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Islam's Modernity Problem

Thomas Lifson has an interesting article today looking at the Islamist attack on intellectual property. One of the interesting points in the piece that dramatizes the lack of progress in Islamic societies vis a vis Europe, Asia and the Americas is the patent activity in the Islamic world:

Saudi Arabia, which only established a patent office in 1990, has not granted a patent in six years. Iran in 2001 granted only one patent. Egypt, home to a quarter of the world’s Arabs, is only now getting around to mandating the task of undertaking a substantive investigation of patent claims before granting patents.

The basic machinery of technological innovation is absent. Indonesia, with almost a quarter billion people, has totaled 30 patents in the last five years.

Lifson points out that intellectual property is the foundation of modern life and why it challenges the premise of the jihadist vision for the world:

It turns out that the very internet which is powering so much innovation and efficiency is being used to build a political movement to destroy all technological dynamism. These guys may be crazy, but they are smart. Intellectual property is the bedrock foundation of modern life.

Without the ability to protect (and profit from) intellectual property, there will be no innovation. Nobody will have an incentive to do things differently from the way they have always been done. The phrase for such a world is The Dark Ages……

At its heart, the Islamist vision is opposed to all technological change. Rather than a society characterized by continuing discoveries in medicine, telecommunications advances and new applications of micro-electronics to further delight the mind and body, these Islamists prefer (or think they prefer) a steady state society, roughly fixed at the seventh century, when Muhammad received divine revelations and laid down the optimal way to govern human existence for all time.

Lifson goes on to ask:

If they get their way, do they envision getting rid of all post-800 AD innovations? Or will they try to hold onto what exists, while allowing no further innovation? The mind boggles. Who will train the air conditioner repair men? How will they keep up with what already exists if nobody is interested extending in such knowledge? Everyone might as well just study the Koran in madrassas.

And that is the point.

In many ways this is one of the central reasons why President Bush is pushing for the Dubai Ports deal encouraging Islamic countries to embrace modernity, capitalism, and commerce: so that young Arab men have more to do than just study the Koran in madrassas.