Apr 13, 2005
“The most pressing challenge that the Arabs have yet to confront is the reform of Islam. If the Arab world can’t or won’t accept the concept of the secular state as being consistent with Islam, then neither high-speed economic growth, nor liberal democracy have much chance in the Middle East.” So says Steven Schlossstein in his book, “Endangered Species: Why Muslim Economies Fail.” ($24.95, Stratford Books)
“The prophet Mohammed came into the world some six centuries after Christ. So maybe it will take Islam another six hundred years to reform. Even after the breakout priests launched their Protestant Reformation, it still took the people of Europe four centuries to stop killing each other.”
One can only hope that the combined efforts of many nations will take far less than six hundred years to end the era of terrorism initiated when the father of Islamic terrorism, Yasser Arafat, came on the scene in the early 1960s. It gained momentum with the 1979 takeover of Iran by Shiite mullahs and, with the creation of al Qaeda following the defeat of the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Islamic terrorism has since manifested itself around the world as the one response Islam has ever had to change, the sword.
Those who still argue against the US use of force after 9-11 to impose democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq totally ignore the most astonishing facts about the Middle East. Every single nation in that region has suffered from the kind of oppression we have come to associate with Islamic governments as well as those in so-called “secular” Arab nations such as the former regime of Saddam Hussein or the current one in Syria. All have experienced a lack of economic growth that, combined with growing populations, results in massive domestic discontent.
Al Qaeda and other Jihadist organizations have tapped into that discontent to introduce the world to young men and women who are so desperate, so lacking in any hope, that they have transformed themselves into human bombs in order to advance the domination of Islam throughout the world.
I suggest that what we are seeing is not a religion that is growing due to its theological message, but one that is in the throes of a slow death, sacrificing its children in a vain effort to survive. You never hear of the Muslims that have become apostates to Islam because, in the Middle East, that comes with the penalty of death. Outside the region, many former Muslims have fled this cult built around the worship of Mohammed’s life and the strictures of the Koran and Sharia law.
The Middle East must be rescued from the stagnation that is the direct result of Islam’s control over the lives and the economies of its twenty-two nations. “Last year,” writes Schlossstein of 2003, “nearly two-thirds of global foreign direct investment was in East Asia, but only three percent in the Middle East, which bought fifty percent of all arms and weapons sold in the world.” Again, the sword.
“The Islamic model,” says Schlossstein, “is an intellectual bust, a lethal combination of Holy Law, repressive government, tragic overpopulation, and anesthetizing unemployment, from Iran to Morocco.”
The contrast between the economic model of the Far East in which nations like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, lifted themselves up from the ashes of World War II (with the help of the US) and transformed themselves into one of the most powerful economic region in the world stands in stark contrast to the abject failure of the Middle East.
While the Far East concentrated on building their economies from the ground up, instituting rigorous educational systems, the nations of the Middle East have remained mired in self-pity, seeing themselves as the humiliated victims of the outcome of World War I that ended the control of the Ottoman Empire. The region was carved up into new “nations” to be controlled by Great Britain and France by means of the infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Something is very wrong when a tiny nation like Belgium, with a population of about ten million people, publishes more books every year than all twenty-two nations of the Arab world combined, which has more than 200 million people. Barely 300 books a year are translated into Arabic, only a fifth as many translated by Greece for its citizens. Illiteracy is endemic throughout the Middle East.
Then, too, is the failure to utilize the talents of half the population of the Middle East, its women.
“The result of this leaves the combined GDP of all twenty-two nations of the Arab Middle East, totaling about $530 billion, at less than the gross domestic product of Spain alone.” Only Turkey whose leader, Ataturk, turned that Persian nation’s gaze to the West, has escaped this fate. Its secularism, a break from Islamic control, was and continues to be backed up by an educated military elite.
The US is in the Middle East to insure the flow of oil to ourselves and Western allies, but it is there also because, unless the continuing problems of the region are solved by introducing democracy and by reversing the impact of Islam on the region, there will be no end to the terrorism it will export, threatening the economic engines of the West and Far East.
The good news, of course, is that many Middle Eastern nations are feeling the demand of their people to democratize. They can and they will. One can only hope it will lead to an Islamic Reformation.
Alan Caruba is the author of “Warning Signs” and his weekly commentaries are posted on www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.
© Alan Caruba, April 2005
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