07 Mar '11, 4am

Is Islam really the problem in the Middle East?

A wise visitor from outer space who dropped in on Earth a millennium ago might have assumed that the Americas would eventually be colonised not by primitive Europeans but by the more advanced Arab civilisation - and that as a result we Americans would all be speaking Arabic today. Yet after about the year 1200, the Middle East took a long break: It stagnated economically and today it is marked by high levels of illiteracy and autocracy. So as the region erupts in protests seeking democracy, a basic question arises: What took so long? And a politically incorrect question: Could the reason for the Middle East's backwardness be Islam? The sociologist Max Weber and other scholars have argued that Islam is inherently a poor foundation for capitalism and some have pointed in particular to Islamic qualms about paying interest on loans. But that does not seem right. Other experts ...

Full article: http://www.todayonline.com/Commentary/EDC110307-0000135/I...

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