Think Tanks and the Future of the Islamic World

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Think tanks, the collective intellect of society, produce systematic and specialized knowledge, which in turn means power.

What is a Think Tank?

Think tanks are institutes where ideas are produced. They have also been called factories of ideas, idea production and Research and Development centers. Think tanks are organizations nurturing and assembling specialists from different areas of interests and engaging in advocacy. They conduct research, develop policies and advocate in social, economic, political and military subjects.

Although these organizations are claimed to be independent, most of the time they act directly or indirectly together with the state. They conduct research and develop policies for the governments, intelligence agencies, armies, arms manufacturers and companies. Through their activities, they create public opinion, direct the domestic and foreign policy of the countries, and even affect world politics. Important think tanks have enormous budgets reaching millions of dollars. Some of them work with teams of 300-500 staff.


The term “think tank” originated in the beginning of the 20th century (1901-1917) in the USA. With the beginning of the Cold War starting after 1950, there was a great increase in the numbers of think tanks. While there were only two dozen think tanks in the USA between 1907 and 1950, after 1950 this number multiplied and think tanks nearly turned into an industry. Those think tanks gave great support to the USA in directing world politics and especially in struggling against the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War.

With the end of the Cold War, the perception and understanding of think tanks started to change throughout the world. After the 1990s think tanks have been focused on the “New World Order” project.

Think Tanks throughout the World

Almost all of the influential think tanks carry out their activities in the USA. Think tank institutions are a result of America’s development and enrichment of the organizations in foreign policy, seeing herself as responsible for pursuing both her own interests and those of the West in general after World War II.

Today, there are approximately 5800 think tanks throughout the world. In the USA alone, there are 1777 think tanks. 350 of these institutions operate in the capital Washington D.C. Moreover, the think tanks in the USA are ahead of other think tanks in different regions of the world in terms of

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their budget, number of staff, effectiveness, etc.

According to some statistics, there are 283 think tanks in England, 186 in Germany, 165 in France, 107 in Russia, 105 in Japan and 94 in Canada. The think tanks in those countries are also at the forefront in terms of theır budget, staff profile, publications and level of effectiveness.

The numbers of think tanks in some other countries are as follows: 55 in Holland, 54 in Mexico, 53 in Romania, 45 in the Ukraine, 42 in Kenya, 38 in Nigeria, 34 in Bangladesh, 36 in Chile.

According to the think tank index of Foreign Affairs magazine, there are only 21 think tanks in Turkey. It is evident that when we compare this relatively low number with the numbers in developed countries, our condition is quite alarming. Even the number of think tanks in developing countries with a lower population than Turkey is higher than that in Turkey.

Think Tanks, the Islamic World and Turkey

After 1990, think tanks turned their faces to the Islamic world. Some of them claimed that the Islamic world was a threat like communism, or an even greater danger. They came up with projects like “New World Order” and “Greater Middle East Initiative”. Some think tanks developed projects working towards the dissolution of the Islamic states in the Middle East. (According to some news, the countries to be split are especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. Today, Sudan is divided de facto.) According to those projects, the countries with relatively large lands should be divided and made smaller; they should be put into conflict with one another, and the new countries created in these lands should be made grateful to the USA and turned into her satellite states. At the same time, those states should not be a threat to Israel, and they should even help and cooperate with her.”

Think tanks focus especially on Turkey. Because Turkey has a great importance for the security of Middle East, especially Israel (See: Turkey is on the agenda of American Think Tanks. [ABD’li ‘Think Tank’ların gündeminde ‘Türkiye’ var.] Güngör Uras, Milliyet, 27. 5. 2006) The biggest think tank, the Rand Corporation, which allegedly has a 250 million dollar annual budget, working together with CIA, published a comprehensive report on Turkey in February 2010.

What should be done?

There is an urgent need to found think tanks conducting social, economic and even political research and producing solutions. This need is a self-evident truth.

“Knowledge is power” is a popular maxim. The hegemony of the western countries over the world is because of the knowledge they have. It is only through systematic and specialized knowledge that we can get rid of their hegemony and come to the fore as a nation and an ummah.

Regarding this, Ustad Bediuzzaman says:

It is proved in the Risale-i Nur that today is the time of community. Collective personality dominates. In olden times, since the corruption came from one person, one genius guiding people to the true faith would suffice. But today, it is a collective personality in the form of a community, so only a collective personality can confront it. (Siracu’n-Nur)

What Ustad calls “collective personality” is companies, institutes known as legal personality today. That is to say, the organizations with division of labor and organic integration are collective personalities.

Ustad Bediuzzaman also says: “[It is necessary] to realize that the individual resistance of the most powerful person against the attacks of the people of misguidance and falsehood will inevitably be defeated, because they [people of misguidance and falsehood] have the genius of a mighty collective force which arises from their solidarity, thus we also need to create a joint and collective force through the union of the people of truth in order to preserve justice and right in the face of that fearsome collective force of misguidance.” (The Flashes)

“However great the genius of the persons are, they may be defeated by the genius of community rising from its collective personality.” (Emirdağ Appendix)

“Yes, if three alifs do not unite, they have the value of three. Whereas, if they do unite, through the mystery of numbers they acquire the value of one hundred and eleven. If four times four remain apart, they have a value of sixteen. But if, through the mystery of brotherhood and having a common goal and joint duty, they unite coming together shoulder to shoulder on a line, they have the strength and value of four thousand four hundred and forty-four. Just as numerous historical events testify that the moral strength and value of sixteen self-sacrificing brothers have been greater than that of four thousand.” (The Flashes)

“The underlying reason for this mystery is this: each member of a true and sincere union may see also with the eyes of the other brothers, and hear with their ears. As if each person of a true union of ten has the value and strength of seeing with twenty eyes, thinking with ten minds, hearing with twenty ears, and working with twenty hands.” (The Flashes)


As a nation, we have lots of political, social and cultural problems. But none of them are too complicated to deal with. The think tanks which can be founded in Islamic countries can deal with both their problems and the ummah’s troubles and they can produce solutions. The Islamic world has great brain power yet to be discovered, it has such great material and spiritual potential and dynamic. Turning into a collective brain (a collective intellect), think tanks can activate that potential and that dynamic.

Such think tanks could focus on numerous subjects, such as education, health, poverty, agriculture, exportation, importation, industry, law, ethics, politics, social unity and solidarity, and could come up with solutions.

Founding think tanks is especially the responsibility of leaders. It should not be hard for the leaders who are leading the masses to pioneer in the foundation of think tanks, in fact, this is one of their most urgent and important duties, since they took the great responsibility of taking power to govern the people. If they do not deal with the problems of the ummah and provide the people with solutions, they may suffer grave consequences both in this world and the Hereafter.

At the same time, the leaders themselves could be the biggest obstacle in the path of the foundation of the think tanks, and their ability to produce solutions. Those leaders unable to appreciate the big mission on the shoulders of think tanks in the Islamic world will obviously not give them much importance. Likewise, oppressive and selfish leaders, obsessed with power and afraid to lose it, will not support them, because throughout history, oppressive leaders have avoided their people obtaining knowledge. Their reign continues as long as the ignorance of the public persists.

One thought on “Think Tanks and the Future of the Islamic World

  1. That’s a great article putting forward a most possibly effective solution towards the development of the Islamic World in all respects. Collective personality has got to be provided through think tanks all around the Islamic World quite soon.

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