Friday, August 11, 2006

It's Not "The West against the Rest"

I think it is fair to say that there are good reasons for seeing some sort of cultural conflict between The West and Islamdom as being at least one of the roots of current conflicts.

But to phrase this as "West against the Rest" as some right-wing blogs have done is simply wrong.

There is a "Muslim Belt" in the world: it extends from Morocco eastwards through North Africa, Arabia and Anatolia, Iran, the Indian Subcontinent, and on to Indonesia. Although there are pockets of Muslims outside this area, the vast majority are from this region. Within the Muslim Belt there is relatively little violence originating in North Africa outside Egypt, Turkish-speaking regions, or from India or Bangladesh. It is the central region from Egypt to Pakistan that has presented problems, with signs of trouble in Indonesia. The total Muslim population is around 1 billion, that of the most troubled area amounts to about 250 million people - i.e. around 4% of the world's population.

What about the "rest" of the world. Roughly 1 billion people each live in both India and China, and perhaps another quarter billion in other parts of East Asia. They are all busily trying to become part of the science-centered consumerist modern world. (North Korea is the single exception.)

Africa south of the Sahara/Sahel is largely Christian/Native religions. It is coping with the results of massive Western imperialist misrule, and the mistakes of its first and second generation of ruling elites. It is producing no terrorists. Indeed the greatest threat to the West there may be China's increasing economic presence.

Australasia/Oceania presents no problem.

Latin America is currently experiencing a series of democratically-elected left-wing governments opposed to some aspects of liberal economic policies. There is a lot of resentment against the United States in some parts, but, again, no terrorism.

In sum, what we have is a very real problem with an area stretching from Egypt to Pakistan, from Yemen to Chechnya. That is where we need to focus.

1 comment:

Clemens said...

Good point. I've always been struck by the relatively few true Arabs in the world. Sometimes al-Qaeda sounds like a wish-fulfillment of Arab triumphalism and I've always wondered how that plays in the rest of the Islamic world. For those of us with some knowledge of the Islamic past, we need to keep pointing out that it is not one massive block.

BTW, I heard on a radio news account that one or two of the suspected terrorists arrested in Britain yesterday were from Banglidesh. That surprised me for just the reasons you talk about.