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The case for Islamocapitalism

Posted by Richard on June 21, 2006

Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol has an interesting essay about Islam and capitalism at TCS. Akyol observed that whether Islam is compatible with modernity is a hot question. He noted that the discussion of this question has tended to focus on political matters — pluralism, democracy, etc. — but that Islam’s relationship to what he called economic liberalism — the free market — also needed to be discussed.

Akyol argued that Islam is — or should be — friendly to capitalism, and he cited a number of reasons, including the example of Muhammad himself:

Indeed, when Prophet Muhammad was asked to fix the prices in the market because some merchants were selling goods too dearly, he refused and said, "only Allah governs the market." It wouldn’t be far-fetched to see a parallel here with Adam Smith’s "invisible hand." The Prophet also has many sayings cherishing trade, profit-making, and beauties of life. "Muhammad," as Maxime Rodinson put it simply, "was not a socialist."

Lots of interesting historical, religious, and philosophical information. I was especially interested in what he said about the roots of radical Islam (hint: they’re in Europe), the problem of usury and "Islamic banking," and the recent rise of "Islamic Calvinism" in Turkey. Read the whole thing.

My take? Religious belief is based on faith, not logic or empirical data. So it doesn’t matter whether Muhammad was in fact more of a capitalist or more of a socialist, and it doesn’t matter whether the Koran actually forbids all interest or only "excessive" interest. What matters is what most Muslims believe.

If such Muslims as Akyol, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad of the Minaret of Freedom Institute succeed in persuading enough of their co-religionists that Islam and capitalism are allies, then they will be allies. "Islamocapitalism" has kind of a nice ring to it.

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3 Responses to “The case for Islamocapitalism”

  1. Anonymous said

    Very interesting post. I’ve commented on the general subject on my blog as well, although just looking back now I can’t find an example more recent that November. I’m sure I’ll return to it. In any event, here’s a link to the November entry, which you may enjoy.

  2. Anonymous said

    Apparently, you won’t be able to use that as a link. And it was from October, not November. No matter. Just go to my site,, and navigate back to Oct. 10. The entries I made on the 2d and 3d of the same month are also pertinent.

  3. Anonymous said

    Islam is friendly to capitalism and the marketplace, but it has a problem with loans and interest, which might account for years of stagnation and lack of investment. While the West was prospering as interest compounded and the Church acceded to that – and business grew, Islam remained in the 16th Century banking-wise and economically.

    Maybe that’s why the elites of the Mid East send their cash to “grow” European banks and financial vehicles. Correct me if I’m totally wrong on this.

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