The history of the Islamic world has been one of weak state institutions and state underperformance, coupled with a high prevalence of violence, both by the state and by individuals. A major reason for these negative trends has been the role of political Islam in privileging homogeneity over diversity, in stifling dissent in public and private life, and the societal stagnation that follows such rigid controls. Malaysia and Indonesia have been notable exceptions to the underperformance of Islamic cultures.
There are numerous ways in which underperforming governmental institutions fail their citizenry. Institutions can fail in regards to education, economics, the military/police, religion, the social sphere, and through institutional intolerance for cultural diversity.
The role of governmental institutions is to care for citizens by providing freedom from certain events and freedom to participate in others. Governments must provide their citizens with freedom from harm, whether from foreign states, fellow citizens, or the government itself. Institutions must provide citizens with the freedom to gain an education, find sustaining work, socially participate in life, practice religion, express opinions and advocate for change, and overall, live a full, meaningful life. Institutions must maintain stability while offering choices for a better life, be responsive to people’s needs, and interact with and adapt to a changing world. An underperforming state fails its citizens regarding these basic needs and rights. In this respect, societies dominated by political Islam are indeed failing their people.
Islamic societies fail their people militarily. Often the military are the only consistently functioning segment of government in Islamic societies. A dominant military, coupled with a weakly enforced constitution or judiciary, is a breeding ground for corruption and kleptocracy, where people fear the police more than criminals. Coups and crackdowns follow, and the freedoms and futures of citizens are curtailed. Witness the fall of Mubarak and later the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The military can fail altogether, leading to governmental overthrow such as in Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen, and even civil war in Syria.¹
Islamic societies also fail their people educationally. Islamic institutions inadequately fund education, or provide inadequate education. None of the 1800 universities in Muslim countries are named as one of the top 500 world universities.² In science and technology, the Islamic world lags significantly. Twenty Muslim countries combined contributed only 0.55% of recent scientific literature, while smaller Israel produced 0.89%.³ Korea recently generated 16,328 patents and the United States generated 1,145,914, while the top nine Muslim countries generated 370, many by foreigners.⁴
Islamic societies similarly fail their people in the realm of economics. Unemployment in the Muslim world is high, and youth unemployment is the highest in the...