Islam Earns Its Scorn
As the renowned and pioneering historian Bernard Lewis noted over 20 years ago in The Roots of Muslim Rage, "the classical Islamic view, to which many Muslims are beginning to return, [is that] the world and all mankind are divided into two: the House of Islam, where the Muslim law and faith prevail, and the rest, known as the House of Unbelief or the House of War, which it is the duty of Muslims ultimately to bring to Islam."
After the events of 9/11, Professor Lewis, in The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, also noted that much of the animosity directed toward the West, particularly the United States, is due to old-fashioned envy -- stemming from Western progress and Islamic decline. As one reviewer put it, the crux of Lewis's argument is that "the sources of rage among Muslims stem from the deep frustration over the loss of a cultural primacy that was once theirs and has now been lost to the forces of modernity, especially as represented by the United States."
As Muslims rage against the U.S. abroad, it is rather telling to examine "the loss of cultural primacy" within Islam, along with the overall effect Islam is having on nations and individuals the world over. Of the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), as rated by the Economists Intelligence Unit's Index of Democracy, none are full democracies, while 36 are authoritarian regimes (dictatorships). Of the Index's 10 most authoritarian regimes, six of them are members of the OIC.
Muslims are over 23 percent of the world population and produce barely eight percent of global GDP. The average GDP rank for the members of the OIC is 102 (out of 211 nations). The total GDP of the 57-member OIC is approximately $4.9 trillion. That is about one-third of the GDP of the U.S. alone ($14.4 trillion).
According to the United Nations' 2009 Arab Human Development Report, "[f]or nearly two and half decades after 1980, the [Arab] region witnessed hardly any economic growth. World Bank data show that real GDP per capita in the Arab countries grew by a mere 6.4 per cent over the entire 24 year period from 1980 to 2004 (i.e. by less than 0.5 per cent annually)." One in five Arabs lives on less than $2 per day.
Illiteracy plagues the Arab world. About a third of those living in Arab countries cannot read. This includes about half of all women. There are fewer than 18 computers per 1,000 persons in the Arab world, compared to the global average of 78.3; and only 1.6 percent of Arabs use the internet.
In the 57 nations in the OIC, there are a total of about 500 universities. There are over 5,700 in the U.S. In just over 100 years, the Muslim world has produced nine Nobel laureates, while a mere 14 million Jews have produced 166. There are about 400 scientists and engineers per 1 million people in research and development in Arab countries, compared to about 4,000 per million people in North America.
Particularly disturbing, and most telling, as one examines Islam, is the role of women in Islamic society. Islamic law (sharia) prohibits women from looking men in the eye, forbids them from wearing shoes that make noise, and forbids them from becoming educated. As Ergun and Emir Caner note in Unveiling Islam, "women are considered possessions in any orthodox Islamic regime[.] ... The wife is considered the husband's sex object." Also, one of the most alarming admonitions in the Koran allows the husband to punish his wife physically.
Of the eight nations that the U.S. has placed on its State Sponsors of Terrorism list, 6 of them are Islamic regimes. Of the 16 nations the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has under its Country of Particular Concern designation, 11 are Islamic regimes (all of the others are differing authoritarian regimes, including North Korea, China, and Vietnam). Nice company, huh?
Religious freedom in the most orthodox Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia is virtually nonexistent. Like in many other Muslim countries, Saudi law states that Islamic apostasy -- denying the faith or converting to another religion -- is a crime punishable by death. In 2006, Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman was arrested (after it was discovered that he possessed a Bible) and faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity. Intervention by Afghan president Hamid Karzai resulted in the charges against Rahman being dismissed.
Leading Afghan clerics were highly critical of Karzai, noting that "[t]he Qur'an is very clear and the words of our prophet are very clear. There can only be one outcome: death." This attitude is very prevalent across the Arab world, validating Professor Lewis's notion that "many Muslims are beginning to return" to the "classical [violent and repressive] Islamic view."
In Turkey in 2007, two Turkish converts to Christianity were killed in the Malatya Bible Publishing Firm murders. Also in 2007, Mohammed Hegazy became the first Egyptian Muslim officially to seek to convert to Christianity. An Egyptian judge ruled that "[h]e can believe whatever he wants in his heart, but on paper he can't convert." Muslim clerics issued fatwas calling for his death. His wife's family has sworn to kill her because she married a non-Muslim. They are both currently in hiding.
All of this pales in comparison to the slaughter in Sudan. The Institute on Religion and Democracy reports that "since 1983 Sudan has been devastated by a jihad or holy war led by the militant National Islamic Front, the ruling regime in Khartoum, against all in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains who opposed the imposition of Shariۥa, or Islamic law. The government-sponsored terror has resulted in the deaths of at least two million moderate Muslims, animists, and Christians."
Of course, as the Caners point out, "[a]ny major religion must first be seen through the eyes of its founder...Muhammad commanded in the Qurۥan, 'Fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them' (surah 9:5) ... in a world searching for peace, following the life of this warrior brings about bloodshed." Moments before Abu Mus'ad Al Zarqawi cut off the head of American Nicholas Berg, he said these words in Arabic: "The Prophet, the master of the merciful has ordered to cut off the heads of some of the prisoners of Badr in patience. He is our example and a good role model."
Zarqawi knew that Muhammad had often used beheading as the means of executing his enemies. Thus, Zarqawi was unmistakably choosing to emulate his "good role model" and spiritual leader.
Clearly, by and large, Islam is an enforced religion with a violent founder, a violent founding, and a very violent past and present. Islam is generally repressive to women and to those of other faiths. Islam is typically financially devastating and technologically backward. Any politician -- Republican, Democrat, and the like -- who attempts to paint Islam or Islamic nations in a positive light is at the least not giving the whole picture, and is at the worst a political coward.
Trevor Grant Thomas, at the intersection of politics, science, faith, and reason. www.trevorgrantthomas.com