The Crisis of Islamic Civilization

Ali Allawi on his book The Crisis of Islamic Civilization. (see Robin’s review)

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Thank you very much, Joanne, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I had really two choices. One was to try to summarize Islamic civilization in half an hour, or to discuss this more in a personal way and a personal capacity which I thought might be interesting at such an early hour. I’ve called my talk, “In Search of Islam’s Civilization.”

I was born into a mildly observant Muslim family in Iraq. The 1950s in the Middle East and the broader Islamic world were a time when the secular elements of society, the ruling political class, and cultural and intellectual feats had moved far from an overt identification with Islam. It appeared then to be only a matter of time before Islam would lose whatever hold it may have still had on the peoples and societies of the Muslim world.

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The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation

This was published in Prospect Magazine.

meccaThe contemporary religious revival is a complex business. In the same period that Muslim societies, in their weakness, seem to have re-embraced Islam, America, in its strength, has re-embraced Christianity. Western Europe remains avowedly secular. Despite the contradictions within the West, mainstream Orientalism holds that all cultures are developing towards the universal (or, more specifically, globalised) model of secular modernity and the market. The Muslim world experiences backwardness to the extent that it resists secularisation.

“The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation”, a subtle and erudite book by former Iraqi minister Ali A Allawi, challenges this thesis. Surveying the Muslims’ social, economic and moral failures, and the terror espoused by certain Islamist groups, Allawi suggests the problem might not be too much Islam, but too little.

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