Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Crises of Islam

One of this week's readings, The Economist's Special Report on the Arab World, was very insightful. The Report highlighted many problematic areas in the "Arab World" that The Economist pointed out might hinder the Arab world from modernizing and democratizing any further.

One of the major problems highlighted in the article is that Western imperialism has damaged and retarded the economic and political growth of the Middle East. Western colonialism and imperialism did this by carving out borders in the region, exploiting resources, and supporting puppet regimes, all the while ignoring any need for democracy (which the Western nations had for themselves). I think that this was (and still is) a very large problem: Western nations were the first nations to move from agrarian societies to urban societies, thus democratizing and liberalizing. So, the Western nations/societies were the first to "modernize," while the Middle East is still painfully trying to catch up. (And this is a "crisis of Islam" (i.e. the Islamic world).)

One thing that I found surprising was the fact that most of the Arab world is under the age of 25. I wonder what the repercussions of this fact will be. Will these young Arabs look fondly upon the United States (and the rest of the Western world)? Will they push for more modernization and liberalization?

-Stefan Larson


  1. It is an interesting question, and I don't know if there is a definitive answer. Because many Western nations are the example of modernization, Arabs may be more inclined to maintain their ideals and remain a society without state authority. The Bamyeh article talks about how old Islam did not have borders and whose states were marked by non-competitive, non-imperialistic natures. I'm not saying that Arabs have to be imperialistic, but rather trying to demonstrate the fundamental differences between Arab and Western cultures. To modernize and begin to match the Western model would be a sacrifice of thousands of years of unique Islamic ideals. It is possible that a shift among Arab youth to more relaxed religious practice will simultaneously lead to more modernization and liberalization set by Western standards.

  2. I agree with Jon - that's an interesting question. I'm also going to agree with him that it could go one of two ways: either the young Arabs will hold on even more fervently to their beliefs and ways of life, or they will indeed attempt to modernize. Personally, I think that they would be more inclined to modernize. I'm not sure that that directly corresponds to liberalization though. I think it's likely that those Arabs who most wish to retain their way of life will not as avidly participate in politics, which leads me to believe (and hope) that even if the young Arabs do not agree with the culture of the West, they will still look favorably and respectfully upon us.