Growth of Muslim population - no case for rejoicing

By Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi
According to a recent report from US-based Pew Research Center, there are 1 billion 570 million Muslims living in the world today, and thus every fourth person on this earth is a Muslim. Is this report a good reason for rejoicing? I do not think so. On the contrary Muslims should do some exercise for self appraisal after this report. Why with 25 percent (1.5 Billion) in this world they are scientifically and technologically backward, politically marginalized and economically poor. Why their share of World GDP (60 trillion dollars) is hardly 3 trillion dollars which is less than the GDP of France (Population 70 Millions), about half of the GDP of Japan (Population 120 Millions) and one fifth of GDP of U. S. (Population 300 Millions). It is important to know that Christians constitute about 35% of the world population but control nearly 70% of the World's wealth.

 In case of Human Development Index too, ranking of Muslim countries, with the exception of some oil producing Arab countries, is very low. In scientific field record of Muslim nations is dismal. Hardly five hundred Science Ph. D's. are produced every year. This number is three thousand in U. K. alone. Out of the five hundred and odd Nobel Prizes in Science from 1901 to 2008, Jews, who are 0.2 per cent of the World population, got around 140 Prizes (25%) as against only one to a Muslim (the other one being declared non-Muslim by Pakistan), which is about 0.2% of the total Awards. What a sad commentary for Muslims as far as scientific achievements are concerned. Another disheartening report has appeared recently from Shanghai University which has listed top four hundred World Universities with high standard of teaching and research. None from the Islamic World finds a place in the list. This is really painful situation, particularly when compared with period of shining Islamic Civilization of Middle Ages (7th to 16th Century). Well known Science Historian Gillespie has recorded around 130 names of scientists and technologists who made great impact during middle ages. Out of this number 120 scientists belonged to Islamic world and only four from Europe. Is this not enough reason for Muslims to know their past critically, asses the present honestly and determine the future rationally.

 I can add little more information, not a happy one, about the so-called numerical strength of Muslims in coming years. With the present birth rate, Muslim population will be doubled in next 50 years. i e. it would be around 3 billions. In that scenario Muslims will surpass the Christian population which stands today at about 2.3 billion but will only be doubled in 500 years.

Once again that situation will not be good either for Muslims because with the present economic conditions prevailing in the Muslim World and the backwardness they are experiencing today, their growth in terms of population may still aggravates the economic problems instead of solving it. Doubling the population in next fifty years may still increase the economic gap between Muslims and Christians nations. Who will dominate the World thus in this century or the next century? Muslims with 5% of global wealth or Christians with 70% of world economic power. Muslims must understand that numerical strength of any nation or a country does not guarantee respect and dominance in the present day scientifically advanced world. It is only scientific knowledge which matters and which brings respect, power and wealth. There are many examples which prove the futility of higher population with lower economic and military power. For instance, powerful (economically, militarily, scientifically) small Jew community of Israel is considered a perpetual threat to a very large population (technologically backward) of Arab countries who rightly feel defeated and cheated. Another glaring example is of those small numbers of Muslims who are living in the West and but are happy with their economic prosperity whereas in many Muslim majority countries with large population, they are experiencing hardship of various kinds. Gross Domestic product of about 20 million Muslims living in Europe is higher than the entire Muslim population of Indian subcontinent which is around 500 million Nissim Hasan, an Islamic Scholar of repute, has observed that "Diminishing Muslim vision of knowledge is singularly responsible for the decline of economic and political power of the Islamic civilization. We have failed now for centuries to become leaders of humanity. We have surrendered our vision, our faith and our reason to deadwoods". Mahathir Mohammad (Former P. M., Malaysia) has rightly advised Muslims "to give up their illogical beliefs and regressing thoughts and be prepared to face the challenges of the fast changing social order (OIC Conference, Kuala Lumpur).

 It is important to note that during their Rule of Spain (8th century AD to 14th century A.D.), Muslims dominated the entire Europe as the Muslim Spain was hub of scientific activity and its earnings were higher than the earning of entire Europe. Today situation has changed topsy turvy. Today DGP of Christian Spain is higher than that of combined 12 Oil Producing Muslim Countries. It was not Spain alone that was a highly developed country in the Islamic World during Middle Ages, but all the regions and cities under Islamic Rule such as Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Tripoli etc were humming with scientific activities. Islamic Society all over the world was considered to be highly developed scientifically, intellectually, culturally and economically. In contrast, as described by Donald Cambell- (Surgeon- France) "When Science flourished in the Islamic World, Europe was on dark ages and evils of pedantry, bigotry, cruelty, charms, amulets and relics were common there"(Muslim Medicine). It is important to note that during the Rise of Islam, world population of Muslims was hardly ten percent. According to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the great Visionary of India, this situation "started changing after sixteenth century when Muslim Society stagnated and followed the lifestyle of Europeans of Dark Ages. On the other hand Europeans (Christians) turned towards progressive thinking and scientific pursuits of Muslims" (Letters of Azad). Result was obvious. Muslim Society which dominated the World for about eight hundred years in all respect of human activity, started declining in their intellectual vitality, and were ultimately dominated by the Emerging Power of Europe. Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, great thinker of Islam, explains "After sixteenth century Muslims lost the interest in Enquiry and Physical Sciences and engaged themselves more in Metaphysical Sciences with the result they could not produce great men of knowledge (genius). Muslims forgot their own scientific thinking and followed only traditional knowledge. They, therefore, lagged behind in Science and Technology and thus became slaves of the West". (Islam & the West).

Sometime back political scientist Samuel P. Huntington expressed his view that the recent conflict between the West and the Muslim World is actually a Clash of Civilization. This is an absolute nonsense. In fact it is a clash between the rich and poor. Rich nations are dictating their terms and poor nations are subjected to exploitation and humiliations. Poor nations, Muslims or non-Muslims, should understand that their survival depends entirely on global peace and their unnecessary conflict with the rich nations, particularly in the name of religion, will only land them into greater trouble and distress. Muslims can only regain their past glory, if they adopt scientific renaissance similar to European renaissance, more vigorously and faster than done by Europe. But before this is done, Muslims have to condemn and reject forces of extremism and promote true Islamic values of tolerance and moderation. Hatred of the West will do no good to Muslims. This will only lead to their greater miseries. Hating the West but taking pride in getting Visas or Green Cards for living in the West is nothing short of hypocrisy and duplicity.

Some distinguished rulers of Arab world in general and Saudi Arabia King Abdullah in particular must be congratulated and supported for their recent initiative of interfaith dialogues and understanding between all the Faiths of the World. In a recently held Interfaith Conference, King Abdullah rightly observed that" Islam must do away with the dangers of extremism to present the religion's "good message". We must tell the whole world that we are a voice of justice and values and humanity, and we are a voice of coexistence. Islamic world faces difficult challenges from the extremism of some Muslims, whose aggressions target the magnanimity, fairness and lofty aims of Islam".

 Muslims do not need empty slogans and misplaced religious fervour. It is high time that they interact with the West as responsible nations. They must welcome Barrack Obama's Cairo Speech which invites Muslims to join hands with the West for Global Peace and Prosperity. Obama's initiatives should be supported, his hands strengthened so that he succeeds in his stupendous task of unity of all faiths for the cause of better Understanding and Peace on highly charged and disturbed Earth. President Hosni Mubarak has rightly observed that "Islamic civilization respects all the mankind and this must be made clear to the whole world, not by words, but rather by deeds and conduct." It is high time that close contact and cooperation is established between Nobel Peace Prize Winner Obama and Muslim Nations in general and Arab Countries in particular. This will greatly help weakening the Anti-Islamic Forces of the West, which have, no doubt, existed there since the period of Crusades.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2009 on page no. 2

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