Modernization, Democracy, and Islam

By Shireen T. Hunter; Huma Malik | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

Shireen T. Hunter

At least for the past fifty years, there have been sustained efforts at modernization in the Muslim world. In parts of the Islamic world, the beginnings of a modernization process date to the mid-nineteenth century, if not earlier. Yet the Muslim world lags behind not only the advanced Western countries in every aspect of modernization but also such East Asian countries as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and China. Moreover, in regard to the socioeconomic indicators of modernization, Muslim countries fare poorly even when compared to the more advanced of the Latin American countries. No doubt, there are differences among Muslim countries in terms of their record of success in modernization; there are even a few success stories, notably that of Malaysia. By and large, however, the Muslim world's modernization record is disappointing. The following figures provide a glimpse of the magnitude of the Muslim world's modernization deficit. For example, out of forty-six countries with a majority Muslim population, seventeen are in the category of LDCs (least developed countries)1 and twenty-two are in the category of developing countries2 (Table 1.1). The combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the Muslim majority countries with a total population of 1.17 billion in 2002 was $1.38 trillion,3 or a fraction of the $10.114 trillion of the European Union, which has a population of only 370 million.5

Except for those in oil-producing countries, per capita incomes in the Muslim world remain low even in the case of the most advanced countries, such as Malaysia and Turkey, with $3,500 and $2,500, respectively6 (Table 1.2). The Muslim world's share in international trade is a meager 6.86 percent.7 This figure would be even lower if oil exports were excluded.

The economies of most Muslim countries are not diversified, and levels of industrialization and the share of industry as a percentage of GDP, as well as the share of exports,8 remain low9 (Table 1.3). Similarly, although the share of agri-

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