Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

EGYPT: Islamist Economics in Egypt: The Pious Road to Development

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

EGYPT: Islamist Economics in Egypt: The Pious Road to Development

Article excerpt

EGYPT Islamist Economics in Egypt: The Pious Road to Development, by Bjorn Olav Utvik. Boulder, CO and London, UK: Lynne Rienner, 2006. 255 pages. Bibl. to p. 282. Index to p. 287. $55.

Reviewed by Elias H. Tuma

The subtitle of Islamist Economics in Egypt emphasizes piety as a pathway to development, but in the end piety seems shaky, with little innovation in the Islamists' call for economic development. Instead there is a tendency among the Islamists to reconcile Islam with rational, or Western, economics and technology. In this study, "the Islamists" are the Muslim Brotherhood and the Labor Party, as they form an alliance against the ruling Egyptian regime in the 1980s. The thinking of the Brotherhood is represented by Yusuf Kamal and that of Labor by 'Adil Husayn. Utvik defines the Islamists as "those who call for the establishment of an Islamic state, and who organize themselves into political movements to achieve this. The main criterion defining such a state is that it should be governed by the Shari 'a, the revealed law of Islam" (p. 80). Utvik analyzes selected works by Kamal and Husayn, with occasional reference to other contributors to Islamist thinking in Egypt.

Utvik's study has many positive attributes. It draws upon original work in Arabic, analyzes the selected works in depth, and is placed within the framework of Egypt as an underdeveloped economy, a corrupt polity, and a repressive regime. Utvik shows that the Muslim Brotherhood and Labor agree on several issues. Both are opposed to the policies of the late President Anwar Sadat and current President Husni Mubarak, and are critical of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and Egypt's dependence on the United States. Both seek political independence and economic self-reliance. They advocate justice, a fair income and wealth distribution, and private property. Both support a Shari'a approach to development, with Islamic banking and no interest charges, except when dealing with other countries and foreign banks. Both groups quote the Qur'an on positive matters, such as justice, and ignore it on negative issues, such as tolerance of slavery and unequal treatment of non-Muslims.

Utvik observes other apparent contradictions in the attitude of the Islamists: they want independence from the West, but they are anxious to adopt Western science and technology, and the economics of supply and demand. …

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