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Responding to the “Prophet Motive”

AAA member, Daromir Rudnyckyj, responds to John Cassidy’s article “Prophet Motive“. The article, featured in The New Yorker on February 28 of this year, asked if Islam was to blame for the lagging economies of the Arab countries:

John Cassidy, documenting the debate over the relationship between Islam and capitalism, labels those who see a contradiction between the two as new Weberians (“Prophet Motive,” February 28th). Max Weber argues that the spirit of capitalism is the outcome of Protestant ethics: hard work, self-discipline, confidence in one’s own salvation, and worldly action guided by rationality.

Read Dr. Rudnyckyj’s entire letter in today’s issue of The New Yorker. His letter is reflective of his new book Spiritual Economies:

The letter is a heavily condensed summary of my book, Spiritual Economies. The book intervenes into the long scholarly debate over the compatibility of Islam and capitalism, which was most recently revived in Timur Kuran’s new book The Long DivergenceSpiritual Economies provides a striking ethnographic counterpoint to Professor Kuran’s economism.  Whereas he argues that Islam inhibited capitalist development historically, Spiritual Economies shows how Muslims today in Southeast Asia and beyond are seeking to reinterpret Islamic doctrine, history, and tradition to make their religion compatible with capitalism. 

Click here for further details about Rudnyckyj’s latest book.

“I Saw God in Tahrir”

We welcome a third post by guest blogger Yasmin Moll. Yasmin shares additional insight from Cairo, Egypt. Thank you Yasmin!

Many commentators both inside and outside Egypt have focused on the anticipated role of the Muslim Brotherhood in a post-Mubarak Egypt. In many of these analyses, the Brotherhood is used as a metonym for the projected role of Islam in the public sphere. However, while the Brotherhood will certainly play a formative role in post-revolutionary politics and governance in Egypt, it does not have a monopoly on Islamic discourse in the country. 

Other important Islamic actors are Islamic televangelists, the most famous being Amr Khaled. Banned from preaching in Egypt in 2002, Amr Khaled has over the past decade utilized private Islamic satellite channels and cyberspace as platforms to connect with millions of Muslim youth in Egypt and beyond. According to the BBC  “his television shows get more viewers than Oprah Winfrey, his videos have racked up 26m hits on YouTube, and he boasts two million fans on Facebook.”

Indeed, self-described moderate Islamic televangelists (al-duaa al-mutawasitoon) like Amr Khaled, Mustafa Hosni and Moez Masoud enjoy a popularity and credibility with ordinary Muslim youth in Egypt that is hard to match.  While the official religious establishment of Al-Azhar shied away from supporting protesters in Tahrir and elsewhere on the eve of the January 25th Revolution, many of Egypt’s most prominent televangelists were vocal in their support of thawrat al-shabab (the youth revolution). And throughout the uprising and after, their catchwords have been tolerance (tasamuh) and co-existence (ta’ayush).

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