Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison

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By Policy Punchline and Princeton University. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
In his 2019 book "Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison," Prof. Ahmet Kuru tackles the question of why Muslim-majority countries have historically exhibited high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socio-economic development in comparison with the rest of the world. He rejects the two mainstream views of essentialism, which says that Islam is the root of this phenomenon, and anti-imperialism, which says that Western colonization is the reason for historical and modern problems in Muslim-majority countries. In this interview, we discuss a broad range of topics related to Islam and democracy in the Middle East. We focused particularly on Turkey, Dr. Kuru’s home country - discussing what it was like to grow up with a father heavily involved in politics, to Erdogan’s response to the coronavirus, to Dr. Kuru’s hopes and predictions for the future of Turkey’s democracy. We also discussed in great depth the ulema in Muslim-majority democracies, the class of religious scholars who have great public authority due to their ability to interpret sacred texts of Islam written—the Quran and the hadiths (reports about the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad). Dr. Kuru insightfully explained his view of how the ulema have grown in power and influence over the last few centuries, in many countries exerting significant influence over the political elite. Dr. Kuru sees the ulema-state partnership as one that is mutually beneficial, and we delved into what both parties can gain and lose from this sometimes contentious relationship. Some questions we tackled were: - Can religion and science coexist? Or is there a need for some other unifying force than Islam? - Why does Prof. Kuru think so many scholars on the topic of Islamism have remained stuck in the camps of the essentialist approach or the post-colonial approach? Have other scholars been accepting of his new approach? - Prof. Kuru argues that the ulema-state alliance, or the alliance between the government and the religious elite, sought to undermine the influence of the independent intellectual and bourgeois classes, which contributed to the economic, cultural, and intellectual stagnation of Muslim-majority countries. Why are the intellectual and bourgeois classes so important to social and economic development? Full bio: Dr. Ahmet Kuru is the Bruce E. Porteous professor of Political Science at San Diego State University in California. He a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington. He is the winner of the Jervis-Schroeder Book Award from the American Political Science Association with the release of his book Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison. He has previously co-edited Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey, and authored Secularism and State Policies Towards Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey.

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