Even Angels Ask! Corruption of Public Discourse in Islamic Countries

Most often commentary on the problems of reforming Islamic societies are led by lawyers, theologians, orientalists and philosophers- only rarely you hear from economists. I would recommend reading Timur Kuran and Albert Hirschman.

In the following quote Kuran tries to explain one of causes of the problem (Islam and Mammon, by Timur Kuran, p.143-144);

“The relevant mechanisms are developed in my book Private Truths, Public Lies, though within a general context rather than the particular one of Islamic civilization. It shows how inefficient social structures can survive indefinitely when people privately supportive of change refrain from publicizing their dispositions. The motivation for such preference falsification is the desire to avoid the punishments that commonly fall on individuals who enunciate unpopular public positions. One of its by-products is the corruption of public disclosure. This is because of individuals choosing to misrepresent their personal wishes will also, to keep others from seeing through the falsification, conceal their perceptions and knowledge pointing to the desirability of change. It follows that unpopular structures sustained through preference falsification might, if the conditions last long enough, achieve increasingly genuine acceptance. The transformation would occur partly through population renewal: in the absence of criticisms of the status quo, the society’s new members would fail to discover why change might be beneficial. The argument applies to both the privileged and the underprivileged. If public disclosure treats a social structure as optimal, even its victims may fail to see how its destruction would improve their lives.”

So the real issue becomes how do we move away from the vicious equilibrium caused by the bandwagon effect under which preferences and ideas inimical to the status quo remain unexpressed? Edmund Burke was right after all- the only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

Related Podcasts;

Spiritual Classics: Islam- The Qur'an is the holy text of Islam, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, and taught by his Companions and Successors. Contemporary interpreters like Abdullah Saeed see signs of flexibility in the Qur'an itself and believe its ethico-legal content should be interpreted within a modern context. From New York, Reza Aslan discusses key concepts in the historical development of Islam. And Canadian author Irshad Manji looks to 8th century Islam for a liberal precedent. Abdualla Saeed is a Maldivian national.

What is Enlightenment? In 18th century Europe, the Enlightenment was a great movement of thought valuing freedom of expression and the pursuit of knowledge. But was it, in fact, rather narrow? Did it close off as many possibilities as it opened? This week we hear from an enemy of the Enlightenment, the Australian philosopher James Franklin


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 31, 2006 11:52 PM.

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