The Roots of Middle East Mistrust - Timur Kuran

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Low-trust societies participate disproportionately less in international commerce, and attract less investment. And, indeed, according to the World Values Survey and related research, trust among individuals in the Middle East is low enough to limit commercial transactions to people who know one another either personally or through mutual acquaintances. Because of their lack of trust, Arabs will often pass up potentially lucrative opportunities to gain through exchange...perceptions of trustworthiness in the Arab world are rooted, at least partly, in the uneven enforcement of commitments under Islamic law...It is ironic that these damaging stereotypes emerged from a legal system explicitly intended to give the militarily and politically dominant Muslims an edge in their social and economic relations with Christians and Jews. Beyond raising the costs of economic transactions among Muslims at the time, rules meant to limit religious freedom – the denial of “choice of law” to Muslims and restrictions on non-Muslim judicial testimony – helped to create a culture of mistrust that now limits progress in various areas. Islamic law thus weakened the Muslim communities it was meant to protect.

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