Freedoms Delayed: Political Legacies of Islamic Law in the Middle East

Timur Kuran


Cambridge University Press

According to diverse indices of political performance, the Middle East is the world's least free region. Some believe that it is Islam that hinders liberalization. Others retort that Islam cannot be a factor because the region is no longer governed under Islamic law. This book by Timur Kuran, author of the influential Long Divergence, explores the lasting political effects of the Middle East's lengthy exposure to Islamic law. It identifies several channels through which Islamic institutions, both defunct and still active, have limited the expansion of basic freedoms under political regimes of all stripes: secular dictatorships, electoral democracies, monarchies legitimated through Islam, and theocracies. Kuran suggests that Islam's rich history carries within it the seeds of liberalization on many fronts; and that the Middle East has already established certain prerequisites for a liberal order. But there is no quick fix for the region's prevailing record of human freedoms.