Why Muslim states fail

Published: November 12, 2011
The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore 

The writer is Director at the South Asian Media School in Lahore khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

States released from colonial rule in the 20th century have by and large not done well. Today, most of them are either failing or failed states. Only a few have reached the finishing line of liberal democracy with a survivable economic model beyond the 21st century. Most of the Muslim states are included in the failing postcolonial model. Dictators with mental bipolar disorder — historically mistaken for charisma — who aimed to achieve romantic goals have crumbled, leaving in their wake equally romantic mobs of youths demanding what they presume is liberal democracy.

After Saddam Hussein, Iraq is in disarray; after Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is teetering; Libya promises nothing better. And after Musharraf, Pakistan’s democracy is dysfunctional. Among Muslims, only the market state in the Gulf may survive. In the Far East, too, it is the market state that looks like marching on. Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia may survive if they don’t exterminate their entrepreneur Chinese minorities under the spur of Islam. In Europe, when the dictator quits, civilisation takes over and the state survives. No such thing happens in the Muslim world. The premodern seduction of the Muslim mind prevents return to democracy. The blasphemy law is more powerful than any democratic constitution.

Dictators are charismatic. In Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah was the pan-African leader with charisma and promise. Taking him as the model, let us describe what the dictators did: they fashioned populist policies, followed up with an amalgam of dynamic idealism, vainglorious self-promotion and ruthless repression. Charisma accompanied autocratic enforcement of socialist utopia tipped with nationalisation and state sector dominance. What about foreign policy? You guessed it: terminal isolationism clothed in anti-imperialism, imitating a Greek hero before the gods got him for hubris.

Dictators that heralded the demise of the postcolonial state in Africa were: Nasser of Egypt, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia; Moktar Ould Dada of Mauretania, Ahmed Sekou Touré of Guinea, Modibo Keita of Mali, William Tubman of Liberia, Milton Obote of Uganda, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. The cruellest blow to populist consciousness was the failure of the policy of cutting off the postcolonial state from its former master. History now rejects the textbook that favours this separation.

The postcolonial state presumed that the resources the colonial states exploited were now all in the hands of the people and that, by replacing capitalism with socialism, these resources will enrich the people. It is under this presumption that most liberated states thought of distancing themselves from the former masters responsible for the ‘painful birth’ of the new state. On both these counts, they were wrong. And it has taken half a century for everyone to realise this. Charisma, ideology and socialism have caused suffering and retarded state development.

Pakistan is a little more advanced in evolution than Muslim states elsewhere. It has suffered dictatorship and has learned to abominate it but still cannot live democratically because of the Muslim mind associating utopian governance with a premodern legal code. It seeks honour too, instead of a less honourable globally interdependent growth that forces it to link up with enemies it hates. Its new isolationism — which in the world of weak states means defeat — is embodied in the word its politicians spread around as the new panacea: breaking the kashkol.

Kashkol is the begging bowl the nation is supposed to collectively kick in a gesture of defiance. In fact, it means saying goodbye to a world trying to get Pakistan to correct itself in its premodern adventure. Pakistan’s signal to the democracy-seeking mobs of youths in the Middle East is: ‘We’ve been there, and it doesn’t work for Muslims’.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2011. 

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Reader Comments (78)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:28PM

    Cooniesers still helped dictators survived what about that??????


  • ashok sai
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:32PM

    Blunt !


  • romm
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:37PM

    Very well written.


  • sha
    Nov 12, 2011 - 10:41PM

    What drivel.
    After the 1st world war the Ottoman empire was dismembered to form a pleothora of states that were unviable. Regimes were installed to fulfil their roles for the imperial powers. This was obiously not for the benefit of the people, who are for these great powers completely expemdable.
    Iraq was smashed to pieces, the dictators in the me are andcwere puppets.
    I am afraid you have a very cursory understanding. Just amazed that you write editorials in newspapers.Recommend

  • Cynical
    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:05PM

    It’s because ‘state craft’ is different from promoting ‘cults’.


  • Nov 12, 2011 - 11:18PM

    Khaled saheb,in your brief write up you have summed up what’s ailing Islamic world and Particularly Pakistan and with a warning to Malaysia and Indonesia,that’s what happened to Uganda.Timely warning,but I doubt the way things shaping up there,(I have close relatives in those place,they are thinking of leaving those country),they will heed your warning.Neither here nor there,Pakistan finds itself in the bind,as you put it,”muslim mind set of “Uthopian,never real granduer which was never real to begin with.There are kno very good thinkers in your society but they are drawning in sea of religious jealots.I fear for your country as I’m very fond of your good kindered spirit of some folks,it is very frusterating to see something you love go down inch by inch in front of your sight,like the Titanic,sink,it must,if people who should know better,help it sink.There are signs sometime,things are turning for better,then suddenly it lurches back to disasterY again.You are right,weak nation can not harbor grudges,and issolation.It is self defeating.I guess we must like the passenger on ‘Tatanic’ endure its slow oblivion into the deep sea.Hope we are all wrong,I hope so for Pakistan’s sake.You alway meant well for your country,but is it Enough?


  • khan jr
    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:23PM

    Well said!

    “The premodern seduction of the Muslim mind prevents return to democracy. The blasphemy law is more powerful than any democratic constitution.”

    “[We] cannot live democratically because of the Muslim mind associating utopian governance with a premodern legal code. It seeks honour too, instead of a less honourable globally interdependent growth that forces it to link up with enemies it hates.”

    If we refuse to change our outlook, then we should forsake modernity (which includes cars, airplanes, air conditioners, the internet, computers, macadamized roads, electricity, TVs, etc) and honestly opt for a simpler life of riding camels and eating dates. At least then the hypocrisy (or the convenient munafaqat of ‘picking and choosing’ ideals to suit ourselves) will come to an end.


  • Max
    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:37PM

    I can understand author’s quest and one has not to go very far to find the answers. Here are my simple four prong answers:
    • You cannot live in the 21st. century by adopting a philosophy, a social set-up, a system of laws and rules of governance, or economic regimes of the 7th century and that also alien to your land, culture, or social arrangements.
    • Max Weber was correct when he talks of “Protestant work ethics.” I have not seen a Muslim equivalent emerging in the Islamic world.
    • Islamic cultures have inherited structural weaknesses. A culture that does not emphasize on individual human endeavors is going to fail over a period of time given its structural weaknesses.
    • Islamic cultures have been followed the patron-client track all through their history, thus bound to fail.
    I have the impression that the author is well-versed gentleman but those who have not read Ibn Khaldun’s theory of Asabiyyaha (solidarity) may do so either reading his original work Muqqadimah or Franz Rosenthal’s analogy.


  • Bangladeshi
    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:48PM

    What is the writer trying to say here. Why Muslim countries fail? Why didn’t you mention the illegal stooges propped up by the “Liberal Democratic WEST”. Can you name a single muslim country that practices Islamic Laws. There are none , not even PAK & Saudi. All muslim states follow the “Liberal” Laws of the brititsh Empire and yet you are trying to blame the failure of Muslims on Islamic laws & Philosophy. This kind of liberal articles are very common now a days in all these so called “muslim countries”.


  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Nov 12, 2011 - 11:57PM

    Time to go back to the Islamic Welfare State Concept envisaged by Islam, and overtly expressed by the Noble Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Pbuh. Thats the only panacea for our moral and societal ills, as well as mis-governance.


  • Homa
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:10AM

    Very savvy expose. Succinct yet profound and comprehensive diagnosis. Brilliant style and content. I disagree with the previous commentator, i think the author is very knowledgeable and has valuable insights that are eminently worthy of being considered by all rational people.


  • Anand
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:16AM

    I think it’s a bit too harsh to say that Muslims states are chaotic. Malaysia, Indonesia, the emirates, turkey and even Iran have managed to resuscitate quite nicely. Turkey isn’t doing well because of any Chinese entrepreneurs but because it tapped into its resources wisely and kept its eyes squarely focused on development. Western countries are enjoying the fruits of many centuries of colonial power but at least the majority of Europe and I dare say America are in a state of irreversibl decline.


  • Nero
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:16AM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani : The author has spoken about people exactly like you!!


  • AnisAqeel
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:29AM

    Muslim states fail as they are on denial of changed and changing world and their thinking does not go beyond eighth century. We have to change to all conditions to success as the Quran says search and find out whatever is in the ground or on the sky (meaning to obtaining knowledge doing research and change).


  • MD
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:30AM

    You are right sir, the modern day democratic system is unsuitable to the Muslim majority countries. Simply, because, their inability separate religion from politics. The very thought that religion is an answer to every aspect of human life is disastrously flawed one and that is exactly what, I believe, is wrong with the Islamic believers. It explains why Islamic Pakistan and other Muslim countries are such an abject failures and secular countries like India, that includes Turkey, are a success. The thing that I observed during my long association with the people of different faiths, is that the Muslims, irrespective of their nationality, do try to preach rather than practice what they claim to be as unique to the Islamic faith, such as women’s rights which everyone in the world can see that the Muslim women are the most oppressed ones. This very trait creates a negative picture of Muslims, because, in reality a considerable population of Muslims around the world show their intolerance towards other religions and faiths.
    In terms of economics, here again, Muslims fail to produce the entrepreneurial skills that can lead them to the forefront of the comity of the nations. Despite, the oil wealth Arabs are still busy with the camel races where little children from the subcontinent are subjected to horrific cruelty.
    The most loved nation in Pakistan, Malaysia should be an eye opener to the Pakistanis, who always emphasize on religion, because, the local Malays are living on sweat and blood of local Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs who were primarily responsible for the success of Malaysian economy. The Chinese and Indians constitute about 45% of the Malaysian population, yet, the country declares herself as Islamic country! What is more outrageous is that the wealth generated by the Malaysian Chinese and Indians is spent on the welfare of the “Bhoomi Putras” (sons of the soil meaning local Malays) which is a Sanskrit word and shows the Indian influence on south east Asian countries.
    More are less same is true about Indonesia. Therefore, I think that Muslims around the world can never prosper until and unless they shed the religious dogmas that they carry.


  • Nothing but the Truth
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:45AM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani:
    Time to go back to sixth century obscurantism of the Arab world. Good Luck because you will need it very badly.


  • Jameel
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:49AM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani:

    Time to go back to the Islamic Welfare
    State Concept envisaged by Islam, and
    overtly expressed by the Noble Quran
    and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet
    Pbuh. Thats the only panacea for our
    moral and societal ills, as well as

    What would be the fate of the likes Mumtaz Qadri in such a welfare state, just wondering?

    If Mumtaz Qadri is going to be a national hero in that state then we need to be weary of such state.


  • Jameel
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:51AM


    Can you name a single muslim country
    that practices Islamic Laws.

    Pakistan: Blasphemy law, Huddod and other anti-women laws, anti-minority laws…all utter failure.


  • najib moha
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:55AM

    great job, thank you. Ignore the haters, Sir. Now you know why Muslim states fail, I hope.


  • faraz
    Nov 13, 2011 - 1:18AM


    Can you name any Western law followed by Saudi Arab. Saudi monarchy is quite close to the ‘Golden’ era of Islam. And exactly what is Islamic system and Islamic philosophy? There is none!


  • LOK
    Nov 13, 2011 - 2:00AM

    State and religion are like oil and water, can’t mix, shouldn’t mix.


  • Ali
    Nov 13, 2011 - 2:01AM

    You are probably my new favourite writer, Mr. Ahmed :)


  • Proud Baloch
    Nov 13, 2011 - 2:07AM

    What on earth are you talking about.

    Saudi economy is averaging around 7 % GDP growth with 500 billion $ foreign assets with free education, health care for its citizens and it has foreign investors lined up to invest in the country.. How is this country a failure.
    and I have not even begun speaking about Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Malaysia, Indonesia and of course now Bangladesh.

    Almost all of these countries are much better in living standards than media’s darling India. Why? Because you see millions of Indians almost dying to come to gulf to earn some buck.


  • azhar
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:39AM

    @najib moha:

    haters??? in ur view whoever opposes to an opinion is a hater. Look at urself


  • MarkH
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:45AM

    The loudest Muslims just have a bad habit of using the brain their God has given them for no purpose other than thinking of excuses to not have to use it. I won’t knock a religion completely as there’s usually a good message and its the people that distort it. However, they fail to remember the book can become outdated in some of its stories. The world has changed a lot since the copy they hold onto has been written. Even just in indirect ways that change other things in a big way. That’s not to recommend people abandon it. It’s to recommend that they actually think for themselves a little and bring it into a present context.

    People were given brains capable of more than reading and blindly following for a reason and I really doubt it was just to make things a little more interesting and chaotic so that people can make accusations/arguments for things like blasphemy and kill each other in regard to its teachings. If a religion is static and all-encompassing, there is absolutely no need or reason for a God to complicate matters with brain function beyond those limits. If he did, that means he’s not flawless and in turn, everything else should be looked at a few times over and questioned to be on the safe side, and that’s what it would be, the “safe side.” Not the “evil blasphemer side.”


  • Nov 13, 2011 - 4:15AM

    Max,you are brave man also very articulate,clear minded like Lonely liberralpk,but you are swiming against tide.First of all,the boat of reform sailed for Islamic world long ago,but the sub-continent still had a fighting chance untill 1925.when the sub-continent was 30 crore and the split and enemity between the 2 major sects(hindu?muslim)had not assumed deadly fued, proportion.now we stand 150 crore give and take couple of million.We have failed miserably,not even clean drinking water,you drink at your own peril.Not enough electric power for daily use leave alone heavy industrial use.Just see where we stand vis a vis Japan,Korea,Tiwan and even late comer China.Do not compare with India,it is very deceptive,20 crore out of 130 crore doing half way decent is no measure to brag about,in misrule,dynastic rule or misrule,corruption we are one/two punch in the race.The politic is as muddy and democratic in name only,yes,we can say “I have one good eye you have none”,foolish folks take comfort in that.You said everything without hurting any one,or any ruffling of the feather in your very thin skined very religious society.The comparision and enlogy of 7th century to 21 st century fits like a perfect glove.But how do you set right thing? When the “TRAIN HAS ALREADY LEFT THE STATION’,how do you get on board towards station called’Progress city”???? I was very ambitious,idealistic driven man,very critical thinking,rationalist with logic as my shield and intellect as my sword,but life in 60’s in socialistic India took out every ounce of my energy and rendered me useless ,frusterated without a job,dispirted ruddarless and very close to self destruction,but fortune favors the lucky brave,(I rather be lucky than good),I made to USA in early 60’s.That is why your empasis on individual spirit rang a bell.Islam for whatever reason is hung up on imaginary unity of “Ummah”,which really does not exist in anywhere except in the imagination,there lies all the road blocks,you take care of yourself,Thanks,I wish you could write this well in Urdu for common folks,Tribune, Thank you,start Urdu mass publication for “:Ammadmi”there may lies our salvation.


  • Pakistani in US
    Nov 13, 2011 - 4:16AM

    The author described the mindset that @Abdul Rehman Gilani so apty exemplifies.


  • Proud Baloch
    Nov 13, 2011 - 4:43AM

    Pakistanis think just because they are failing, rest of the Muslim world is failing too. Comedy.


  • Motsomi Masilo
    Nov 13, 2011 - 4:49AM

    I absolutely disagree with the contents of the article. The question asked has been narrowed to focus only on a specific religious group.
    Try asking the same question about the african countries of all religious groups including muslim who also fail to succeed.
    In my honest opinion, imperialism has through the centuries succeeded to enslave us. We have been taught to be subservient to the colonisers with the hope that they will in return also treat us fairly.
    On the contrary, the imperialists had an agenda of their own that was completely different to our hopes and aspirations.
    They amassed vast wealth by plundering our countries respectively. They even made sure that after colonisation ended they retained control by propping up corrupt dictators.
    The imperialists continues to play us against each other and also sponsors terrorism to destabilise former colonies.
    In the African continent there were countless coups financed by the western countries to derail legitimate democratically elected governments that were on a success path.
    In return to propping up dictators, the west acquire mining rights, land and business from the newly installed dictators.
    In the middle east muslim countries, the west insist on having a finger in each and every pie.
    Muslim countries that refuse to dance to the tune of the west are deemed to have an ulterior motive and subsequently derailed through hostile policies, sanctions and regime changes. In addition, prolonged millitary occupation in some muslim countries by the west ultimately leads to mistrust of muslim governments by their subjects.
    The world governing body which is the united nations is also not sufficiently equiped to help either. It is structured in such a way that only a handful of countries control the whole world. The permanent seat members of the security council of the united nations consist of only old world order countries with veto rights. There are no muslim nor african countries among the elite permanent seat members.
    That is why muslim countries amongst others fail to govern effectively. It is not the muslim methodology that fails, but the present treacherous conditions dictated by the west that contributes to the status quo.
    A new world order is urgently needed where the global management team is representative of all humanity in all its forms location.


  • Ali
    Nov 13, 2011 - 5:50AM

    Democracy takes time the uk and France had all the time in the world to perfect thier system

    Whilst weak states like Germany , Italy, Spain and Russia fell to fascism

    Only strong rich countries can have democracy
    Even America is not a real democracy run by corporate media, lobbyist and suprem court which gave the 2000 election to bush

    I’d rather Pakistan was run by the army than American corporation

    Recently I went to the uk massive protests a govt with only 30 percent mandate is doing 100 percent of its agenda , starting wars on oil interest etcRecommend

  • prashanth
    Nov 13, 2011 - 6:23AM

    @khan jr:
    wrong, Mr Khan – more important elements of modernity are intangible, such as rule of law, non discrimination based birth or sex, equal rights etc.


  • N
    Nov 13, 2011 - 6:41AM

    So are you saying that muslims are incapable of forming a modern liberal democracy? Islam and modernity are incompatible?


  • Sardar
    Nov 13, 2011 - 6:49AM

    Author did find the reason for bad report card of Muslim states but he didn’t mention why people in this modern age of communication at the speed of light, believe in outdated and unrealistic concepts. I would be curious to know what shapes this kind of public opinion. I think teachers, religious leaders, media play an important role.


  • Usman
    Nov 13, 2011 - 6:55AM

    Hats OFF, very well written. Many thanks.


  • John B
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:07AM

    I was wondering what is exactly “Muslim mind” . The comments of a few above clarified.

    Pakistan claims itself to be a Muslim nation, but it is not. It hides behind the cloak of Islamic religious dogma to cover its short comings. Shedding the Islamic coat also means the ideology of Pakistan is a failure, which of course is unacceptable. So, Pakistan is caught between the reality and ideology, an equal but opposing force.


  • GA
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:31AM

    Very well, so the only hope now is the rigorous implementation of the Sharia, that is the panacea to all problems.


  • Shariq Mushir
    Nov 13, 2011 - 9:06AM

    Has anyone by any chance had the opportunity to read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Though it has been proven by a lot to be a hoax or a fake document, but why does it seem so real or relevant?

    The author has expressed nothing new or unique. As a matter of fact, it is a popular sentiment and observation these days so pretty much everyone’s saying the same.


  • perplexed
    Nov 13, 2011 - 9:21AM

    @Ali Tanoli

    Cooniesers still helped dictators survived what about that??????

    In the name of all that is holy, Who or What are ‘COONIESERS’?


  • zalim singh
    Nov 13, 2011 - 9:33AM

    brutally frank article sir. I feel the muslim world should concentrate on quality. Numbers and exploding numbers may not mean quality.

    Education is the prime requirement of the day. I mean prioper education. Not madrassa one.


  • dd
    Nov 13, 2011 - 10:34AM

    cuz usage of word ‘muslim’ instead of ‘human’


  • pmbm
    Nov 13, 2011 - 11:16AM

    “Muslim States” have failed because they have abandoned Islamic principles, honesty, justice and hard work. And Muslims not gaining knowledge that benefits the individual and the society as a whole.


  • spring
    Nov 13, 2011 - 11:55AM

    Everyone gets what he/she deserves. For relishing the perpetual victimhood feeling, nurturing of perpetual deep hatred for all is necessary.


  • fighter
    Nov 13, 2011 - 11:55AM

    well, at least we are better of than many neighboring countries.


  • Shakir Lakhani
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:11PM

    Muslim states have failed because their rulers are feudal. Pakistan, particularly, is controlled by landlords who don’t pay taxes, but steal the taxes which the poor citizens have to pay. The cure is to divide the country into 27 provinces, with each province raising its own revenue (by taxing the rich land-owners) and not dependent on the centre, which should have control only on foreign affairs and defence. The Pakistan Resolution of 1940 said that the constituent units should be sovereign and autonomous. We should make that the starting point.


  • observer
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:35PM


    well, at least we are better of than many neighboring countries.


    Care naming 3 of these ‘neighbours’ please?


  • anil
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:45PM

    Without blaming a particular religion , I would say the success of a state depends upon its society , its tolerance towards other , educated mass . Rulers come out of society ,they don’t come from heaven .


  • antanu g
    Nov 13, 2011 - 12:45PM

    very well written…but you forgot one thing…when a tyranny goes a civil govt does well. because other western states come running to help them. but when a muslim nation moves towards tyranny to civilian rule…west moves in to meddle in their affairs…just to get the wealth..the oil precisely. so its the oil which has become a curse for muslim countries and biggest hurdle in their efforts for a peaceful exostence.


  • sharifL
    Nov 13, 2011 - 1:20PM

    Great piece; I agree with everything Khalid sahib is saying. I have a feeling that muslims can wait for decades patiently under dictatorships, but want to change the civilian set up much sooner. Perhaps Pakistanis are brought up in family by dictatorial parents that we feel at ease and home with them and not those elected leaders. May be I am a pessimist.


  • Sajida
    Nov 13, 2011 - 2:02PM

    I assume you do not consider Turkey to be a Muslim state? Pakistan can learn a thing or two from it. First see how its politicians take country forward even when they are Islamists and come to power for the first time! Pakistan’s secular parties cannot do as well after repeat returns to power.They also want to cling to a primitive local system too outdated to serve the needs of the country, while the Turks embrace modernity.
    Are you aware they have a local system that has decentralized government.
    See for example the Istanbul form:
    Each MM is sub-divided into District Municipalities (“DM”) of which there are 27 in Istanbul
    Istanbul — A Megalopolis That’s Beginning to Work


  • Qamar
    Nov 13, 2011 - 2:11PM

    @ Abdul Rehman

    No plz dont go back to islamic concept, as an atheist i would have been punished by a death penalty, so will gays/lesbians and minorities/liberals will not enjoy freedom like muslims are enjoyiing in secular/islamic countries…


  • Ch.Khurram Aziz Dhillon
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:08PM

    The variety of examples from various countries are appreciable. As far as Pakistan is concerned i think, we are still stuck and grossly confused regarding the nature of the polity i.e., Secular or Islamic.


  • Billoo Bhaya
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:24PM

    You are the only sane commentator. Most people without using their brains will accuse others of blasphemy. But according to an old saying about orthodoxy: God needs some people more than anyone else in the world, and some people need God more than anyone else.


  • omer bin abdulaziz
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:30PM

    Here speaks an ignorant man with a set scope to see through.
    Islam if implemented over the land in letter and spirit can propel a nation to glory as it has done in the past. It’s highly unique and so mixing it with other ‘isms’ will simply not work.


  • Chulbul Pandey
    Nov 13, 2011 - 3:51PM


    Mr. Khaled Ahmad, I always look forward to your articles. There are a few other Pakistani writers too who are blessed with unbiased & unforgiving outlook like yours.
    As a reader, I find your audacity at par with Nadeem F. Paracha from Dawn, albeit in a very different style of writing.
    Kudos on another honest and straight-to-the-point article. I look forward to more work from the might of your pen!


  • Please answer
    Nov 13, 2011 - 4:06PM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani:
    Islamic system survived for 80 years, and the interpreations i hear are in contradiction. What exactly is the Islamic welfare state because Muslims in 1400 years are yet not able to emulate it.


  • Fighter
    Nov 13, 2011 - 6:23PM

    @observer: india: we have less poor, better culture, advanced technology, better infrastructure, no infighting for division…,the list is endless.
    China:we are not communists, people openly dissent againts government.
    Afganistan: less said is better.


  • Max
    Nov 13, 2011 - 7:28PM

    Thank you for reading my comments and the celebratory comments. I am a Pakistani and proud to be so. Yes! We have problems but we don’t push them under the carpet like some of our neighbors. We are very articulate people and you can see that by comparing Indian press with its Pakistani counterpart. Please also know that Pakistan may be experiencing some problems but it is a resilient country and just last week “India Outlook” gave a statistical description of the region; please have a look at that before you jump on the “Progress Train.”
    Sir! if you have lived in the United States for last fifty plus years, you should be able to articulate in grammatically correct English, and please for Mahtamma sake stop bashing Pakistan. We had enough, we know our problems and we can solve these. If we ever need your help, we will knock at your door, but till that time leave us alone.
    Again, thank you for your comments. I appreciate your generosity.


  • Insight
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:01PM

    The answer to the author’s question lies in the question itself!!! Islam requires it’s followers to abandon their native genetic, ethnic and cultural values and identity and claim allegiance only to an Islamic ”ummah”. From there it goes on to prescribe a “one size fits all” solution to all of life’s issues for its followers.

    Their in lies the problem. Religion as a prescription for all of life’s issues is a recipe for disaster. More so, if that religion embodies an alien way of life. The role of religion lies in spirituality, salvation and all things pertaining to it. Religion tends to be purely emotional, faith based and unsunstantiated. To allow it to interfere with or guide other aspects which may require polity, scientific knowledge and rational approach and understanding is an obvious and serious mistake. Hence, unless religion is segregated from non spiritual issues of life, the “mishaps” will continue.


  • Ashraf
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:31PM

    Muslims states fail because they still have illusions of grandeur. They don’t realize that the world has changed around them. Horses and swords won’t do it now. Education is the key and that is something they don’t have an aptitude for. But the most important factor is there is way too much religion – way beyond tolerable levels.


  • Indian
    Nov 13, 2011 - 8:33PM

    @Proud Baloch:
    I think you forgot to mention that it is the oil that every Saudi sits upon and markets and survives on. Life is a luxury when you have petrol like water in your backyard. You felt the need for a few thousand dollars, all you have to do is fetch some petrol in your well and sell it!! Let us see how Saudis will survive when oil reserves get exhausted!

    None of these countries that you mentioned have come across the kind of adversity that India has come across in recent history from 5 wars (4 with you and one with China) to corruption to staggering ethnic/language/religious diversity.

    I am actually happy you want to see India progressing! Wait and watch… You are only witnessing the rise of a Superpower!!

    Now what do you have to say for that?


  • observer
    Nov 13, 2011 - 9:13PM


    Culture? Since when has anyone accused you of having any culture other than Kalashnikov culture?Are you aware that Music, Dance,Painting all form culture and all are declared haram. Ask your ‘pop star’ cum dress designer.

    Divisions? Didn’t you have a wing called East Pakistan? And have any Government forces dared to enter Waziristan lately?

    China?You mean the same China that you keep grovelling before?

    Dil Bahlane Ko Ghalib Khayal Achcha Hai. Just don’t start believing the hype.


  • u_too
    Nov 13, 2011 - 9:27PM

    Couldn’t agree more with the last two lines


  • asif
    Nov 13, 2011 - 10:25PM

    Max’ s answer to Hariharman is spot on. Let us just say, our neighbors to east just can’t it through their head that their condescending advice is unwanted. What makes them take this condescending tone is beyond me – it has got be some delusional gene at work here.


  • Salman Abedin
    Nov 13, 2011 - 11:07PM

    I have one problem with this and similar pieces. It presupposes that there is only one developmental format, and that is unfortunately based on the concept that liberal democracy and capitalism are the only viable options in today’s world. Islamic societies being in some ways pre-enlightenment because of their rejection of modernity as a philosophical construct, are open to this kind of silly analysis. When analysing post-colonialism we have to also allow for a discourse on the ravages of colonialism per se. We have to analyse whether pre-colonial societies were better or worse than post-colonial constructs. The Mughal empire, and the Ottoman empire were advanced societies for their times, and had the West not occupied, divided and ravaged the Orient both culturally and politically, the world would have been a different place. I reject all attempts at analysing post-colonial Muslim states through the lens of modern analysis, and ask that editors allow multiple discourses to be represented on their pages. Post-modernism must be non-judgemental, and liberals must understand post-modernity before trying to judge “modern” muslim states.


  • Amit
    Nov 14, 2011 - 12:37AM

    They fail because they are unwilling to acknowledge how bigotry becomes foundation of the countries which results in intolerance and violence as well as exclusion of minorities and women from power.


  • Tahir Ali
    Nov 14, 2011 - 1:05AM

    Thoughtful analysis. To keep pace with the world, the Muslim states must separate politics from religion. Can it be done in the present environment? I do not think so. The author should also focus on giving viable solutions.


  • Danish Qadimi
    Nov 14, 2011 - 2:54AM

    In “Why Muslim states fail”, Mr. Khaled Ahmed produces yet another crisp and succinct analysis of what ails Pakistan and the Muslim World.

    However, another point must be highlighted that was only touched upon in passing. As Khaled sahib points out, the only successful Muslim states today are those that have a market economy. History tells us that liberal democracies have established and thrived ONLY in market economies. Never has a socialist/ controlled economy yielded a thriving democracy, nor have democracies yielded a market economy.

    To this one adds that most Muslims live with ethos that market economies are bad and they find justification for this in their understanding of Islam. Even in Muslim countries with market
    economies, the economy is run and fuelled by non-Muslims.

    Perhaps then there is a need for Muslims to resolve their conflict with modern economic view before any progress is to be expected.


  • Abhi
    Nov 14, 2011 - 12:08PM

    @Salman Abedin
    I don’t know about Ottoman empire, but mughal empire under bahadurshah was surely on decline, not just british but other regional powers (Afghan, Sikh, Maratha, Rajput) have taken control of various parts and were fighting with each other. So this claim that everything was great when under these empire doesn’t make any sense.


  • Salman Abedin
    Nov 14, 2011 - 12:36PM

    The point I was trying to make was that a more thoughtful treatment of pre- and post-colonial societies is called for. Intervention by the colonial powers changed the way society was configured. Cultures were destroyed and modes of governance that had evolved over centuries were uprooted. To expect that post-colonial muslim societies should resemble post-enlightment western democracies is farcical. The way modern democracy developed in the Europe, and the way that Colonialism was allowed to develop in the East, is an area that needs study, not silly analysis.Recommend

  • Furqan Khattak
    Nov 14, 2011 - 1:19PM

    The civilization also emerged in former soviet union but it also crashed, civilization keeps changing. Recent edition of Newsweek, i was reading an article, how he explained it the falling of american imperialism. We do lack that charismatic personality. I love these words “Utopian” but hope to see the changes. The question is democracy can prevail in Muslim countries, the writer already mentioned the reasons. One thing more, does democracy has any limited values or we can change it according to the setupRecommend

  • aisha khan
    Nov 14, 2011 - 7:00PM

    Muslim countries will only prosper when they become less emotional and more rational and find a way to disassociate politics from religion.


  • Rana
    Nov 15, 2011 - 1:11AM

    State and religion must be saperated.State should protect the fundelmental rights of the peaple and should not interfare the religios activities. Religion would have to play the role to promote the values of humanity.


  • Farheen
    Nov 15, 2011 - 2:20AM

    You made absolutely NO SENSE.


  • Arindom
    Nov 15, 2011 - 5:09AM

    The answer is in the Question itself – “why muslim states fail?”

    The first thing that muslims do once they realise that they are in a majority is declare their state as “muslim state”.

    The downward spiral after that is all too familiar for re-printing here…..


  • Manju
    Nov 15, 2011 - 11:33AM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani:

    “According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2010, launched on Tuesday, as many as 51 per cent of the population is living in multidimensional poverty and 54 per cent is suffering from intense deprivation. Another 11.8 per cent of the population is at the risk of multidimensional poverty” – quotes express tribune – “51% of Pakistanis deprived of basic education, health” – Published: February 23, 2011.

    And according to the very same UN’s Human Development report India ranks 134 (Medium Human development) better than Pakistan’s 145 (Low Human Development). So cut the crap and go and do some productive work than trying to build some pseudo ego.

    Stop denying and start acting productive!!


  • Manju
    Nov 15, 2011 - 11:50AM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani:

    You want more take this:

    India Pakistan

    Rank 134 145
    Life expectancy (yrs) 65.4 65.4
    Education (yrs) .45 .386
    Income ($) 3468 2550
    Inequality .39 .346
    Poverty (%) .28 .264
    Gender inequality index .61 .573
    Sustainability 24.1 10.7

    Now do you get the point? Recommend

  • Nov 15, 2011 - 6:27PM

    I read somewhere that social and cultural values to which a people cling most stubbornly under adverse conditions are those very values ( cultural and social ) that were in the whoary past the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity and that reason is and always will be the slave of passion . To overcome such a predicament a paradigm change is needed in individual and a collective psyche .


  • omer bin abdulaziz
    Nov 16, 2011 - 1:11PM

    wow!!! that ain’t bad considering that we have been in war for the entire past decade.
    no country can keep with such figures in a wretched state like ours.
    now go fetch that ;)


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