Posted in Columns and Letters

Published on June 16, 2011

Recently we’d been monitoring the Facebook fanpage of a New York Times journalist named Nicholas Kristof, and one of his opinion pieces caught our eye: he was writing about whether Islam is a problem. The baiting nature of that headline is worrying enough, but let’s take a closer look.

Kristof starts by acknowledging that the Islamic Arab world was very advanced in the past compared to Europeans (missing the fact that the majority of Muslims in the world today are non-Arabs). But he persists in asking whether it was Islam that resulted in the decline that started around the year 1200, and the problems we see in the Middle East today. He doesn’t stop to consider what it was exactly that Arabs were following before that year that resulted in all the advancement.

Kristof goes on to quote sociologist Max Weber, who wrote that Islam provides a poor foundation for capitalism. He cites the usual example of interest on loans – which is prohibited in Islam – but then he states that the Prophet Muhammad was himself a businessman so this could not be right.  It’s the classic mistake of associating business with capitalism. Kristof completely ignores the difference between business and interest-based economy, which is the backbone of capitalism. He does not mention that while the Qur’an forbids interest, it does not forbid business. It seems he is also blissfully unaware that poor countries of the world, including many in the Middle East, are heavily indebted to the West, barely able to pay off the interest on loans given to the rich puppet rulers of these countries, loans of which the ordinary people see no benefit.

But the best part of his column had to be his opinion on colonialism, which he says brought the backward Muslims a fundamental transformation in their lives through rising literacy and education. All of this according to a Duke University economic historian that no one has heard of named Timur Kuran. According to Kristof, the book that Prof Kuran wrote on the subject is meticulously researched. Unless someone wants to entertain fools, such assertions should not even be commented upon.

Throughout the article we read golden nuggets of wisdom such as how the inheritance law in Islam prevented the industrial revolution in the Middle East; how banks have been a blessing for the Europeans (yes, you just have to laugh at the irony of this statement); and how Arabs psychologically blame outsiders for their backwardness and cope by rejecting modernity.

He finally states that the Muslim Brotherhood has got it wrong when they say that Islam is the solution, and Prof Kuran has got it right that Islam is neither the solution nor the problem.

He then invited people to comment on his Facebook page. He had no answers to our comments, by the way. We challenged him in the open but he refused to engage.

Our own opinion piece today proves that every journalist, newspaper and media outlet carries an agenda. For most journalists, it is being a minion of the status quo. They hardly ever engage in a debate or discussion. They use self-serving arguments to misguide and misinform their readers. And by the way, if you want to become famous nowadays, just write something against Islam.

One Comment

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    This column of mine was published under the title “Islam is always misunderstood”. Oh please. The last thing I want to be is become an Islamic Apologist!!! We did complain about it to the chief editor at the time.

    For Nicholas Kristof’s column see here.