Showing posts with label under-performance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label under-performance. Show all posts

Under-Performance in the Muslim World

My essay on modernity challenge faced by Muslim world, written for online course

Constitutional Struggles in the Muslim World
by Dr Ebrahim Afsah

My task was

Write a well-argued, clearly structured exposition that addresses the following key points plus any other you deem relevant:
  • definition of under-performance (economic, social, military, etc.)
  • role of institutions
  • reasons for this negative trends, giving examples from different regions examined in weeks 2-9
  • role of political Islam or Islamisation campaigns in that process
  • countries/phenomena that the instructor highlighted as exceptions from this general trend and their recipe for relative success.

My essay:
Under-performance is failure by state organs to maintain the country's stability together with legitimacy. In countries with Muslim societies, the legitimacy of the government depends on the country's constitutional approach to Islam [1], though at a varying level. This creates a paradox at the first look, because Islam is a religion that regulates not only the worshiping methods but many further aspects of life, such as government and law and this fact leads to the idea that a country that provides for Islamic rule in its constitution would have to adopt a dogmatic system of law, based on non-disputable rules of Islam; so a constitutionally Islamic country cannot be governed with legal norms freely enacted according to the people's democratic choice.

This under-performance has several aspects. Though there is a common belief that Arabic countries are rich thanks to their resource of oil[2], there are two facts negating this belief: 1) not all, only some Arabic countries have rich sources [3] 2) Countries that have more natural sources are less productive, which is called resource curse[4]. The rent in these economies are spent for patronage, more than investment as it's the easiest and most attractive way of remaining in power in those countries.

Military aspect of under-performance is most severely felt in Arabic countries' struggle against Israel. In spite of the defeats, Arabic peoples have kept on believing that it is not a matter of size, budget etc., but only the governments' inability to perform the military actions properly. It is so common a problem that every group that held power in Egypt and Levant region were deposed by the popular majority following their defeat or insufficient attack against Israel.[5]

Social aspect of under-performance may be rated by the illiteracy and lack of democracy and other virtues in Muslim countries. Though these can be explained by the economic under-performance, there is also an argument that constitutional Islam, per se, prevents the social progress.

Role of Institutions
Just like in many under-developed countries, the Muslim countries tend to rely on their military as the most institutional organisation. This is natural in one way; armies are based on hierarchy and it is the easiest way to prevent individuals from seeking their own interests in spite of a collective interest; so armies become the, relatively, most institutions in Muslim countries.[6]

In most of these countries, armies act as protector of constitutional Islam, which makes their oppressive government easily legitimate. However, some countries' armies act as protector of the secularism, as in Turkey in 1999 [7], or at least a shield against fundamentalism, as in Egypt.

Therefore, having military as the only or the most remarkable institution of the nation is not caused by the interpretation of Islam. It is a natural result of the underdevelopment of the democratic institutions in the country.

The Islamic scholars also constitute important institutions in Muslim countries, though their way of organisation may vary much depending on the country, the relevant Islamic sect and the political environment. The common function of them is the fact that Muslim people seek not the governmental authority, but scholar review of Islamic scholars in governmental acts, examining whether the government works in compliance with law[8]. This is a more democratic way of legitimacy through constitutionalised Islam. Iran's new constitutional approach is promising about full democratisation of this examination process, where Islamic scholar's review about a legislative act is denied by the vast majority of votes, it is considered that the scholars are missing a point in interpreting Islam, since Islam cannot be against the people's necessities.[9]

Reasons of Failure
There are several reasons attributed to these failures. The first is the colonial period, which was suffered by almost all countries with Muslim population[10]. However this is not a strong argument. First, it has been so long time since the colonial period ended and many countries cannot still provide political legitimacy, because they are seen, by their people, nothing more than substitutes of the colonial powers, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.[11] Secondly, there are cases indicating a negative correlation. For example Malaysia, which has a significant history colonialism, is better in many aspects, than almost all, (maybe with exception of Turkey) other countries with shorter or lighter experience of colonialism.

The colonial period is also seen as and indirect source of the instability, considering the ethnic disintegration in the countries they left behind[12]. However, there are also cases disproving this. Firstly, Somali, as a rare post-colonial country with integral ethnic structure is also the worst country in terms of governmental performance; it is a failed state. When governmental stability cannot be maintained together with political legitimacy, even the tribes of the same ethnic origin may cause a civil war that collapses the state. On the other hand, there are model non-Muslim countries with multi-ethnic structure, such as Switzerland, Belgium etc. Once people of a country has a legitimate common history[13], the ethnic differences may be tolerated by good governance.

The failure of these states is also attributed to general nature of Islam, arguing that Muslim countries had stopped progress long before the colonial period. According to this argument, the religion of Islam prevents the people from making any advance of civilisation by its unchangeable nature stuck in centuries old collection of rules.[14] However, this is false in many aspects. Firstly Muslims are not the only group of people that fell behind the colonial powers; East Asian countries and non-Muslim sub-Saharan countries shared nearly the same fate. Secondly, there are many ways of interpreting Islam to create laws or to form a constitution. Being stuck in certain rules is not an essential nature of Islam.[15]

For relative success, each country must base its legitimacy on its own way of Islam. And this legitimisation must be constitutional and be limited to ensuring the people about non violation of Islam. It must not be used as an instrument of authority or dogmatism. Constitutional mechanisms balancing the Islamic jurisdiction's power may maintain the stability with legitimacy.

[1] Ebrahim Afsah, Constitution Making in Islamic Countries - A Theoritical Framework p. 40
[2] Daniel Atzori, The Political Economy of Oil and the Crisis of the Arab State System, p. 4
[3] Let us note that the term resource here does not solely refer to natural sources, but also foreign aids that are earned by chance of political opportunities, such as in Afghanistan and Sudan cases.
[4] Ebrahim Afsah, i.b.i.d., p. 5
[5] Third and sixth weeks' lectures
[6] Third week's lecture
[7] Second week's lecture
[8] Fifth week's lecture
[9] Nineth weeks's lecture
[10] Ebrahim Afsah, "Creed, Cabal, or Conspiracy - The Origins of the current Neo-Conservative Revolution in US Strategic Thinking", p. 1
[11] Clark Lombardi and Nathan J. Brown, Islam in Egypt's New Constitution, "Foreign Policy", December 13, 2012, p. 5
[12] Iza Hussin, Islam, Ethnicity and the Problem of Mixed Legality: Two Malaysian Cases, "Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law", 2010, p. 9
[13] As appositely suggested by Nietzsche
[14] Clark B. Lombardi, Designing Islamic Constitutions: Past Trends And Options For a Democratic Future, "International Journal of Constitutional Law" 2013, p. 2
[15] Ebrahim Afsah, Characteristics of a Sacred Law, "Journal of the History of International Law 10, 2008, p. 283

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