0 $
2,500 $
5,000 $
895 $

Taliban Perpetuate Muslim World’s Failed Governance Paradigm

Support SouthFront

Taliban Perpetuate Muslim World's Failed Governance Paradigm

Illustrative Image

Written by James M. Dorsey.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan perpetuates a paradigm of failed governance in the Muslim world based on a centuries-old alliance between Islamic scholars and the state that, according to scholar Ahmet T Kuru, explains underdevelopment in many Muslim-majority states and authoritarianism in most.

The takeover also highlights that, in a twist of irony,  a majority of competitors for Muslim religious soft power, leadership of the Muslim world, and the ability to define Islam have as much in common as they have differences.

The takeover further spotlights the Muslim world’s struggles to free itself from the shackles of a paradigm that is at the root of its ills. That struggle has expressed itself in a decade of protest, dissent, defiance, and often brutally suppressed or derailed popular revolts as well as the self-defeating flight into militant and jihadist interpretations of the faith that fail to recognize that their radical view is nothing else but another variant of a failed model.

Neither do the other major religious soft power contenders, with the exception of Nahdlatul Ulama, one of the world’s largest, if not the largest Muslim organization based in Indonesia, irrespective of the ideological bent of their religious vision.

Nahdlatul Ulama, a politically influential civil society movement, is the only non-state player in what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam that will determine the degree to which a moderate Islam incorporates principles of tolerance, pluralism, gender equality, secularism, and human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The other major contenders include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, proponents of a state-led moderate form of Islam that propagates absolute obedience to the ruler; Turkey that pushes a Turkic-centric and nationalist state-controlled interpretation of the faith, and Iran that is ruled by the clergy.

“Some ‘moderates’ think that Islam should be controlled by the state… The result is strengthening of the ulema-state alliance and its authoritarianism. Radicals. on the other hand, have sought a unification; claiming that Islam is both religion and the state,” Mr. Kuru said in an email exchange with the author.

The contenders, again except for Nahdlatul Ulama, insist that there is not only one religious but also only one political truth. Nahdlatul Ulama officials say that the movement’s most influential ‘spiritual’ wing argues the diametrically opposite despite a diversity of views within their ranks.

“The spiritual wing of the Nahdlatul Ulama teaches the duty to find the truth… Don’t try to impose your opinion and your so-called perception on other human beings. Nobody knows if you are correct or if you’re wrong… The spiritual ulema strive to know the truth rather than proclaim the truth,” said a prominent figure in the movement.

Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is not a major contender in the battle for the soul of Islam but revives the country’s adherence to Mr. Kuru’s paradigm.

The Middle Eastern contenders in the battle have more than just the ulema-state paradigm in common. Some also share an arbitrary attitude towards the sanctity of private property.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey have in recent years confiscated some US$135 billion in assets and cash as part of naked power grabs and crackdowns on political opponents that appeared arbitrary rather than anchored in legally credible procedures.

The confiscations cast a shadow over economic reform efforts, hinder unfettered economic development and stymie innovation at a moment that oil producers’ ability to continue to rely on export revenues may be diminishing.

In a just-released study, Mr. Kuru calls for the replacement of the ulema-state alliance with “open, meritocratic, and competitive systems where the political, religious, intellectual, and economic classes are able to operate autonomously, and none is able to dominate. Such a reform requires the expansion of freedom of thought, by abolishing apostasy and blasphemy laws, and a deeper protection of private properties by preventing the state’s seizure of them. The reform also necessitates an institutionalisation of separation between religion and the state.”

Muslim autocrats and authoritarians, in contrast to China, which has experienced phenomenal economic growth directed by an autocratic regime, perpetuated under- or lop-sided economic development by maintaining the ulema-state alliance, creating rentier states in resource-rich countries, and failing to invest in education and bureaucratic efficiency.

Shifting the paradigm may constitute a challenge that few Muslim rulers are likely to accept. Sounding on an optimistic note, Mr. Kuru argued that the fact that rentier oil-producing states will need to diversify their economies may leave rulers with little choice.

“Oil rents have funded ulema-state alliances for the past five decades. Soon, these rents may lose their importance with the depletion of reserves, rise of domestic consumption, and/or innovation of alternative energy technologies. Many Muslim countries will need economic restructuring and innovations to be prepared for the challenges of the post-oil era. To maintain long-term stability and prosperity, these countries need to build productive systems that encourage entrepreneurship. Such a reform requires that the ulema-state alliance ceases to control socio-political life,” Mr. Kuru said.

Mr. Kuru suggests that his prescription is not without precedent in Islamic history. The Muslim world’s golden age that lasted from the 8th to 11th century was enabled by intellectual and mercantile classes that could drive scientific and economic progress because it enjoyed “a certain degree of separation” from its political rulers.

“During the same time period, Western Christian societies had almost the opposite characteristics. There was a strong alliance between the Catholic church and royal authorities, while the philosophical and merchant classes were either non-existent or very weak. Western Christian countries were places of religious orthodoxy and intolerance in comparison to their Muslim counterparts,” Mr. Kuru said.

The 11th century is when the Muslim and Christian worlds reversed roles. The Muslim world moved towards the ulema-state alliance and militarisation while Europe institutionalized the separation of state and church.

Europe witnessed the opening of universities and the rise of commercial city-states while the Muslim world experienced the emergence of a stifling feudal economy, the origins of sectarianism, the marginalization of private landowners and merchants, and the dominance of narrow-minded religious education.

To be sure the facets of post 11th century Muslim society have evolved over the centuries as the world moved forward and as a result of social, economic, technological, and political advances. Muslim-majority countries today all have the attributes of a modern state. They embrace economic reform, social change, and technological innovation to varying degrees, and political change not at all.

In the 19th century, Ottoman and Egyptian reformers reduced the power of the ulema by absorbing their role rather than creating space for a more independent intelligentsia and merchant class. So did 20th century secularist leaders who viewed intellectuals and independent businessmen as threats to their grip on power that they sought to legitimize with Islam.

These 20th-century leaders revived the ulema state alliance in different forms, including the creation of institutions Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs or Diyanet or the state-encouraged and controlled Islamization of countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

Taken to its logical conclusion, Mr. Kuru argues that current ‘moderate’ Muslim rulers, as well as jihadists and militants, misinterpret Muslim history in ways that justify their autocratic rule and give them an edge in the battle for the soul of Islam yet are not born out by historical research.

The golden age of Islam teaches the opposite. The norm then was a degree of ‘separation of church and state,’ not the control of religion by the state advocated today by statist moderates and radicals alike.

A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud,Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean,Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar and a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute


Support SouthFront


Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Weak. Highly selective examples, incoherent, with modern examples rather unrelated to actual Islam. Yes, a mono-religious block isn‘t helpful. Yet, only modern (!) Turkey and the tyranny SA pursue it (for different reasons). Afghanistan is different. Those are simply realities there. Minorities, as they exist, are respected. The same has been true for most Muslim countries for most of the time.


Brah…..you can keep these primates as your imaginary pets whilst yous live out in da UK….lol…..I hope to the unkind heavens that Iran doesn’t touch these talibunny monkeys with a 10’ pole and seals it’s borders…..good luck brah…..yous goin fukkin need it too…..lol


Nah,the Qom Fireworshippers are just too smart for that. Hows that Nuke coming along then Persian? The “monkeys” in Pakistan have had theirs for decades now and if they’re monkeys, guess where you are in the pecking order of evolution, donkey


lol……what good has that nuke done for you? You can’t even live in your country brah……those primitive talibunnies you promote here, you can’t sit down with them for 5 minutes and instead like living in manchester no?….lol


This article is about Mr Kuru and not about Afghanistan (Taliban)


southfront is braindead and being that way it will die and i for certain wont support this nonsense anymore

Last edited 14 days ago by farbat
Simon Ndiritu

Easy brother, I don’t see anything wrong with opinions expressed. They are just that; opinions


the failure of europeans to co exist is more than obvious the russians are part of the problem aswell its not just the west its the entire european bunch who are deeply islamophobic and plot as much as they can calling their successful plots out as failures in our part of the world its just an attempt to perpetuate their theft and oppression and legalize it all and their obvious core issue to pressure us with is zionism they seek to legalize this mess to be able to put all kind of oppression on humanity going forward basically a dark age is what they seek

Last edited 14 days ago by farbat
Tommy Lee

You religion is wrong, your god doesn’t exist, and your Prophet was an imbecile. Your people are small-minded and petty, squabbling over silly ethnic and theological differences that wouldn’t matter to you if you all had the breadth of worldly experience that Europe and East Asia have had. Zionism and neocolonialism aren’t helping the situation, but they’re not the cause. You would be even less socially developed were it not for Europeans. Every Islamic country would be some variant of Saudi Arabia to this day if it weren’t for the concepts of constitutionalism, socialism, republicanism, and secularism. It was Western science, based on dispassionate empirical observation, that made Europe the preeminent power in the world, and without it, I wouldn’t be speaking to you right now.


Really? Were it not for Arab learning in Spain, there would be no renaissance. Europe at that stage was pissing, shitting bathing and drinking from the same waters of the Rhine,Rhone and Danube, in your so-called “centres” of “civilisation” – The Black Plague was exclusively a European epidemic due to the filth you lived in. Your “science” was so backward, it was laughable. Your belief in a flat earth made voyages of discovery impossible at a time Arab navigators had maps and invented the sextant and had already reached the Americas. Your “medicine” was even more backward at a time that the Muslims in Granada had the worlld’s first medical encyclopaedia and surgical instruments whose basic designs were used to this day. You are a typical racist White DumbFuck with a brain the size of a pea. There is no democracy in your countries but you promote it to others. Fuck off idiot


we will bring ruin over you and you will see how right we were you miserable fools are the ones collapsing to ruin and we will make sure this is going to happen eradication is a certainty for zionists but you will not be happy with being beaten since you are scum of the earth to begin with the entire anglo saxon world is going to collapse to ruin and you are part of it obviously

Last edited 12 days ago by farbat
Tommy Lee

Oh, and Christianity is the better religion, anyway. Jesus kicks Muhammad’s ass any day of the week.


You mean the White man-God used to promote White Supremacy and whitewashed Roman Paganism as a monotheistic religion? Your bible has been rewritten so many times, you guys invent shit as you go along LoL


1000 years ago christians came together and decided to change their religion as they please so they change alot of things which turned christianity to split into east and west eventually and you are obviously the delusional ones you dont even know what you are talking about hazrat isa ibn maryam or jesus as you say which is a messiah in islam will be on our side and he will be against your dens of thieves and synagogues of satan

Last edited 12 days ago by farbat

Dorsey – The last desperate mouthpiece of European paternalistic Orientalism, a White mans’s civilising of Islam burden twist to seem like an honest critique. The first rulers of the muslim state were the Prophet and those most knowlegeable in the matters of the Book. Pragmatism was never rejected. The Taliban will eventually begin to understand what a pragmatic, Ulema ruled state will need to be in a globalised world. The Taliban is here to stay. and BTW wtf is wrong with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s practical version of an Ulema led state? Perhaps the taliban would do themselves a favour and emulate their example?

Simon Ndiritu

But failure of Islamic countries cannot be blamed fully on lack of separation between religion and state. There is colonialism, theft of resources by West and interference, support for terrorists and dictators by the US and UK among others.


but the khilafat Rashidun lasted a mere 30 years. Are you aware of this tid bit? And what resources has the west stolen from shit-hole Afghanistan or garbage dump Pakistan?…….what?

Simon Ndiritu

And what haven’t the West stolen from KSA, Iran,Iraq and Kuwait? Why is Iran sanctioned for 40years? Who killed Mosadegh, or Ghadaffi? Why did they do it? What is the history around these murders and others, what are the effects? ….. Let’s not be narrow-minded

US & EU are Zion slaves

Do you eat animals meat, cow, sheep, chicken?
The bigger countries also eat smaller, weaker countries.
The world is not a fair game, even in your life you know it is never a fair game. So please do fish off, the Persian empire also took shit from now Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, etc.

US & EU are Zion slaves

The Persian leaders required cooperation and imposed a twenty percent tax on all agri-culture and manu-facturing. The Persians themselves paid no taxes.
“Let’s not be narrow-minded” you can say that again.


These jahel totally barbaric talibunny that you support here whilst sitting in the west is proof enough of what I say and why I say it. You, yes you wouldn’t be able to sit with a talib and have a 5 minute conversation and not be absolutely disgusted, You understand? He’s goin talk about suicide bombing and jihad and killing and beheading and slitting throats and beating women and denying them an education and doing stupid rituals and worship. Like a primitive wahabbi. I challenge you to go sit down with a talib!

Last edited 14 days ago by Ahson
Tommy Lee

“Nahdlatul Ulama, a politically influential civil society movement, is the only non-state player in what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam that will determine the degree to which a moderate Islam incorporates principles of tolerance, pluralism, gender equality, secularism, and human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

So these guys want their _religion_ to change to suit _secular_ values, not to uphold the values that it has held for over a thousand years? What good is a religion that doesn’t establish mores for its followers to abide? Next, they’re gonna want them to have female imams and gay marriage


Let it go doc…….the religion lies in tatters. Iran’s tried its level best to distance itself from mainstream Islam for the last 500 odd years. What yous saying now, Iran recognized and actually did something about it. Now its not even about religion anymore, we all know the truth…….Can’t provide a quality of life nor the security, education or social welfare?…….let alone HDI, fuckkin 90% of your country wants to migrate out to the west…….proofs in da pudding no?…….

US & EU are Zion slaves

Holy Shit, SF care to tell me why I can’t type, agri-culture and manu-facturing?
Why I can’t write it as a whole word.


It’s strange that it accepts some comments, but not all?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x