Global Governance & the Challenges to Good Governance


[This is the seventeenth in a series of my notes on the International Institute of Islamic Thought conference on Good Governance in Islam: Classical and Contemporary Approaches held in Herndon, VA. These notes have only been lightly edited and represent my perception of the discussion. The proceedings will be published by IIIT at a later time. Responsibility for any errors in the notes is mine alone. Names of participants (other than mine) in the general discussion have been omitted by request of the organizers.]

“Global Governance & the Challenges to Good Governance”
Professor Ali Mazrui, Institute for Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University, NY

My paper is formulated as a series of MAXIMS. The first issue is whether Muslim societies are so far behind because they are Muslim or because of other impediments? Some have understood Huntington to say Muslim countries are militaristic because Islam is a militaristic religion. Huntington responded that Islam is not doctrinally militaristic, but that demographic factors created destabilization. The ummah is underdeveloped for reasons other than religion.

I understand Bertrand Russell to say that civilization is born out of the pursuit of luxury. Third world observers are astonished at how much paintings sell for in the developed world, and the painters themselves, most long dead, wherever they are, must be equally astonished.

From Adam Smith, wealth emerges from the pursuit of profit. Muslims are averse to interest, but not to profit. Marx: The march of history is born of the pursuit of surplus. We are not sure how that refers to petrowealth, not the result of creativity, but of luck.

In a technological society power belongs to those who control the means of destruction rather than those who control the means of production. This is demonstrated in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria, etc.

Political pluralism survives best in societies that have experimented with economic pluralism first. Political liberalism succeeds where economic liberalism has preceded it. Taiwan, Singapor, South Korea, and seemingly next China.

Democracy can only survive if the voters have learned to vote across ethnic (and sectarian) lines.

Democracy will only survive when the culture of consensus is replaced with a culture of tolerance.

Democracy will only work when the rule of law is beginning to replace the rule of personal power and even the most powerful obey the rules.

Democracy of the last century demonstrated the increasing political empowerment of women.  Often women succeed in the Muslim world because of male martyrdom. Does petroabundance aggravate male dominance? Egypt had a female had of state before anyone else. Did it die with Islamization or Arabization.

Discussant: Imad ad Dean Ahmad

Ahmad: Articulation of the maxim on ethnic lines needs to be revised to include sectarian lines. The role of technology in the empowerment of women must not be overlooked. The question of females in high positions of state is separate from that of other forms of female empowerment. I suspect “the curse of oil” does aggravate male dominance as a corollary of a more general rule that it undermines meritocracy: It is rent-seeking.

Mazrui: The U.S. system at the national level does not lend itself to that kind of succession. With the Arabs, female empowerment continues to be a puzzle. In the Muslim word sectarian lines are getting to be more dangerous than ethnic lines. The observation on the impact petroleum rent on meritocracy is helpful.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute






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