Break Those Delusive Shelters
Mere numbers do not add up to anything. Muslims would need to upgrade quality of people.
People are today looked at as a vital resource. But only when they are educated, skilled, creative, productive and disciplined. Going by this prerequisite, one can barely draw satisfaction from the religious demographic projections made by the Pew Research Centre based at Washington (see page one).
The report under discussion anticipates that Muslims around the world would be on the verge of attaining parity with Christian population as this century races up to the halfway mark. While it may warm the cockles of traditional believers in numbers among Muslims, it is all likely to enhance the worry lines on those endowed with thinking heads.
Demographic expansion could be a huge liability rather than an asset, if it occurs without commensurate effort at making those numbers effective in terms of quality. Muslims have the favourite tendency to take pride in “Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world” rhetoric. The current state of the ummah suggests that numbers do not add up to anything. Constituting around 23 per cent of the current global population, Muslims are the principal underdogs, in all meanings of the term. Mere expansion of the numbers would do, to them nor to the world, any good. Weighed down by the huge numbers and underdevelopment, the community neither presents a happy picture of itself, nor is viewed with comfort by others. Widespread mayhem, bloodshed, refugees, boats laden with despondency-stricken asylum seekers adrift at seas, internecine feuds, pockmarked with terror-infested no-go zones and hunger and famine ravaged Horn of Africa carry enough warnings that there is something seriously amiss with the ummah.
By no yardsticks of development, Muslim nations—fifty six of them being ruled by Muslim alone—come up anywhere near to even the worse-off nations of the developed West. They form the bottom heap of nations in the annually published Human Develop Index (HDI). They take the top ranking among the nations reeking with corruption in the Corruption Perception Index of the Transparency International. Over eighty per cent of the world’s refugees emanate from the Muslim world which also has the largest share among the internally displaced people. Even as suicide bombers are wreaking death and disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen on a daily basis, the ‘Very High Alert’ and ‘High Alert’ categories on the Index of Failing and Fragile States are also packed with Muslim states.
One could relentlessly go on highlighting virtues of Islam and even sing paeans of the glories of the past as some Islamic TV channels and a clique of Muslim clergy tend to do. But there is nothing to detract from the sad reality that the Muslims are in a total mess today and the Muslim world is in shambles. We will be ignoring these realities only at our own peril. An individual should enjoy the right to live in hallucinations. But if a community begins to commit the same, nothing could save it from hara-kiri. It is a sure recipe for self-destruction. Self-scrutiny and introspection is therefore the only way towards the salvation.
It is true, the Muslims world over are turning to God in quite visible manner. More are turning up for annual Hajj pilgrimage and Saudis could easily seek camouflage of year round booming Umrah market to hide their profligacy. One could even seek solace in minarets of the mosques seeking their share in the Western skies on par with the spires of the churches. One could also argue that families in the Islamic world enjoy the higher degree of marital bliss and aged parents are not consigned to the care of the old age homes.
But then peace is not absence of crimes, it is the presence of justice that provides the essential bulwark for it. The Muslim world and societies suffer miserably on this account. In today’s idiom of discourse, individual pieties do not count much. It is the collective behaviour that is the sum total of civilization. Muslim societies may rate favourably on the scale of crime (do not forget that third world countries have a poor registration of crimes. South Asian countries have a miserable record in registration of crime against gender as the family’s integrity is invoked against filing of reports of domestic violence), but the prevalent civil strife there should be enough to convince that peace is elusive.
Deficiency of democracy and absence of smooth succession are not the only minuses on the side of the Muslims. Absence of civil liberties and academic freedom is robbing these part of the world of its genius. Conservatism stifles the dissent and curbs the spirit of free inquiry. Women suffer from all kinds of disparities. Forums for discussion on issues of public interest are viewed with suspicion and struggle to survive under despotic rulers and monarchs. Demarcation lines between executive, judiciary and the legislatures are fuzzy at best and non-existent at worst. There are categories within citizenship denying the equality before law. Shahs and emirs are free to plunder and cart away the national wealth to build casinos, ranches, resorts, hotels and nightclubs in the West, much of which remain a taboo in their home countries. Expats, foreign maids, overseas labourers have nowhere to go for justice in the Islamic world. Diversity of beliefs is barely tolerated. Human rights is a one-way traffic in most parts of the Muslim world. Needless to say that creativity can hardly find a fertile land in this atmosphere. No wonder then that the Muslim genius is flowing away to the soils where it can germinate, and bear fruits.
It will bring no credit to Islam or Muslims if numbers keep growing in the barren soil and harsh air that characterizes the Muslim world. Unless the Muslim world comes to realize that it needs to democratize itself, respects diversity of beliefs and ethnicities within, makes arrangements for equality before law and opportunities for all, offers a level playground for academics, researchers and entrepreneurs of all hues, removes gender disparities and corruption, it cannot ensure well-being, justice, prosperity and peace for all. It is therefore time for all of us to come out of the self-delusive shelters we have built around ourselves.