Liberal Think Tanks Selling Out to Muslims?

Back in March, we published a link to a really good article from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA)’s Review magazine on Islam and the free market. It wasn’t what one might call pro-Islam but was, however, a dispassionate and balanced attempt by some non-Muslim economists to explore whether there existed a free market tradition within Islam that might resonate or, at least, be of interest to the magazine’s mostly classical liberal and libertarian readership.

It never occurred to me, whilst reading the piece, that it might provoke any kind of controversy or ‘backlash’ for the authors. Certainly, I have found that non-Muslim libertarian/classical liberal types are often more willing to accept the idea of a pro-commerce and pro-market tradition within Islam than some Muslims. However, as this post by author Chris Berg explains, some people ostensibly on the same side of the intellectual barricades as the IPA were really not impressed at all that Islam had been given what they saw as a favourable treatment in the magazine. One such complaint reads:

So, what was the IPA on about in publishing such a scandalous betrayal of western cvilisation, (sic) and, for that matter, a complete falsification of the history of classical liberal economics? There are those already speculating on the motivation of the IPA? – “What is the deal behind it?”, and, ” there must be something very rum (sic) because they still refuse to retract and correct,” ” why have they sold out to muslims and in such an ugly fashion?” The cretins at the IPA may not like it, but senior figures have made their disgust plain.

Berg links to some of the other equally silly criticisms he has received before concluding:

Why might this be the case? Our article was written for a audience sympathetic to the free market, asking them to reassess their existing views on the viability of Islamic liberalism. We argued that the myopic argument that there can be no free Islamic nation because Islam the religion is somehow internally deficient does not stand up. Liberal thought has existed within an Islamic framework. And perhaps this can be leveraged into a modern Islamic liberal tradition and hopefully provide a basis for a genuinely liberal Islamic state.

The response by Prodos, Gerard Jackson, Strider and Mangled Thoughts illustrates how certain segments of the right treat the War on Terror as simply a War on Islam – and they appear to be angry that Andrew and I would even consider sympathising with their enemy. Worse – we have “sold out to muslims”, as if it is every Australian’s duty to stay strong against the advancing Muslim hordes.

They dismiss Islam as a religion of violence without seriously looking at the importance of different intellectual traditions within Islam, and the way these can and have changed over time. Surely, when the Islamic world is filled will illiberal governments, it is vital to try to rejuvenate those traditions to encourage other, more liberal, paths of development?