John Cassidy on Islam and Economies

Friday, February 25, 2011

New Yorker staff writer John Cassidy looks at whether Islam is responsible for the lagging economies of many Arab countries. His article โ€œProphet Motiveโ€ appears in the February 28 issue of The New Yorker.


John Cassidy

Comments [8]

Gail from Mamaroneck

I have a gorgeous silk jacket, light colored print including silver ink and a black silk lining. I've worn it several times and it needs to be laundered, but the dry cleaners I have brought it too--including green dry cleaners--have all said that the silver ink will come off if they clean it. Can I clean it by hand? If so, how?

Feb. 25 2011 01:43 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Ozzy

The countries that resisted western ideas and technologies declined and so were able to be conquered and colonized. China was one major example. But some countries, like Japan, and Turkey itself, which adapted western ideas and technologies were able to resist colonization. Those who adapt have a better chance to survive Those who resist change, have a worse chance.

Feb. 25 2011 12:42 PM
Leon Sirulnick from Manalapan NJ

At the NY Hall of Science in Flushing NY there is currently an excellent exhibition called 1001 Inventions which displays many of the creative scientific, monetary, health, surgical, trade, archectural, mathematical developments that were first invented by the early Muslims in the 12 century. There is also an award winning short film with F. Murray Abraham which introduces the exhibit.

Feb. 25 2011 12:41 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On bread subsidies, do you suppose those rulers tend to keep them low so they have some margin for raising them?

Feb. 25 2011 12:38 PM

I think Mr. Cassidy is missing a significant point. There is a totally asymmetrical relationship between the colonizers and the colonized. Centuries of smuggling the values and resources of Mid East by Brits and other colonizers made them richer and Mid Easterners poorer and less developed. Thus explaining all with the religion is sort or rewriting history.

Feb. 25 2011 12:35 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Well, the circumnavigation of the world by the Europeans, and the discovery of the Western Hemisphere, both undermined the need for land trading routes through the Muslim lands, is what catapulted the Europeans ahead. Many of the spices and other products could be grown in the Caribbean countries, with the use of slave labor, mostly from Africa, and it was no longer needed from the East. So the silk road declined in relevance, and the region declined into backwardness. IT is lucky that oil was discovered by the West, giving the Muslim countries another chance to regain a modicum of prosperity.

Feb. 25 2011 12:29 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The Christian and Muslim misinterpretation of the Hebrew Bible is what kept Catholic and Muslims behind for a long time. The Hebrew bible was referring to taking interest from ones "brothers." meaning friends and family. It was never meant to be interpreted as a wholesale ban on taking interest for business loans.Since CHristians referred to other Christians as "brothers" and Muslim referred to fellow Muslims as part of the "ummah" or community, then taking of interest was considered usurous. JEws were never constrained by this interpretation of the Biblical text. Hence, Jewish merchants and moneylenders often prospered and carried entire economies at times, especially in some Muslim lands for certain periods of time.

Feb. 25 2011 12:22 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I believe it is two major factors that have kept the Muslim world behind: (1) the ban on usury, or lending money for interest (e.g., banking), and (2) keeping women at home due to great fear of the possibility of adultery and the like.

Without the extension of credit at interest for business purposes, it makes risky business ventures nearly impossible. Interest has been called the Return On Risk, or ROR. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

As for keeping women from working outside the home, that makes family income relatively low, while increasing the number of mouths to feed to a high level.

Feb. 25 2011 11:55 AM

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