TCS Daily


By Mustafa Akyol - June 19, 2006 12:00 AM

Is Islam compatible with modernity? This has become a hotly debated question in the past few decades. Much of the discussion focuses on issues relating to political liberalism -- democracy, pluralism and freedom of thought. Another important dimension of modernity is, of course, economic liberalism. So we should also ask whether Islam is compatible with it, i.e. a free market economy, or, capitalism.

Most Islamists would reply to this question with a resounding "no!" Since they perceive Islam as an all-encompassing socio-political system, they regard capitalism as a rival and an enemy. The struggle against both communism and capitalism has been one of the standard themes in Islamist literature. Sayyid Qutb, the prominent ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, wrote a book titled Ma'arakat al-Islam wa'l-Ra's Maliyya (The Battle Between Islam and Capitalism) in 1951. At an Islamic conference held in the Spanish city of Granada on July 2003, attended by about 2,000 Muslims, a call was made to "bring about the end of the capitalist system."

However such radical rejections of the capitalist economy don't seem well-suited to the theological attitude and the historical experience of Islam towards business and profit-making. As a religion founded by a businessman -- Prophet Muhammad was a successful merchant for the greater part of his life -- and one that has cherished trade from its very beginning, Islam can in fact be very compatible with a capitalist economy supplemented by a set of moral values that emphasize the care for the poor and the needy.

Business, Zakat and the Koran

This interesting compatibility between Islam and capitalism has been studied extensively. A classic work on this theme is Maxime Rodinson's famed book, Islam and Capitalism (1966). Rodinson, a French Marxist, by appealing to the textual analysis of Islamic sources and the economic history of the Islamic world, demonstrated that Muslims had never had any trouble with making money. "There are religions whose sacred texts discourage economic activity in general," said Rodinson, "[but] this is certainly not the case with the Koran, which looks with favor upon commercial activity, confining itself to condemning fraudulent practices and requiring abstention from trade during certain religious festivals."

It is true that the Koran has a strong emphasis on social justice and this has led some modern Muslim intellectuals to sympathize with socialism and its promise of a "classless society." A careful reading of the Koran would work against such "Islamo-socialism." The Muslim Scripture takes it as a given that there will be rich and poor people in society and, in a sense, assures that disparity by actively supporting the rights to private property and inheritance. However it persistently warns the well-off to care for the deprived. Zakat is the institutionalized form of this compassion: Every rich Muslim is obliged to give a certain amount of his wealth to his poor brethren.

Zakat is a voluntary act of charity, not a collectivization of wealth by a central authority. According to scholars John Thomas Cummings, Hossein Askari and Ahmad Mustafa -- who co-authored the academic paper, "Islam and Modern Economic Change" -- "zakat is primarily a voluntary act of piety and a far cry from what most modern-day taxpayers experience when confronted with increased income levies or complicated regulations." Moreover, they add, "there is no particular Islamic preference for [a] Marxist emphasis on economic planning over market forces."

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."

The conceptual openness of Islam towards business was one of the important reasons for the splendor of medieval Muslim civilization. The Islamic world was at the heart of global trade routes and Muslim traders took advantage of this quite successfully. They even laid the foundations of some aspects of modern banking: Instead of carrying heavy and easily-stolen gold, medieval Muslim traders used paper checks. This innovation in credit transfer would be emulated and transferred to Europe by the Crusaders, particularly the Knights Templar.

So central was trade to Muslim civilization that its very decline may be attributed to changes in the pattern of global trade. When Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in November 1497 -- thanks in part to the astrolabe, invented by Muslims -- he opened a new chapter in world history, one in which global trade would shift from the Middle East and the Mediterranean to the oceans. Consequently the Arabic Middle East, which had been scorched by the Mongols two centuries before and could have never recovered anyway, entered deadly stagnation. The Ottoman Empire would excel for a few more centuries, but decline was inevitable. The loss of trade also meant the end of cosmopolitanism; this was followed by the rise of religious bigotry. While the early commentators of the Koran cherished trade and wealth as God's bounties, late Medieval Islamic literature began to emphasize extreme asceticism.

Muslim Calvinists?

If things had not gone wrong, the business-friendly character of Islam could have well put it into the historical place of Calvinism, which, as Max Weber persuasively argued, spearheaded the rise of capitalism. Weber himself wouldn't have agreed with this comment -- he saw Islam as a religion of conquerors and plunderers, not hard-working laborers. According to Weber, Islam was an obstacle to capitalist development because it could foster only aggressive militancy (jihad) or contemplative austerity.

But Weber, in his Confucianism and Taoism (1915), argued that China could never breed a successful economy, because its culture was too nepotistic. He was pretty pessimistic about Japan's potential for economic success, too! His analyses of these non-Christian civilizations failed because he assumed the perpetuity of their forms, and, in part, misread their histories. One of the greatest Turkish sociologists, Sabri F. Ülgener -- both a student and a critic of Weber -- wrote extensively about how he, despite his genius in analyzing the origins of capitalism in the West, misjudged Islam and overlooked its inherent compatibility with a "liberal market system."

Stuck on Usury

However this compatibility is not fully unproblematic. Among the aspects of modern capitalism, there is one particular bone of contention with Islam: interest. "Allah has permitted trade", the Koran commends, "and He has forbidden riba." And riba is generally translated as taking interest from money.

That's why modern Muslims have developed "Islamic banking" as an alternative to interest-based banking. This is, in fact, a transplantation of "venture capital" as it has been developed in the West; aspects of Islamic banking are adaptations of related services like leasing, partnership, mark-up financing and profit-sharing.

While Islamic banking allows capitalism without interest, some Muslims go further and ask whether riba really includes reasonable interest. This liberal interpretation dates to the 16th century in the Ottoman Empire. During the reign of the Suleiman the Magnificent, his Sheik-ul Islam (Head of Islamic Affairs), Ebusuud Effendi, granted permission for the collection of interest by foundations working for the betterment of the society. In modern times, there are many Muslim scholars who have reinterpreted riba. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, for example, argues that the term actually means any unconscionable overcharging, whether on an interest rate or a spot price. Charging a market rate of interest, he holds, does not constitute riba.

Whether reasonable interest is allowed or not, Islam's theological and historical attitude towards business is undoubtedly positive. "The alleged fundamental opposition of Islam to capitalism," as Maxime Rodinson put it, "is a myth."


If this is so, whence comes "the battle between Islam and capitalism" as envisioned by radical Islamists like Qutb?

The answer lies both in the asceticism of late Medieval Muslim thought, which remains alive today among many ultra-conservative Muslims, and in the un-Islamic origins of Islamic radicalism. The latter was born as an anti-colonialist, reactionary movement; its main aim has been to create a socio-political system to challenge and defeat the West. Since the West was built on democratic capitalism, Islamic radicals argued that its opponents must adopt an alternative political/economic vision. That's why the founding fathers of radical Islam -- such as Qutb and Mawdudi -- borrowed heavily from what Ian Buruma and Avi Margalit call "Occidentalism" -- an ideology with its origins in Heidegger's criticism of the West, adopted by Japanese fascists, the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge and, more recently, Al Qaeda and their ilk.

Yet for those Muslims whose lives revolve not around Occidentalism but around personal religiosity and a natural human desire for the good life, democratic capitalism seems quite well-suited.

Some striking examples of this phenomenon have emerged in Turkey in the past two decades. Turkey is not the richest country the Islamic world, but it is arguably the most developed. The richest are the oil-rich Arab nations, most of which, despite their petro-dollars, remain socially pre-modern and tribal. Regrettably, oil brings wealth, but it does not modernize. Modernization comes through rationality, which can be achieved only through organization, order, exchange, and risk-taking in pursuit of goals. The late Turgut Özal, one of Turkey's wiser Presidents, once said, "we are lucky that we don't have oil; we have to work hard to make money."

Özal was a pro-Western politician and a Muslim believer. His revolutionary, Reaganesque reforms during the 1980s transformed the Turkish economy from quasi-socialism to capitalism. In this new setting the conservative Muslim masses of Anatolia have found fertile ground for a socio-economic boom. Thanks to their astounding successes in business, they have been called "Anatolian Tigers." They constitute a new class that rivals the long-established, privileged, highly secularized and utterly condescending "Istanbul bourgeoisie."

The European Stability Initiative (ESI), a Berlin-based think tank, conducted an extensive study of the "Anatolian tigers" in 2005. ESI researchers interviewed hundreds of conservative businessmen in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri. They discovered that "individualistic, pro-business currents have become prominent within Turkish Islam," and a "quiet Islamic Reformation" was taking place in the hands of Muslim entrepreneurs. The term they used to define these godly capitalists was also the title of their report: "Islamic Calvinists."

The incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP), seems to be a political echo of this rising "Islamic Calvinism" in Turkey. Most AKP members come from business backgrounds and the party has been quite pro-business from its very first day. Its leader, Prime Minister Erdogan, has repeatedly welcomed foreign direct investment from all countries -- including Israel. Recently, in a speech given at an international Islamic conference, Mr. Erdogan called on Arab leaders to redefine the Islamic ban on interest and warned that Islamic banking could turn into a "trap" that might hinder development in the Muslim world. The more such voices are raised by Muslim leaders, scholars and intellectuals, the freer markets -- and minds -- will become in the broader Middle East.


Still, many Muslims -- in Turkey and elsewhere -- despise capitalism and perceive it as something both alien and destructive to Islam. Yet this is a misdirected disdain. When you look at anti-capitalist rhetoric in Muslim circles, you will see that it is focused on sexual laxity, prostitution, drugs, crime, or the general selfishness in Western societies. Yet these are not the inherent elements of capitalism, they would be better explained by the term "cultural materialism" -- the idea that material things are the only things that matter. Most Muslims who abhor capitalism simply confuse it with materialism.

Such worried Muslims would be quite surprised to discover that some of the most outspoken advocates of the free market in the West are also staunch defenders of religious faith, family values and the healthy role of both in public life. Unfortunately, the synthesis of democratic capitalism with Judeo-Christian values -- which is basically an American, not a European phenomenon -- is not well known in the Islamic world. The America of churches and charities is poorly represented in the global mass media. Quite the contrary, what most Muslims see as standard Americans are the unabashed hedonists of MTV and Hollywood.

In other words, not all capitalists are of the flock of Mammon. The more Muslims realize this, the less they will fear opening their societies to economic development and the more they will remember the Koranic command, "spread through the earth and seek God's bounty and remember God much so that hopefully you will be successful."

Then the world will be a much safer place -- for a morally-guided quest for capital is way more peaceful than a hate-driven "battle" against it.

Mustafa Akyol is a Turkish Muslim writer based in Istanbul, Turkey. His website is



Interesting article, but I still think islam is antithetical to real capitalism. If we define capitalism as a social system that emphasizes private property, free markets, and rule of law, no islamic country, even Turkey lives up to it.
Also, as a guy who spent several years in the 'muddle-east', what muslims publicly espouse is often not what exists in reality. Re the Zakat thing; not only do many of them not contribute, but many won't even pay their servants, and labourers. There is still a slave mentality.
Re the riba thing; they just get around it by calling interest by another name, like many profit distribution or whatever.
Capitalism requires freedom, but muslim rulers are more interested in control.

Islamo Error
Whenever I read Muslim apologetics, it inevitably reminds me of a marxist scholars conference, which means that the true believer explains how the inner order of the system has yet to find proper practice. Therein lies the error. Both communism and Islam have the same fatal conceit-that humanity is malleable and perfectible. Instead of acknowledging the inherent imperfectibility of humanity, followers are exhorted to pursue the way of perfection. Inevitably, the most strindent tend to reach the top and then attempt to perfect the imperfectible with force.

If you make a few subsitutions in the rhetoric, i.e., infidels for burgeoise, its very similar. However, notice the author’s perspective- Islam laid the foundation of modern society and we have to understand their righteous indignation at MTV. The dhimmis of course, should take no umbrage of the things we might find objectionable in the Islamic world.

Pure Spin
Capitalism is not just markets and wealth. It is the embodiment of individual rights. The idea starts in Ancient Greece, advanced by Cicero, revived by Aquinas, reaches a philosophical maturity in Locke, championed by Jefferson, and still remains an aspiration in the West.

This author has nothing but spin and is easily refuted:

That link:
I guess HTML doesn't work. "Here" is the link:

what are we to do?
I appreciate articles such as this because forces me to challenge my own conclusions about Islam - about how we in the west could formulate policy regarding the Muslim world, and the Muslims among us. Everything that I've otherwise seen/read/analyzed leads me to believe that Muslims are (generally) not content to live and let live.

And so I get what you're saying. I have an ex-military friend that worked at Dept. Homeland Security for a while with pretty high access. When our discussions turned to the post 9/11 world and US policy and response, he shared a view common amongst his work colleagues that we are in the opening phases of a battle for civilization. If so, I think it's plain that we could clearly win such a war (for now) were we willing to undertake measures that most consider abhorrent and barbaric. Must it come to that? Is there no hope for co-existence? Is there no way for the majority of Islam to be ushered toward a more accomodating stance? And if what this author postulates is bogus, what choices do we really have?

The author is asking if Islam is COMPATIBLE with Democracy and our free trade system, not is it demo

“Is Islam compatible with modernity?”

The answer to that is yes it is.

Muslims have had a long tradition of trade and commerce. There is nothing in their tradition that would be incompatible with our free trade market.

They have also had a long tradition of freedom. They are free to do as they will with their lives as long as they stay within the laws, just as we are aloud to do.

The difference is where these laws come from. In the case of the US our laws are based on the English Common law system, in the case of Muslims they are based on the Koran. Both systems layout a boundary of what is allowed and what the punishment is for crossing this line.

The last few decades have been the problem. The extremist interoperations of these laws have become confused and muddled. (IE total conversion of all to Islam)This combined with a big dose of western envy has led to the current problem. (This envy is more towards our success then directly our lifestyles.) You have to remember that the Muslim world dominated trade for centuries before the Europeans, and then the US, got involved.

The issue is that if they just followed the laws of the Koran and conducted normal commercial business without radical influence there is no reason why Islamic and Democratic countries could not be side by side.

Not quite.
The question is not whether Islam is compatible with commerce but with Capitalism. Islam is based on plunder and every thief must fence his goods. Mohammad plundered caravans. The Arabs conquered most of the known world in their first hundred years, not to convert people to Islam, but to plunder, exploit, and dominate.

Every society had commerce. Capitalism is a social system based on individual rights. These ideas originate in Ancient Greece, spread to Rome where Cicero expressed the idea of natural law, were revived by Aquinas, and expressed quite powerfully by Grotius and Locke. Islam came nowhere close to this achievement.

Maybe you missed a few laws in the Koran before you posted
You wrote "The issue is that if they just followed the laws of the Koran and conducted normal commercial business without radical influence there is no reason why Islamic and Democratic countries could not be side by side."

The problem is that even a liberal and accomodationist reading of the Koran requires a Muslim to discriminate against all non-muslims and to avoid them as associates for fear of being polluted by their ideas.

A fair reading of the Koran requires a Muslim to behave pretty much the way those folks who have been called Islamofascists have been behaving.

As channeled in the Koran by Muhammad, Allah eternally commands all Muslims to convert, subordinate or kill all infidels. As Paul Harvey liked to say - That's the way it is.

Read the Koran and then revisit your question
9/11 was a wake up call for me, so I waded through the Koran.

It's all there in black and white. To a Muslim who truly believes that the Koran is the word of God there is no accomodation with unbelievers. There may be room for truces, but no room for long term accomodation.

The best we can hope for is to achieve a truce good for some period of time.

You realy must read your own bible
13:6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
13:7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

13:8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

13:9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

1:8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.

1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

It's all rather for easy christians to see the bad things in the Koran but thet seem to be bind to how a non christian views the very same things in the bible.

Yes, all bible's need to be read.
The historical hidden agenda's have roots much deeper than economic frolic, playing with the enemy. Jews have lived, done business, with Arabs since Abraham, yet no mention, that Mohammed was in love with Moses, 157 references to Moses in the Koran. Arch-Angel Gabriel whispered the Koran to Mohammed, Gabriel the Angel a jewish origin just as Arch-Angel Micheal. Both Arab and Christian, roots are Jewish, cut the roots and the tree dies. Arabs learned business side by side with the Jew and yet his article only hints at Marx. Historically selective, not differentiating between Philosophy and Theology, influence on commerce. sophisticated small talk.

Deuteronomy, New Testament and Koran
Deuteronomy - written 3500 years ago - calls for killing a person who tries to lead you astray.

New Testament - written 1900 years ago - calls for avoiding contact with those who would lead you astray.

Koran - written 1300 years ago - unequivocably calls for slaughtering all who will not convert.

I've read them all - I'm no expert, but there are differences. For example - the Old Testament God commands the Israelites to kill all inhabitants of a city in the promised land. Koran's Allah calls for killing all who will not convert and are not "people of the book."

Read the thing - it is as plain and open as Mein Kampf.

But in context
While I’m not religious and I can be critical of all religions, Islam is by far worse than any major existing religion. As Sully pointed out, Christianity and Islam have quite different messages when all is taken into account.

Christians can consider the New Testament as superseding the old and Jesus as providing a New Covenant. Islam, on the other hand, has the harsh Medinan warrior passages superseding (abrogating) the tolerant Meccan passages. Islam is the reverse of Christianity.

Consider this:
and this:

Christians can consider the New Testament as superseding the old.

Sir, I enjoy the subjects of religioun and theology, and while that does not make me an expert, I know of now Christian thinker who ever said the "new testament" supercedes the old. If you know of such an individual, I assure you, they hold a rather unusual view.

How about this guy:
There’s this fellow called Jesus. In Mark 7 and Mathew 15, when the Pharisees take him to task for not rigorously following the cleanliness rituals, he points out that they don’t take the harsh Old Testament (OT) passages literally and stone people to death for transgressions. But far from returning to the literal recommendations and rituals of the OT he suggests a more spiritual interpretation: “Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? … What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts …”

This fellow is the first Christian who saw a new way--a spiritual way--that superseded the harsh literal way of the past. I know of no Christian who doesn’t see that if there is a conflict, the NT takes precedence over the OT.

Islam, on the other hand, starts with Mohammad preaching tolerance when he needed to be accepted in Mecca but becoming a tyrant when he rose to power in Medina. It is telling that the Christians start their calendar with Jesus’ birth but the Muslims start theirs with Mohammad’s trek to Medina where he rose to power and set the example of the final embodiment of Islam.

Islam is a supremacist warrior ideology that seeks world domination if practiced fully the way Mohammad exemplified. The traditional view is that if there is a conflict the latter passages "abrogate" the earlier Meccan revelations.

If you had any knowledge, you could have answered your own question.
Point one. The text makes clear that those commands were for a certain time and a certain place. By the first century AD, even the Jews weren't obligated to follow them.

Point two. Christ made it quite clear that the new commandment, to love God and believe in Him, replaced the legalistic old commandment.

try again
I love all these people that think they know the Koran and what Muslims are. The truth is that unless you have lived with them and talked to them about their beliefs you don’t have a real clue. My wife is Muslim and here family is Muslim. I live around them for years and none of the hundreds that I interacted with tried to convert me or kill me. In fact they welcomed me into their family with open arms. These are the typical Muslims of the world, not the radical ones that capture the media.

There are approximately 1 Billion Muslims in the world; if they all believed as you say they do we would be dead already. The truth of the matter is that a small well financed radical group (I should say percentage because there is more then one group.) has hijacked the public view of the Muslim religion and bent that to their liking.

That is like saying all Germans where *****, or that all Russians where Communist. In both those cases a small number of people where able to steer a larger group to their will by manipulation and out right terror. Even here in the US we see signs of a small group trying to steer the larger though the press and demonstrations; IE the gay movement and the Illegal immigrant movement. That is the way of history.

I would suggest that if you truly want to know about the Muslim community you go talk to them directly and live with them too see their true colors. Will some of them talk to you about conversion? Probably; but don’t other religions do that also on a regular bases? Will some of the merchants give other Muslims a better deal then they do you? Also probably, and also again is that not true with any group that has a relation? I bet you use your connections with groups to get a better deal too. Ever use a discount because you where in the military? Or a member of a club?

The Truth is that the majority of Muslims are just like you and me. They want to be left alone and want the best possible life for their family and children.

You lack objectivity. Furthermore, your experience is limited to a few hundred. My experience is limited to about 20 Bosnian Muslim employees who were fine folk, showed up to work on time, etc. Neither experience constitutes a dispassionate historical, philosophical and theological critique of Islam.

Whats being discussed here is not Muslims but Islam. In any place at anytime, you will find decent folk. However the record remains the same: something like 90% of all conflicts in the world involve Muslims vs. non-Muslims and all the car bombings, IEDS, comandeered airlines, etc were done so at the hands of individuals professing loyalty to Islam. You just don't get this stuff from Hassidic Rabbis, Carmelite Nuns or Bhuddist Monks.

let's compare Torah, New Testament and Koran
wwgeek - You didn't even pick the best example - let's compare

In Exodus their god is portrayed as commanding the Israelites to kill all of the men and all of the women who have known men in a town and thereby make it their own. But he only commands them to thus handle the inhabitants of one particular piece of the earth that he has promised to them.
The quote you gave authorizes killing of one who would lead you from your faith.

In the New Testament John tells his followers not to receive unbelievers into their houses and not to wish them well.

In the Koran their god is portrayed as very clearly commanding muslims to kill all unbelievers everywhere who will not convert. He is portrayed as having a bit of a softer touch for Jews and Christians in that they can be left alive as long as they pay a special tax forever and as long as they don't lead muslims astray.

It isn't even a close analysis. The Koran is a blueprint for conquest and domination rather than a religious text.

I have no doubt that most muslims are well meaning. . .
dismanrc - I have no doubt that most muslims are well meaning, but that doesn't reduce the danger of their extremists to me and others who don't share their belief system. It is not my job to police the crazies among muslims, it is the job of muslims themselves.

As to the Koran I don't purport to be an expert on it, but I have to say that many passages were eye openers for me when I read it. Similarly there are some passages and prescriptions in the Torah and in the New Testament which go hard on the modern ear, but they are nothing like as draconian as those in the Koran.

Fortunately most people are not very true to the underlying teachings of their religion.

tried to
I had lengthy conversations about Islam with a Muslim colleage in the months following 9/11. At his behest, I attempted to read his Koran, but couldn't make it though the endless and seemingly inane set of rules regarding, oh I don't know, what color scarve to wear on the third Thursday following a full moon in autumn. So I applaud your patience and dedication. My colleague, well meaning and quite the "moderate", conveyed to me the message of a sermon? he'd heard while at mosque. The Umam? talked about Muslim misinterpretation of jihad - how one must first have jihad with himself before undertaking a jihad against others. A "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" sort of theme. This was supposed to reassure me. But I would much have preferred the message have been "hey guys, don't undertake jihad."

Who policed the Catholics on their 1200+ years rampage?
They have caused as much damage if not more then the Muslims over time. From about 400AD till the 1900’s they rampaged around the world forcing the natives to become Catholic or be punished.

The Dark Ages can be directly linked to the Vatican in many respects. When the Roman Empire fell; the church stepped into control and stamped out all hope of maintaining what little was left of advanced civilization. Then they spent the next 1000 years killing and destroying anything or anyone that questioned their authority. It was not until the 1500’s that men began to rebel from their dominance in such numbers that their control was to breakdown. Even today the Vatican has more wealth and power then almost any country.

Now that that has been said; I also want to say that I have nothing against any Catholic just because they are Catholic. Just as I have nothing against any Muslim. But why did the Catholic in the past allow the church to gain so much power to be able to do the things it did? If you can answer that question then you could apply that answer to the Muslims of today. Why do so many allow so few to capture a country or religion and steer it in the directions they do.

My answer is that we are all human and worry about ourselves and our families first and they what is happening around us. It was no different for the Catholics in the past, the Germans in the 1930, the Muslims in the Middle East or even the Americans in this country. One day they just wakeup; look around and ask “what happened?” In the case of the last two; the question is will we all wakeup before we get plunged into the middle of another world war or worst yet another Dark Ages.

I don't know where you learned your history, but it has no connection with reality
After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the church that maintained what little civilization that was left.

ONly at the very first
Then they became the opressors of anything that was listed as "bad". If it was not for a few orders of monks that hind the past from "Mother" church for hundred of years we may still not have had that information now.

BY the ay I have a Masters in History
The info I gave is well documented.

Yes, but
There is no doubt that religion dominated in the Dark Ages. Faith and authority lend themselves to autocratic rule. But in the 12th and 13th century the great monotheistic religions came to a fork in the road where they could continue down the purely religious path or come to grips with the Hellenic rationalism and the revival of Aristotelian learning.

Aquinas for Christians and Maimonides for Jews, helped to champion Aristotle. Both religious took the road to modernity. Averroes tried the same for Islam but Muslims reject that road and Islam limited philosophy from further influence.

Islam just doesn’t have what it takes for many reasons which I’ve given before:

Sorry but not all religions are the same. They all suffer from the limitations of faith and authority but they have different myths, rules, dogma, and rituals. Some have a harder time with modernity. Islam is inherently a backwards supremacist warrior ideology. It just doesn’t have the options Christianity did and Christianity had a tough time changing as it was.

Learned History, or Was Indoctrinated?
Sounds more like he got his "education" from Dan Brown and some Grand Wizard. Funny how the same claptrap that was popular among the klansman is now considered erudition at the enlightened academy.

Roman "Civilization"
Yes, Nero and the boys had such advanced civilizion, with slavery, conquest, a state enforced polytheistic mythology, debauchery of every form. Ah, for the enlightenment and grandeur that was Rome.

The church never ran Europe, never even close
Many, perhaps even most historians believe it was the fact that Europe had two centers of power, the church and the princes, that enabled freedom to flourish there, when it didn't flourish anywhere else on the planet.

The church and the princes constantly battled each other for power, each doing what they could to prevent the other from gaining absolute power.

and completely wrong.

COnsidering the quality of most modern liberal arts colleges
your masters is probably in your profs propaganda, not history.

Aqueducts, Concrete, Multi-story domed buildings, a Republic where all citizens could vote, a social system where even a slave could become a citizen over time.

In fact Roman concrete can not even be duplicated today and is in many ways better then what we have today.

Rome had both bad and good just like we do today. We still have slaves in the US today; we just call them Illegal Immigrants.

True in the later period
What you say is true for the latter period starting about 1300 or so. But before that time even the king had to bow to the church or face excommunication. Around the 1300’s they monarchy’s did begin to push the edges of this and by the 1400-1500 had established an uneasy equilibrium with the church. But for that 800-1000 year period of the Dark Ages the church ruled directly or indirectly and did not allow the growth of anything they determined to be heresy.

Spoken like a true Ideologist
In fact I went to school in Texas; UT and Angelo State; Both very conservative universities.

That’s hardly a measure of a just society. Next you’ll tell me how great the Soviet Union was because they had a good space program.

Now, I agree with you that Rome was an achievement for its time in many ways. It was tolerant of several dozen religions (if they were also tolerant) until Christianity became the Empire’s religion. It had an extensive tradition of rights and laws even if it often had corrupt Emperors. Indeed, the Roman tradition of rights was revived by the Scholastics who also revived Aristotelian philosophy (after the Muslims rejected this path.)

I also agree with you about the Dark Ages. They were Dark and religion was the dominant influence.

But I disagree with you that Christianity can't reform. It took a revival of Hellenic thought and many centuries but one must give Christians credit that they finally found reason the coin of the realm in human affairs. It’s an aspiration that still exists in the West today. It has yet to be fully realized.

Islam, however, has greater difficulties going down this path because it was founded as a warrior religion of conquest and subjugation. It’s just a different beast.

Not even close to being correct.
During this time period, the church couldn't even decide who ran the church. Usually there were two or more pope's.

Much of the bible is hard going also
The begats and the numbers are boring, but at least they make sense since they lay out a geneology and an accounting of the tribes. But the notion that the almighty god, creator of the universe with it's billions of galaxies cares so exactly about how many cubits long and wide his sanctuary should be, and exactly what kind of wood and metals it all should be made of is preposterous.

Your friend was attending a moderate mosque. That's one where they don't plan to cut our throats until they have a majority. And even after they have a majority they will ask us more or less politely to convert before they cut the throats of the obstinate ones.

consider the time scales involved
dismanrc - you wrote "What you say is true for the latter period starting about 1300 or so. But before that time even the king had to bow to the church or face excommunication. Around the 1300’s they monarchy’s did begin to push the edges of this and by the 1400-1500 had established an uneasy equilibrium with the church. But for that 800-1000 year period of the Dark Ages the church ruled directly or indirectly and did not allow the growth of anything they determined to be heresy."

Some observations:
By your own writing christianity started to lose it's iron grip on rulers 700 years ago. I can help you come closer to the present with better examples. As recently as 150 years ago christian missionaries overturned and suppressed belief systems such as the Hawaiian without qualms and with a hymn on their lips. Going back not much further the Spanish were quite willing to wipe out whole peoples for profit, but also because they saw them as unbelievers.
But those were 100+ years ago. I believe you will be hard pressed to find any reputable christian preaching a real crusade.
But now - Right now - major league Islamic preachers in Saudi Arabia and much of the rest of the muslim world are preaching separatism and jihad. Preaching and teaching children to seek out the jew behind the tree and kill him.

I say again, the moderate muslims must take responsiblity for suppressing their crazies.

correct vision Sully
Jihad, a double edged knife in the back. It's difficult for the moderate Muslim, since they only live in progressive countries without the Shari-16th century laws. The rest have been suffering from mal-nutrition, no brain food, no real health for generations, this creates a fertile ground for early brainwashing techniques. To starving children, one meal=3hours of Koran, 2meals a day, six hours of Koran x 365 days, over 2000 hours of Koran is enough to drive anyone crazy. The Christian, using Christ as an example of how to behave with love, is far more evolved than the eye for eye of Mohammed. The be-headings are example of the differences, and yet both are the seeds of Abraham, Christian being the older brother, and Jews, even older brother. Approximately 2000 years, between Moses and Jesus. Only 650 years between Jesus and Mohammed, therefore the Moses and Mary references throughout the Koran. Today, Israeli tanks getting ready to roll over the Gaza strip, every single home will be entered and searched for the 19 year old Israeli soldier kidnapped at a check point, Friday. Eye for eye, concept of Moses, handed down to Mohammed, kept Christianity stuck in the middle,holding forgiveness all alone. The Catholics later rationalized forgiveness, and also became the double edged sword, be-headings during the Inquisition, everyday stuff for 2 centuries, Are we sliding backwards, is it the results of not having a stable philosophy, only bathing in theology?

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