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The New Rules: The Battle for Islam's Soul

Monday, Jan. 24, 2011

Beginning with the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the West has viewed the Middle East and North Africa primarily through the lens of radical fundamentalist political movements. That perspective has narrowed our strategic vision ever since, conflating Shiite with Sunni, evangelicals with fundamentalists, Persians with Arabs, Islamists with autocrats, and so on. But recent events in Tunisia and Algeria remind us that the vast bulk of history's revolutions are fueled by economics, not politics. In this, the struggle for Islam's soul is no different than that of any other civilization in this age of globalization's rapid expansion.

All of the world's major religions grew up under the same Malthusian conditions, in which population growth and wealth creation duked it out in a zero-sum contest. That contest ended with the Industrial Revolution, which allowed the West to free economic growth from the limits of organically achieved accumulation. Since then, humanity has expanded in both size and wealth, albeit unevenly. ...

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