Many of the arguments heard since September 11 have invoked the economic underdevelopment of the Islamic world to explain why so many Muslims appear angry at the West and particularly at the United States. Economic globalization has benefited the West and harmed vast segments of the Islamic world, it is said. Some add that Islam has exacerbated the conflict by transforming economic grievances into mistrust of Westernization, even into antagonism to modernity. This hostility is consistent, we are told, with the emergence of an Islamic banking system and with Al-Qaeda’s use of hawala, an old Middle Eastern credit delegation instrument, to finance its deadly operations.
Other observers, trying to counter the perception that such acts of economic separatism represent broad trends, note that mainstream Islam has been, and remains, supportive of markets, technological creativity, and material prosperity. Nothing in Islam conflicts with economic development or global economic integration, say the latter group of commentators. The nineteen Arab hijackers of September 11 hardly spoke for the millions of Muslims who yearn to participate in the global economy as equals.
Whatever their inconsistencies, none of these interpretations can be dismissed out of hand. Each captures important truths that we ignore at our peril.
Read Kuran’s full essay here.