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The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class Is the Key to Defeating Extremism (Council on Foreign Relations Books (Free Press))

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Leading authority on the Islamic world and influential advisor to the Obama administration Vali Nasr shows that the West’s best hope of winning the battle against Islamic extremists is to foster the growth of a vibrant new Muslim middle class. This flourishing of Muslim bourgeoisie is reshaping the mind-set, politics, and even the religious values of Muslims in much the sa Leading authority on the Islamic world and influential advisor to the Obama administration Vali Nasr shows that the West’s best hope of winning the battle against Islamic extremists is to foster the growth of a vibrant new Muslim middle class. This flourishing of Muslim bourgeoisie is reshaping the mind-set, politics, and even the religious values of Muslims in much the same way the Western bourgeoisie lead the capitalist and democratic revolution in Europe. Whereas extremism has grown out of the dismal economic failures of the authoritarian Islamic regimes, Nasr explains, the wealth and aspirations of this Islamic “critical middle” put them squarely at odds with extremism. They have ushered in remarkable transformations already in Dubai, Turkey, and Indonesia, and they are the key to tipping the balance in both Iran and Pakistan. As he writes “the great battle for the soul of the Muslim world will be fought not over religion but over market capitalism.”


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Leading authority on the Islamic world and influential advisor to the Obama administration Vali Nasr shows that the West’s best hope of winning the battle against Islamic extremists is to foster the growth of a vibrant new Muslim middle class. This flourishing of Muslim bourgeoisie is reshaping the mind-set, politics, and even the religious values of Muslims in much the sa Leading authority on the Islamic world and influential advisor to the Obama administration Vali Nasr shows that the West’s best hope of winning the battle against Islamic extremists is to foster the growth of a vibrant new Muslim middle class. This flourishing of Muslim bourgeoisie is reshaping the mind-set, politics, and even the religious values of Muslims in much the same way the Western bourgeoisie lead the capitalist and democratic revolution in Europe. Whereas extremism has grown out of the dismal economic failures of the authoritarian Islamic regimes, Nasr explains, the wealth and aspirations of this Islamic “critical middle” put them squarely at odds with extremism. They have ushered in remarkable transformations already in Dubai, Turkey, and Indonesia, and they are the key to tipping the balance in both Iran and Pakistan. As he writes “the great battle for the soul of the Muslim world will be fought not over religion but over market capitalism.”

30 review for The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class Is the Key to Defeating Extremism (Council on Foreign Relations Books (Free Press))

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class is the Key to Defeating Extremism by Vali Nasr, is a look at development models in the Middle East with an eye on promoting Capitalism, growing the middle class and combating anti-Western thought. The book looks at the development of states like the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and so on, while critiquing the models adopted in Iran and Pakistan. Nasr comes from a pro-market standpoint, arguing against government intervention in econ The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class is the Key to Defeating Extremism by Vali Nasr, is a look at development models in the Middle East with an eye on promoting Capitalism, growing the middle class and combating anti-Western thought. The book looks at the development of states like the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and so on, while critiquing the models adopted in Iran and Pakistan. Nasr comes from a pro-market standpoint, arguing against government intervention in economic growth in the Middle East, decrying anti-American sentiment in Arab states, and railing against public sphere "wrongheadedness" throughout the region. Nasr's book was strong on rhetoric, but not on cohesion. He is full of praise for the United Arab Emirates for its business first model, and praiseworthy of the strong business environment fostered by its world class bureaucrats. This developmentalist model is strongly supported in the text, even though Nasr is loudly anti-government throughout the text. He decries Iran's centralist tendencies, for example, but praiseworthy of countries like Singapore and South Korea, all states that developed under centralist regimes. His message throughout the book in regards to development is inconsistent and blatantly pro-market. He talks up the UAE's growth model under its ruling class, but decries government led growth in general. This inconsistent message is prevalent throughout the book, showing not only the inconsistency of Nasr's message, but the overall confusion regarding the necessity for a strong governmental and state led framework to encourage business activity. Pro-Market reforms come after development, not before. This does not mean centralist or authoritarian, but a strong bureaucratic backing is required to ensure a stable business climate and a marketplace that is free of instability and insecurity. Nasr looks deeply at Iran and Pakistan as the lost children of the Middle East. These nations have large amounts of resources, large populations, and the ability to focus on market-led reforms to stock growth. He is critical of both states militarism, with Iran's focus on regional adventurism and Pakistan's need to have a strong military counter to India, both criticized as wasteful. Although there is some truth here, the geopolitical reality of each state's existence does not lend credit to his argument. Both state's wish to be regional players, and both are beset by hostile powers (Iran with the United States, Pakistan with India). Although I do not agree with any form of military adventurism, there is a realism here that Nasr is missing. Finally, Nasr looks at Turkey - at the time of the books publication a strong contender as a successful Islamic state with strong pro-market credentials. However, in recent years, this has not held true. Turkey has increasingly moved toward centralization as the instable region it inhibits, and internal struggles with extremist terrorist groups, Kurdish separatists, and Putchist elements threaten its stability. Turkey has moved considerably away from the progressive economic model presented in this book, and although interesting in a nostalgic way, Nasr's analysis here is no longer relevant. Actual Islamic Capitalism is touched on briefly in the books introduction, with the growth of Islamic-style funds and Banks examined. Organizations like the Kuwait Finance House are examined, and the Islamic style investment strategies, characterized by no interest (against traditional Islam) and the inability to engage in speculative financing examined. Nasr is critical of these funds inability to engage in risky speculative finance, and mentions this may kill their growth figures in the near future. It also, however, leads to a more stable growth rate. Nasr is sure that this style of investment is the key to combating extremism, as it leads to greater economic growth in the Middle East and opens up the potential for a pro-Western and consumerist middle class. To me however, this seems largely fanciful. The region is characterized by its unique social, cultural and political landscape, and largely anti-Western in its outlook. The Middle East is more likely to develop its own style of socio-political stability, as opposed to buying into Western growth models, especially after the damaging economic recession in 2008 and the growing populism of Western political systems. All in all, this was a disappointing read on an otherwise interesting topic. The book is weak in a number of regards. Its economic, political and historical analysis of Gulf States and Islamic republics is interesting, but shallow. It draws far too much on pro-market ideology to the point of contradicting itself in terms of state led development. It is almost delusional in its disregard for the importance of a strong system of governance to ensure a market friendly business framework. It offers interesting insights and criticisms, but requires an unhealthy dose of salt to stomach. Overall, Nasr's book falls short in terms of analysis, recommendations and rhetorical cohesion. It is also a tad outdated. All of this combined outweighs the interesting insights on states like Turkey, the UAE, Iran and Pakistan. I could recommend a skip on this book, although it has piqued my interest in the states covered, and I wish to read more in-depth books on similar topics soon.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hassaan Yousuf

    The best thing about this is Nasr’s audacity to publish this book in favor of Capitalism and free markets a few months after the global hub of capitalism pulled the biggest socialist act through $700 billion bailout of its banks to save the crumbling system. Where the then-Chairman of Federal Reserve of U.S. Alan Greenspan himself admits “a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defined how the world works”, Nasr’s book, on the other hand, resembles a typic The best thing about this is Nasr’s audacity to publish this book in favor of Capitalism and free markets a few months after the global hub of capitalism pulled the biggest socialist act through $700 billion bailout of its banks to save the crumbling system. Where the then-Chairman of Federal Reserve of U.S. Alan Greenspan himself admits “a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defined how the world works”, Nasr’s book, on the other hand, resembles a typical Economist article where every single piece on every article reaches the same solution which is more liberalization, more competition and more free market for everyone. Here are a few (other) major reasons for me to not like this book: 1.Islamic Capitalism or Capitalism in Muslim Countries: The Capitalism he talks about in Dubai, Turkey, or in part in Pakistan is not Islamic Capitalism but Capitalism in Islamic/Muslim countries. Just because a Muslim is doing something does not make it Islamic; for that, it has to abide by the Islamic laws. Hence you cannot have Islamic prostitutes but prostitutes who are Muslim. Nasr tries to differentiate capitalism in Islamic countries from that in West by talking about Islamic banks but mere removal of interest from a business does not make it Islamic; there are many other conditions laid out and abiding by them all will not make it Islamic Capitalist system but the Islamic system. It would be silly to think that everything all Muslims ever do is according to Islam. In the movie Dawn of Planet of the Apes, Ceaser thought all apes including Koba are good and look where that got him. Similarly the chapter “The Great Islamic Revolution” should be “The Great Revolution by Muslims”. 2. Biased Writing and Selective Information: It is just painful to read how hard Nasr has tried to portray Iran as a bad guy, it almost seemed like I am reading the transcript of a BBC news anchor. He introduces Ahmadinejad as the man who played all-knowing teacher, whose logic is seldom convincing and who makes a great show of living in his family’s humble house. And all that is just from one page of the book. Way to turn positive into negatives man. It also seemed like he bent some Islamic concepts to prove his point for example to support capitalism he quoted ‘opening a factory in Islam is considered a worship’. However it depends upon the purpose of opening the factory hence if it is a sweatshop or it produces alcohol, it might not be considered a worship. Some of his points are outrageous coming from a Muslim. He terms growing beard, shaving upper lip and wearing throbe (ankle-length shirt) as Fundamental extremism whereas Muslims do these things to follow the Sunnah of their Prophet. What is next? Classifying five-time prayer as too extreme? 3. The Cute Logic: Here is the logic of Nasr’s argument: It is Islamic Capitalism because it is practiced in Muslim Countries. Dubai has Muslim population in majority (although the sheikh of Dubai is not even that Islamic but let’s not discuss that since it will defeat the case). Boom in tourism, finance and transportation among other sectors gave rise to consumerism in Dubai and it prospered (even though consumerism is discouraged in Islam). Hence Islamic Capitalism is good. Iran has Muslim population in majority. It has had evil rulers who are Fundamentalists and have not freed the markets which is why Iran has a bad economy (and it does not have to do anything with the trade sanctions that U.S. has imposed and or any external pressures but only the evil fundamentalist rulers). So see Islamic Capitalism must have worked better in that state. Osama Bin Ladin was a Fundamentalist. Look what he did. Fundamentalism is bad. 4. True Islamic System: Islamic commercial system is neither Capitalistic nor Socialist but Islamic. Where on one extreme Adam Smith suggests that all men should be free to make money no matter how while on the other extreme Karl Marx awards everything to the State, Islam does not support either of these extremes no matter how hard Nasr tries to bend the Islamic quotes and laws. Islam has its own system on commerce which can be better explained by someone who has deep knowledge of the subject not this author who terms Sunnat dressing as extremist fundamentalism, who does not know the sawab of praying under scorching sun and who mocks the attempt of Islamic banks to do away with interest.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trey

    Skimmed it once I realized the point and analysis was more basic than I had hoped. Gives good snapshots of the political dynamics in each country, but is otherwise fairly superficial in its treatment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kalle Wescott

    Pretty interesting!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Parwez

  6. 4 out of 5

    JJ Gasteier

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gary Winslett

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  9. 5 out of 5

    Aries Setiadi

  10. 5 out of 5

    Harris

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad

  13. 5 out of 5

    Habib Ansari

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nightocelot

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tian Yeow

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mehmet Akif Koç

  17. 5 out of 5

    Madison

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steven Aiello

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fmbee

  21. 4 out of 5

    Srinivas Gainedy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Spenser A.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alfonso

  25. 4 out of 5

    Will

  26. 5 out of 5

    Veeler.Play

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dawood Ahmad

  28. 5 out of 5

    A

  29. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Alonso

  30. 4 out of 5

    Deepak

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