Addressing the Growth of Islam

By October 17, 2006 No Comments

There is a fact that excites Jihadis and less sanguinary Muslims alike – and it might even be true. We are often told that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and so it may be, but this is not an argument for the intrinsic worth of Islam as a religion. But many Muslims anticipate the day that they become the world’s largest religion and a controlling population in Western Europe and even in America itself. Thus will Islam become the dominant religion and political culture in the world.

Don’t bet on it.

Robert Edgerton’s 1992 classic Sick Societies is a study about dysfunctionalism in human societies. He largely wrote it to derail the popular conceit at the time that aboriginal and other pre-civilized societies around the world were always well adjusted and lived in harmony with nature (as opposed to Westerners of course). As a well-seasoned anthropologist, he cited case after case to shatter this myth, but in doing so, he inadvertently made a case that perhaps all human societies are dysfunctional in one way or another.

Dysfunctionalism is the all too human trait of adopting self-damaging habits, mistaking them for advantages, and reinforcing them when things go wrong. Most dysfunctions are not necessarily destructive, unless when combined with the wrong circumstances whereupon they can contribute to the reduction or extinction of a particular group.

One severe example Edgerton cited was of a tribe that was about to be wiped out by its neighbors until well-meaning Christian missionaries stepped in. This particular tribe had adopted a custom to ensure fertility among its women of essentially having their new husbands and his male relatives gang-rape new brides on their wedding nights. The natural consequences of pelvic inflammation and related trauma instead reduced their birth rate to alarming levels, and so greater efforts by even more men were called for to ensure pregnancy, which in turn further rendered even more of their women sterile. Finally, the tribe was reduced to maintaining its numbers by raiding neighboring peoples to kidnap their children; hence the planned war of genocide against them by every tribe in the region.

There are numerous examples of dysfunctional behaviors in many human societies – including our own. Most, again, have hidden perils that don’t manifest until some other dangers appear.

The UN’s Arab Human Economic Development Reports for 2002 and 2003 were authored by a set of 23 Arab intellectuals who were quite frank in identifying why the Arab World is so backward, violent and poor. If oil is discounted, the sum of the exports of the Arab world’s 218.22 million people comes to $58.9 Billion. The 5.3 million people of tiny Finland export $44.45 Billion by themselves. [1] The authors of the report fingered the causes of this miserable performance: Bad governance (e.g. corrupt, inefficient and manipulative), poor education systems and very low standards of women’s empowerment.

Islam, despite occasional protestations from a few Muslims, is abysmal in its treatment of women. While few societies could match the high standards set by late 20th Century Western democracies; the horrors of confinement, honor killings for transgressions, and easy divorce for men were not that common in Western history. Muslim women, in most of the history of Islam, did have particular legal and property rights, but so did women in most civilized societies. Moreover, in Islam these rights are a ceiling not a floor. Perhaps the historical record speaks for itself – women in other societies before modern times occasionally surfaced to become known to history as something more than just a wife or mother, but where are Islam’s famous female rulers? Where are its celebrated patrons of the arts and sciences, or its female mystics and theologians? Where are Islam’s equivalents to Sei Shonagan, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Catherine of Siena, Joan of Arc, Isabella of Castille, or Queen Elizabeth I?

The low standards of treatment for women have another dire consequence nowadays. Humanity’s population increase in the 20th Century was alarming: There were 2.5 billion of us in 1950 and today there are almost 6.5 billion people around. Predictions for the middle of the 21st Century have changed – fears that that we would double again have slacked off and most indicators suggest that there should be about 8.9 billion people living in 2050 (down from the 9.3 billion estimate by the UN in 2000). Besides the Peoples Republic of China’s one-child policy for ethnic Chinese, the main influence in slowing down the birthrate has been a combination of increased economic opportunity and increased freedom for women.

When women have a chance to have a job and more control over their lives, they tend to put off having children until later in their lives and tend to have fewer children altogether. Prosperous societies also have the added benefit of greatly reduced child mortality. Unlike almost all of humanity before the 20th Century, most children now have an excellent chance of reaching adulthood – so the need for quantity instead of quality as an approach to successful child-rearing has greatly diminished.

However, economic opportunities in the Islamic world, particularly in the Arab world, Pakistan, and Northern Africa, are not keeping pace with most of the rest of humanity. Moreover, opportunities for women are very slow in coming – usually for cultural reasons which likewise place a premium on maintaining an extremely high birth rate.

Out of 232 political entities in the world, the highest rate of natural increase is normally found in the poorest nations of Africa and among the Muslim nations of the Middle East. In the West Bank and the Gaza strip, where a ‘revenge of the cradle’ is strongly encouraged to build up numbers to enhance their image as victims and to someday swamp Israel with superior numbers, the rate of natural increase runs at 3.06 and 3.71% respectively. [2] Kuwait and Oman, surprisingly for such wealthy countries, have rates of natural increase of 3.52 and 3.28%. With rates this high, the average resident of these entities is a teenager.

In terms of natural increase, out of 232 entities around the World, Afghanistan comes 24th, Iraq at 25th, Sudan at 32nd, Qatar and Jordan at 34th and 35th, Syria at 47th and Libya at 50th, Saudi Arabia at 56th, Pakistan and Bangladesh at 62nd and 63rd, Egypt at 82nd, and the United Arab Emirates at 89th in terms of their international standing for population growth. Meanwhile, the UN’s 2002 projects put the rate of natural increase in most of the developed world at a negative rate. One also notes the call in late October 2006 by the President of Iran for a surge in his country’s birthrate to get the population up to 120 million people.

With practices and statistics like this, Islam is certainly growing, and a lot of Muslims – particularly the activists of the Jihad and the Da’awa are rubbing their hands together gleefully. They exhort each other to keep the rates up and in a few decades, the world will be theirs. Except that the Islamic world’s rate of rapid population growth is a product of dysfunctionalism in their societies, and all they are doing is compounding a mistake.

Huge numbers of restless and bored young men are a bad sign in any society; it is a source of tension and social unrest. Moreover, the young – if they lack real opportunities – will start shopping for an ideology that assigns blame and lets them act out. The ideology de jour is the Jihad; which further reinforces the conditions that created the problem in the first place.

It is true that Islam is occasionally making converts inside the Western world. Among the recruits are career hoods like Jose Padilla and Richard Reid. The converts they are attracting include many other criminals, but also the sort of people who would have, in an earlier decade, drifted to the Neo-Nazis or the Anarchists. Interestingly, the American government is taking increasing notice of Jihadist recruiting in their prisons, and law-enforcement officials throughout North America have been finding ‘Jihad Rap’ videos surfacing among such street gangs as the Crips, the Bloods and MS-13.

Fine, we’ll take Islam’s defectors like Hirsi Ali, the converts, the remaining Christians from the Middle East, and the dissident Muslims who have had enough of the lies, hate and self-delusions. It’s a fair trade: The last group that attracted our scum and gave us their cream was the Soviet Union and look at what happened to them.

Something also seems very familiar in the thinking of members of the Jihadist movement and those others who are all aquiver to see Islam triumphant that seem very familiar. We can remember others who were convinced the future belonged to them and who wrote off the Western democracies as being craven, weak, corrupt, and doomed. After a while, they came to believe it and acted on those assumptions and we had the Second World War on our hands. The other thing about making assumptions is that they are often wrong. Islam is not growing stronger: It is going to grow much weaker as its dysfunction becomes more apparent, this will grow more evident as the population swells and the urgency for immediate action grows stronger.

It is also a profound error to underestimate just how ruthless and cruel a democratic society can become in its own defence.

In the Middle East they reckon that their growing numbers and oil are a winning hand, but they are also forgetting several crucial factors.

Firstly, immigration is not a right and the welcome mats of the world for newcomers from the Middle East are starting to wear thin. Tolerance is not guaranteed, especially for those who are intolerant themselves and a growing chorus of voices in Australia and Western Europe are telling their immigrants ‘be-like-us or be-gone.’ The current denunciation against veils is a case in point. The attitudes of today were formed yesterday, the attitudes of tomorrow are being formed right now and they appear to be getting hardnosed. Part of the crisis of Islam is the fact that it and the modern world are not compatible. Part of the growing crisis in the modern world of the West and Asia results from Islam’s incompatibility with it; and someone will have to change.

There is another dimension to the growing conflict and if this ever breaks out into open warfare – as it may well do so, particularly once Iran demonstrates that it has nuclear weapons – that dimension will become painfully clear.

People like to eat every day. Human beings also have to drink every day, and under the bright sun in the mid-latitudes, we have to drink lots. Hunger can become fatal in as little as a week’s time (though it often takes much longer if one is being sedentary) while death from thirst comes much faster. Here are the questions that the Islamists never think to ask: Where does the food come from? How do we get our water these days?

The Islamic World, especially the Arab nations of the Middle East, have not been able to feed themselves for several decades – they haven’t got the arable land and water, and their populations have grown too large.

Egypt had 69 million people as of 2002, and in 2004 it imported 4,367,000 metric tons of wheat and 2,429,000 metric tons of maize, along with millions of tons of other commodities. Egypt was once the grain basket of the ancient world, and its land was among the most fertile in the world. Now most of its food is imported.

Algeria, also once a breadbasket nation, had a population of 31.74 million in 2002. In 2004, it imported 5 million metric tons of wheat and 1.79 million metric tons of maize. Likewise, its people have to import millions of tons of other foodstuffs.

Morocco, one of the more fertile and well-watered Arab nations (and populous as a result) fed over 31 million people in 2004 by importing 2,646,000 metric tons of wheat and 1,223,000 tons of maize.

Iraq is the fourth largest nation in the Arab Middle East with over 23 million people in 2002, but food import figures are not available. Of course, Saddam Hussein had wrought incalculable damage to Iraq’s most fertile farmland with his acts against the Shi’ite farmers in the south.

Saudi Arabia is not known for its agricultural enterprises, but it had a rapidly growing population of 22.76 million people in 2002. Wheat isn’t a major import, but barley certainly is – they imported 3,855,000 metric tons of it in 2004, along with 1,205,000 tons of milled rice and 2,379,000 head of sheep.

Yemen’s 18 million people (as of 2002) are largely rural, but still needed to import 1,661,000 tons of wheat and flour in 2004.

Picking a fight with the United States and its closest allies is a bad idea for those who plan on eating every day. The US by itself is the world’s top exporter of wheat, soybeans and maize. Two of its closest allies are Australia and Canada, respectively the second and third largest exporters of wheat in the world. Between these three nations in 2004 came 65,151,000 metric tons of wheat for export to the rest of the world. The United States also exported 48,741,000 metric tons of maize by itself.

The tide of other foodstuffs coming from the US, Canada, Australia and other Western nations keep the world fed. Other significant exporters of food have emerged in recent years too (India has wrought a miracle in respect to its agriculture… so long as it can secure adequate water supplies). However, the Western world has another critical advantage.

Historically, food embargoes and blockades were significant strategies. One important contributor to Germany’s defeat in World War One was the Royal Navy blockade of imported foods. Likewise, in both World Wars, the U-Boats sometimes kept the British on tight rations. The Japanese were also getting very hungry in 1944-45 due to the depredations of American submariners. The Western world’s navies are of a high quality and even Italy’s fleet by itself could seal off almost all of North Africa.

However, blockades take time to have an effect. Other techniques could be much more efficient.

The salvoes of improvised artillery rockets flying into Israel from the Gaza strip seem to have slackened in recent months, following the events of the summer of 2006. However, some members of Hamas had expressed their desire to hit the major desalinization plant that Israel is building south of Tel Aviv. The plant will result in an enormous increase to Israel’s water supply and make their country even more verdant. All this planned bombardment might accomplish is to remind the Israelis how critical and how fragile the water infrastructure is for every country in the region.

Tel Aviv would survive even a successful rocket attack on this desalinization plant; but what would happen if a few JDAM smart bombs from the Israeli Air Force — or the US Navy — knocked out the water sources for the teeming populations of the Arabs’ cities? Imagine what would happen to the millions of inhabitants of Algiers or Damascus in a few days after such an attack. In cities like Baghdad or Cairo, with major rivers running through them, death from thirst wouldn’t be the immediate danger, but massive cholera or typhus outbreaks would soon follow.

If they were rational and intelligent, the demagogues and Jihadists of the Middle East might be urging a whole new course of action to remove their acute vulnerabilities. More rights for women and more investment in their home economies, particularly with a view to slowing down their population growth rate and providing domestic prosperity might be good choices. Perhaps politely consulting with the Israelis on techniques for water conservation and desalinization might also be a good idea – of course, this would mean actually recognizing the existence of the country and a halt to demonizing Jews.

Adopting Western notions of civil governance and human rights would also be useful. Maybe Saudi Arabia could stop investing tens of billions of dollars in funding the Da’awa missionary program to radicalize Muslims inside the Western world, and might instead look at preparing its economy for the day when their oil runs out.

One wonders if the Jihadis will learn in time. Unfortunately, they probably won’t and then the growth of Islam will come to an abrupt halt and a rapid reversal.