CHARLIE GILLIS October 23 2006


CHARLIE GILLIS October 23 2006



Muslim power is at a level not seen in 300 years, and it’s spreading




“Fight the imperialists” might make a seductive battle cry, but a glance at the Islamic world today suggests a level of worldwide strength Muslims last knew in the late 17th century. That was the zenith of the great Islamic empires—Ottomans and Moghuls whose power reached from southern India to the western shoulder of the African continent. The new power base is more varied and complex, occurring as it does at the level

Muslim population by country

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: While the Middle East remains the sacred home of Islam, the religion’s demographic heartland has shifted to Africa and Southeast Asia. These days, only 18 per cent of Muslims live in the Arab world, compared to 27 per cent in Africa and 30 per cent in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Emigration to developed countries has accelerated the scattering effect: France is the first country in western Europe to show an Islamic population of 10 per cent. Roughly three per cent of Canada’s population is Muslim.

of the nation-state. At one extreme is theocratic Iran; at the other are comparatively tolerant regimes like Chad, where other religions are permitted and the worst form of intolerance is subtle discrimination.

Still, it is a stunning resurgence for a religion whose sway had shrunk to a handful of countries by the end of the First World War. But even under the secular, colonial leadership that followed, populations in former Islamic territories held fast to their faith, experts say. Then, with the end of the Second World War and the decline of imperialism, they began to assert their might, setting loose forces that are now transforming global pol-

itics. At last count, fully 48 of the 192 UN member countries had Muslim majorities, some 23 of which had declared Islam their official religion. Most of the latter practise some form of sharia law and forbid conversion to other faiths.

To be sure, we are hardly on the brink of a global holy war, or even the “clash of civi| lizations” portended by the American scholz ar Samuel Huntington in the early 1990s. 2

But the presence of violent extremists—from 2 al-Qaeda in Iraq to Abu Sayaf in the Philippines to assorted freelancers in Britain— >¡ afflicts Islamic communities around the world. £ The hardline adherents are true globalists, ° using information techology to promote a a creed that accommodates no faith, law or 3 power but their own. BY CHARLIE GILLIS =1


I Independent Muslim states in 1920 ■■***■»*■** The extent of the Islamic world circa 1700

Muslim population 50%+; few reports of intolerance

Islam is state religion; generally tolerant government and culture

Islam is state religion; reports of discrimination against religious minorities

Secular government; predomi nantly Muslim pop.; reports of religious discrimination

Violent Islamic extremist groups are active