“There is a tradition of Islam that actually values enterprise and free trade,” says Mustafa Akyol, a New York Times columnist and author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. “Islam was born as a very trade-friendly religion. Prophet Muhammad was a merchant himself.”
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Akyol says the current state of affairs in the Islamic world can lead people to feel pessimistic about its future and the prospect of a free society. But “to extrapolate this out to all Muslims and to say ‘this is what Islam probably is,’ would be the biggest mistake,” Akyol says. “What Islam can be, and what Islam was in the past, is a different discussion.”
While the historical basis for compatibility with the West exists, there are still many challenges that face the Islamic world. Akyol says a change to Islam along the lines of the Protestant Reformation isn’t necessarily what’s needed. “What we need is the Enlightenment…not Luther, but John Locke.”
Nick Gillespie sat down with Akyol at the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss the historical relationship between Islam and free trade, how Islamists reshaped the religion into political authoritarianism, and whether or not Islam needs a reformation or an enlightenment.
Produced by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by McDaniel, Joshua Swain, and Todd Krainin.