this caliphs became a reality when Sunni Seljuk forces came to Baghdad, defeated budgets and then cooperated with the caliphs and make sure that Sunni Islam and dominate Iran in Iraq, meanwhile, had very influential, savchuk prime minister, the Grand Vizier, Nizam and Milk establish a network of madrassas called after his name, Nizar Miša. Madrassas and the most famous products and teachers of this madrassa network was Ghazali, who is still very influential today in the Muslim world.
And Ghazali played a very important role in establishing ulamas state lines by attacking Shiahs, declared them infidel, by attacking philosophers, especially Feyerabend Ghazali, and unfortunately even declared them infidels, because Ghazali argues that forever be Ibn Sina, another Muslim philosophers became non-Muslim apostates due to three ideas they defend. One idea is that the word is eternal. The the universe has no beginning but the eternal then the God that knows only major macro things, not the minor details.
And then the third thing is the resurrection in the hereafter will be. A spiritual, not physical resurrection.
So Ghazali therefore maintain a justification to allow state lines and its way of declaring any opposition as opposed to the punish by capital punishment, that so this system later on emulated, revised and adopted by Saladin Ayyoub in Syria and Egypt, then a be dynasty and the Mamluks in Egypt. Then the three empires, Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals. Especially what amounts to a certain extent Safavids and let's extend Moghuls from the mid 15 to late 18th century, and this is the major rupture and this is how dilemma's the deadlines became dominant until the 20th century.
Yes, thank you. And so the next question I had was that there is you know, there is I'm sure you're familiar with people like Patricia Crone have written that there is this thing in Islam. There is a kind of a freelance enforcement of good and bad that people are. The ideal is that the individual Muslim should go out and stop wrongdoing and promote virtue. And he doesn't have to wait for the state to step in. Right. He can stop.
If someone is playing music and music is prohibited in Islam, then in the eyes of many theologians, it would be perfectly legitimate for me as an ordinary Muslim to go and break those musical instruments. This idea is not sort of the creation of Vezzali, right?
It was the idea is, of course, that what would you say to an argument that the earlier phase is more a phase when there were not these areas were not majority Muslim, they were sort of dependent on earlier Christian and Persian bureaucrats and so on. And their population was not was heavily non-Muslim. So this didn't play out fully. But as time went on and these people converted this idea that the seed was always in there and obviously this is a kind of essentialism, how would you sort of reject this?
So thank you for this question. In fact, will help the historical discussion to contemporary issues, because many things we cover so far, they can be seen by our audience as history. But ideas, those ideas you mention, are still very alive today and very influential. So Patricia Crone had a call to Michael Cook and Michael Cook wrote a very famous book on Emeril Maruf and National Maneker, which is commending the right for building the evil or forbidding the Bette.
So in Islam, this is an important principle, and according to Mutasa, the rationalist philosophers, this is one of the five pillars of Islam and would have been modifying the Hannaman, commending the good, forbidding the evil. And you can see it as a good aspect of civil society, because, for example, if you see someone hitting a woman or a man. Or robbing a person. As an individual, Islam says you have a responsibility, you have to call nine one one if it is life and threat issue, you can't even physically intervene to protect the victim.
So this is a horrible out of nano and this is the command good and forbidding the evil in what in one sense, because Michael could start the book with two anecdotes, very striking in one anecdote. In one country, a woman was raped and no one helped her. Then he says this is wrong, someone should intervene. Then the other anecdote is about Abu Hanifa and a gold simit goldsmith came to Hunniford and he was a student in his circles in addition to being a rich merchant.
And this cold cement merchant says, Yeah, I just thought about Hunniford. I am going to tell the governor, the governor this. He is corrupt and he persecute the people. I will face the truth on. I will tell the truth on his face. Then I if I don't do it, he will get you killed. But he doesn't listen, he didn't listen, even if I went to the governor and spoke the truth on his face and thinking that that's admirable, mother and commending the good and forbidding they will, then unfortunately, the government just governor, get him killed.
So this is a very complex thing. But in the writings of Khazali and Mayawati there, there is a very misleading interpretation of this complex principle. What are they saying, according to Malverde, who lived 30 years before Ghazali in, again, 11 century, figured an important Muslim judge and jurist who wrote one of the two books about caliphate and still, whether it's translated to many languages, very influential book. And it's a very political and politicized book because they are basically commissioned him to write the book in order to justify the position of a basic caliph's.
And in that book, Mamady says that at the state, the Califf, in fact, is supposed to appoint people to do this duty, commending the right. And it's like the morality police. Saudi Arabia had until very recently and I think recently abolished this morality police, Iran and Malaysia still have. And I think it's very notaris because people on the streets calling themselves morality police, they intervene the way you dress. If you are a woman in Iran and your hair is not appropriately covered, they intervene.
And in Malaysia, I know some cases that they intervene to two men staying in the same hotel room. They intervene and say that is always is forbidden. You can't do that. Isn't that you be arrested. And long story. So that's the Muoi version, that the state appoint official people to conduct morality in order to comment to. God forbid they will. But we are not talking about crime. It's not a crime, but we are talking about morality.
If this morality police regard your, let's say, smoking or holding hand of men to women and they enter into your life, even if it's not, you are not committing a crime, this is definitely an illiberal this definitely doesn't give space to people have their freedom. Ghazali is slightly different and I think more dangerous than Mahuad, because in eHow limiting in his very famous Book of Revival of Religious Sciences, Khazali says you don't need government appointments. Each and every Muslim has the duty to intervene.
And he gives examples with the very shocking examples.
For example, if you see your father drink alcohol as a child, you have the duty to intervene and physically intervene, not only verbally, both physically and destroy the Bodil's, unless you are deeply afraid of being beaten by your father, etc..
So and where does this idea lead us? Unfortunately, in Pakistan five days ago, a fanatic killed a mentally ill person who claimed to be a prophet in the courtroom. And many in Pakistan, maybe thousands, I'm not sure were on the street yesterday, I guess was cheerful, celebrating the murder, thinking that the killer committed something good. And perpetrated a Muslim duty. There is no need to explain how wrong this idea and this attitude is. And Ghazali has many examples, for example, if you are invited to a dinner and you serve a plate, you know, and if the plate has a bird, you are supposed to destroy the bird decoration in the plate because in Islam and the painting and sculpture of animals etc is haram.
So you are supposed to destroy it. So I'm very sorry to talk about these things because the audience may think that Ghazali is a medieval fanatic, etc.. No, I have deep respect. I have many, perhaps more than 100 citations to Gazal his writings. He was a genius, very smart man. For example, one of his interesting ideas is that he talks about Christians in Byzantine Empire, what will happen to them in the hereafter. And he says that these people in Byzantine Empire, these Christians, they don't know the truth of the matter, but they were taught that Muhammad was a bad person.
Therefore, they are not responsible and they will have salvation in the hereafter. So this is an interesting idea that even today, many reforms they don't dare to say so. You can find many interesting ideas in his books. He was a clever and knowledgeable man, but certain ideas he defended unacceptable. We have to totally reject them. Otherwise, it is not thinkable to have a democracy in a society ruled by these ideas. Right, but that brings us to the you know, the blasphemy and apostasy means, and I know this is mentioned in your book as well, that these are sort of the weapons that have been used to impose this orthodoxy on everyone right on shut down discussion in the public sphere.
And I realize that in Turkey, actually things were a little bit different. But growing up in Pakistan, I can tell you that it's not just the state the ordinary citizens would not. As you saw, this man went to the courtroom and shot someone. That's a real risk and it's over things that would appear to be very trivial to outsiders. You can be killed for that. This is very unfortunate and besides my book, a few months ago, I wrote a specific article and the conversation that come and many newspapers in the US, in the city are reproduced article with the title of Why Blasphemy is a capital offense in many Muslim majority countries.
And starting with Pakistan, I analyze all Muslim majority countries. And in the world today, the Muslim countries are the only one not out of 49 Muslim majority countries.
But that doesn't have the capital punishment for either apostasy or blasphemy or both. And there is no other country.
You can have a Christian majority. You can have a Buddhist majority country with such a law.
And the law has some historical backgrounds, as I explain, in addition to be related to modern politics, because Islamism is an ideological movement which emerged as a reaction to secularism and other ideologies and practices in the Muslim world, starting with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey. In 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, the dominant mood was very secular. Just remember the leaders Ataturk in Turkey, mom went to Russia and then Russia and then mom and Russia in Iran, then the boss regime in Syria and Iraq, including Assad and Saddam Hussein and others.
And then in Egypt, General Abdel Nasser and military generals in Algeria, Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, all the way to Indonesia. So, so hard nosed Fukada, Sukarno, Suharto and Bangladesh and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. So these are all Western style seculars.
And with a certain degree of deference, they were hostile or at least worried about public visibility of Islam. And these secular leaders made some mistakes, such as the headscarf ban in Turkey, in Tunisia, in some other cases, and these mistakes, these wrong authoritarian policies created the reaction and Islamists took advantage of this reaction. And they turn into a very influential moment in the last 30 years or so. And today, you see right wing conservatism is even influential in the United States.
Trump is now Donald Trump is now using Bible as a political instrument. And you have Putin in Russia, the formerly 80s Soviet Union major country. He's using the Orthodox Church as a political ally.
And in India now they are talking that Modi is going to make the foundation of a Hindu temple to replace the Bárbara Masjid 1990 to demolish. And about 2000 Muslims were killed. And it is now, unfortunately, the global trends and Islamists from the populous Islamist added one to a full theocratic Islamist Iranian mullahs. They are now taking advantage of the available conditions and they don't have much to offer in terms of socio economic development, in terms of signs, in terms of happiness, what they can offer.
They use oil money, unfortunately, 60 percent of the world's oil reserves are in Muslim countries. This is a curse and this will that aligns secular or Islamist autocrats are using this oil money to buy out people's loyalty. And in addition to that, they have discourses and rhetoric and what can they do? So in Turkey, for example, in order to cover up economic crises and other problems, Erdogan is now converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque. And in Pakistan, Zia ul Haq initiated these blasphemy laws.
He took the old colonial British law, added capital punishment, make it exclusively for Islam rather than any blasphemy against any religion.
And they use it as a popular rhetoric. But eventually, masses misunderstood things. And then the religious conservatism became deeper and deeper. And right now in Pakistan, I don't know how to solve this blasphemy problem. It's becoming a major obstacle to freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. But let me summarize saying that this has nothing to do with the Koran. This is just an interpretation based on a claim that these there are many scholars in the United States and elsewhere who emphasize that the Koran ask Muslims to leave.
If there is a specific verse. I quoted in my article saying that if you see people talking badly about the Koran mocking God's verses, just leave them until they change the topic. And it doesn't say that became an enemy of them, attacked them. Stop them. Just leave the conversation until they change the topic. And for Prophet Muhammad, there are several books I cited in my book and also in the article showing that Prophet never executed a person for apostasy or blasphemy.
There is only a single Hadith saying that kill the one who changed his religion. But if you take it literally. Even the person who moved from paganism to Islam, changing his religion right, there is an inconsistency in the literal meaning of today's and there is many problem in terms of Senate Rovi or the chain anyhow. So it's more political than religious, but there is a long history coming all the way from Ghazali. And Muslims need to be critical of this if we argue that Islam is the religion of peace.
But as you are probably familiar, the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in one of his books has a chapter about the intolerant minority getting its way over a flexible majority, that he makes it sort of a general rule that if the people who are determined to impose their will and the people who are relatively flexible, the flexible people can be the majority party to the will of the determined minority that will prevail. You are right. And then the minority, not only fanatics, but unfortunately they have even intellectual support.
You know, even in the United States. When I started to write my book, a very serious academics ask me not to write it because they are afraid of Islamophobia. And they say, Ahmed, if you document the problem of authoritarianism and socioeconomic underdeveloped in the Muslim world, more people will be Islamophobic.
My response to them was that covering up a reality is not a good solution.
And plus, I myself, I am a Muslim, and of course, I think Islamophobia is a problem. And in the book I criticize Islamophobia. But if there is a problem of violence or authoritarianism on the door in the Muslim world, as a scholar, I have to document the reality. I cannot negate the reality.
There are some scholars who are obsessed with post-colonial theory, and I think they misuse, Edwards said book Orientalism.
And they blame anyone who is critical of Muslim conditions as an Orientalist. And this became a cheap formula of just blaming anyone with a critical thought.
And there are some postmodern scholars who are too subjective and cultural relativism. They keep saying that what is development, what is development? And they say you cannot say one country is more developed and the other, but of course you can.
And my question to those postmodern scholars, why don't you go and live in Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia? If life is so subjective, why are you in Berkeley and in good American university campuses if everything is subject to right? Of course, there is an objective criteria of development and the development.
And even there are historians who claim that the Muslim intellectual decline never happen even gradually. So I don't argue I don't argue that it's a full fledged decline, zero production. Of course, there is a production even in Turkey, despite Erdogan's authoritarianism, there is some intellectual development in Turkey that's very normal.
But when we compare the intellectual development of the Ottoman Empire during the six centuries with the golden era, early Islamic sixth centuries from eight to 13. Ottomans was never supposed to produce more because they came after base uncertain legacy and in comparison to Europe, but we see that the early Islamic philosophy, even religious sciences, more classical, more critical, more creative than what Ottomans produced us. And when we compare the Ottomans with Europe, we see a major gap.
And let me conclude by saying that, for example, I have the estimated date of literacy rates in eighteen hundred Ottoman Empire. It was estimated to be one percent, whereas in Western Europe, literacy rate was estimated to be in eighteen hundred thirty one percent. And throughout the 18th century in the Ottoman Empire, the number of books published in Printing Press only 50000, whereas in Western Europe it was one billion. So therefore, let me conclude by saying that no need to deny that there is a problem.
No need to deny that historically, after the golden era, Muslims face a stagnation and it's time to engage with serious dialogue and conversation to understand this phenomena in order to solve the problem. Solution is based on an honest engagement with the problem itself. So so, Dr. Drew, I have a question that in this modern world, at this stage in time, what what can be the relationship between Islam and democracy when we have these countervailing kind of traditions playing, playing within the modern Islamic nations between authoritarianism and then like you're describing the earlier times of Islam, when it was much more diffuse in terms of its power and and more holistic.
Where do you see current Islamic nations or current Muslim engagement with a democratic majority countries to play out? So, you know, in social science, a major question we all try to grapple with is the relationship between structure and agency. So structurally right now, I think the major issue is oil. Rent your economic system in most of Muslim countries and a major Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and other rich countries are all using oil money. And in terms of the future prospects.
I am waiting and expecting a decline in this structural condition because of the Stone Age and that before the end of stones and oil, age will end before the depletion of oil, there will be a new technology to replace it. Even if we don't have the technology, the oil will eventually be depleted.
And even if it's not depleted, the domestic consumption will increase in countries like Saudi Arabia because of the increasing population growth, it will be more difficult to find oil found a social welfare services with the declining oil revenue. So these are the structural expectation and the declining oil means declining ulamas, state airlines, because neither Obama nor state is a productive class. They always need a fund. Their rent and rent is now coming from oil. I'm expecting a long term decline which may give more chance for Muslims structurally for democratization so than in terms of.
Yeah, sorry. So sorry to interrupt you. So I just want to ask a question here that's connected to this. So are you talking just about the oil rich countries or are you talking about the entire Lamba across the world is dependent upon this oil economy.
They are related because out of forty nine Muslim majority countries to any one of them are oil rich and the twenty eight either have some level of oil or they receive money from oil rich countries.
Look, even Turkey, a country as big as Turkey, is receiving substantial money from a country as small as Qatar. So there is a direct connection between them and these oil rich countries dominated the region. Saudi Arabia dominate Yemen and other neighbors. And Iran has definitely an influence. But even if there is no oil like Turkey, will amongst that alliance either receive money from outside international law or they are selling Istanbul's land piece by piece as a source of rent.
And this is not sustainable in terms of agency. So that's a structure in terms of agency. What Muslim Democrats or those who want democracy in Muslim countries should do is that we should not be afraid of challenging religious ideas if there appear to be authoritarian because many Muslims are afraid of criticizing or torching ideas, saying that I may be called as a infidel, I may go to hell, I may be seen as not a good Muslim, but no. One, make it really one cannot be a real intellectual if the person doesn't engage with it, and we need to take the risk to engage with such discussions in order to really challenge authoritarianism, because there are certain Autogen ideas every Friday in the mosque, they are recited.
And even if the Democrats are majority, they keep silent. They are afraid. And the small phonetic minority dominate. As you are just mentioning this question, rightly so in terms of making a Democratic possibility.
As an agent, I myself wrote this book, for example, so that I as an academic, that's what I could do. And let me tell you that I receive very positive feedback.
And from readers in Indonesia, in Iran, in Turkey, in Malaysia, in India, I am receiving many email messages. And right now the book is being translated to Indonesian Arabic. And in the future, it's in the pipeline for Persian and Bosnian and hopefully later in Turkish. So there's this showed me that there are many young people who are Muslim, but at the same time want to see a compatibility of Islam, development and democracy. And my book, in fact, argues that Muslims do not have to imitate the West.
If they want a model, they should look at their early history. And if Salafis, for example, argue that we have to go back to real Islam and this is real Islam, this is the early Islam, this is the 11th century Islam, instead of the post 11 century ulamas that airlines mostly presenting as a Persian society and government model, why don't we look at the earliest diversity and early Islamic multicultural coexistence and intellectual dynamism? That's that's the optimistic part of my book, saying that Muslims had a model.
They just need a renaissance of remembering what they had in early history of themselves.
So I guess I guess my question my follow up to that would be to part. So what do you think of the Arab Spring then? The Arab Spring kind of seemed like it was supposed to be a movement towards this democratic establishment. But maybe do you think it was maybe a false start, given the nature of what the the Middle East and the global environment was at the time? And I guess secondly is and my follow up would be, how does how does your book relate to the many calls that we see across the world right now about the conversation about the reform of Islam, or is it all connected?
And let me briefly answer the first question. I visited both Egypt and Tunisia and conducted interviews in about three weeks in combination in two countries. And I think Tunisia is a relative success story of Arab Spring and Egypt is a failed story. And then the explanations can be in three points. First, in the Egyptian case, there was the presidential system winner take all, whereas in Tunisia parliamentary system and then in Egypt, if one Muslim and Muslim Brotherhood try to capture everything and dominate, then they lost everything.
Whereas in the case of Tunisia, not the true lama, sorry, not not Islam. Ennahda, an accepted coexistence with two secular parties and coalition, and Rachid Ghannouchi, their leader, not and not the leader, was very open minded on this issue. That makes a major difference. Second, in Egypt, Muslim Brothers were obsessed with the idea of putting Sharia courts in the Constitution and they ally with Salafis to get the constitution passed. That was a major mistake, whereas in Tunisia, Ainata never put it in the Constitution.
I interview Ghannouchi. He told me that I lived in Britain. Britain didn't even have a constitution. I really don't think we have to polarize the country by imposing the idea of shit in the Constitution and establish alliances with seculars. Last but not least, Muslim Brothers. I interviewed their leaders. Most of them were engineers or medical doctors, whereas Ainata had been. Many social scientists and philosophers, I think intellectually, Tunisians were more ready, at least Islamist, in comparison to Muslim Brothers.
That's the first question. And can you repeat me? Can you remind me what was the second question?
Yeah, the second question relates more to, you know, especially now in the West and I imagine in other parts of the world, there is this huge dialogue or conversation piece by mostly non-Muslims talking about where is the Muslim reform movement is and how does that connect to. So my question is, how does that particular question connect to the work that you've done and what do you think if there is a connection?
Yeah, thank you. So when it comes to Islam and politics, it's all about interpretation, because in the Koran, there is only one verse, Lululemon Mincome, which says follow those who have authority among you. What does authority mean in early Islamic history that the verse was interpreted in a Broadway, meaning that those who have wisdom, those who have education, those who have expertise. But after the 11th century, Mayawati and others emphasize state and remain calm means those who have state authority among you follow them.
And then in the 13th century, been Thamir Cayman's says Lululemon. Minkin refers to Ulmarra and Alema Alema and the state authorities or ulamas state alliance, in my terminology. I think what we have to do in terms of reforming Islam's relations with politics, we have to look at the historical origin, understand the geneology and show the people that this is not the message of the Koran, but this is just a historical interpretation and multiple interpretations are possible.
OK, we are almost out of time. We could go on much longer with Professor CORU and I hope we can get you on again at some point or guru to talk about some topics we did not touch, especially Turkey and Turkish politics. We are interested in hearing from a Turk and a scholar what he thinks of that. But we are already out of time, so I think we'll end it here and hope to do that in a future podcast. Thank you very much for joining us.
It was a very, very interesting and very informative discussion, and I hope our listeners enjoy it as well. And we look forward to talking to you again.
Thanks for having me. It was my pleasure. Tune in next week for Brown Cast.