The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has published a report showing that the world Muslim population is up to about 1.8 billion while the number of Christians in the world is estimated at up to 2.2 billion.
The study shows that over 60 percent of Muslims live in Asia, while only 20 percent live in the Middle East and North Africa combined.
Amaney Jamal, Assistant Professor at Princeton University confirmed “This whole idea that Muslims are Arabs and Arabs are Muslims is really just obliterated by this Report”. (The Jakarta Post 09.10.09 quoting Eric Grosky).
Indonesia alone will overtake the economic size of Japan, UK and Germany by about 2040 (see Standard Chartered Bank Special report 02.09.09) to become the seventh or eighth economic power in the world, with a population of about 285 million
This will help pull the Muslim center of gravity firmly from the Middle East to Asia, while Middle East oil will start to decline in political and economic significance.
The Pew Report confirms that 75 percent of Muslims living as a minority in non-majority Muslim countries live in only five countries: India (161 million), Ethiopia (28 million), China (22 million), Russia (16 million) and Tanzania (13 million).
About 317 Muslims live as minorities in non-Muslim majority countries, while about 1.4 billion (the great majority) live in Muslim majority nations.
Two thirds of all Muslims live in only ten countries of which six are in Asia (Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey), three are in North Africa (Egypt, Algeria and Morocco) and one in is in sub-Saharan Africa (Nigeria).
The Pew Report estimates the Muslim population of Indonesia at 203 million out of about 238 million (about 86 percent).
Europe is estimated to have a Muslim population of about 38 million people, or about 5 percent of the EU population.
Sadiq Khan, one of the four Muslim MPs in the British Parliament pointed out in 2008 that 62 percent of the 1.6 million British Muslims are either Pakistani or Bangladeshi, and that Muslims have the highest economic inactivity rate of any group in the UK (47.3 percent) and the highest rate of unemployment (16 percent).
Khan reported that 39 percent of all UK Muslims have no qualifications at all, while 60 percent of Pakistani children, and 72 percent of Bangladeshi children in the UK are raised in poverty. And Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have the highest birth rates in the UK. (Fabian Society Pamphlet 624/2008).
So the problem of underdevelopment in Muslim communities is not necessarily solved by migration. This requires targeted economic, social and political intervention wherever Muslim underdevelopment and backwardness is found.
While Orientalist or anti-Muslim commentators might relate these levels of under-development to the cultural context of Islam, the more likely explanation is that Muslim societies include strong pockets of under-development, tribalism and backwardness which have to be tackled.
However, Muslim scholars and writers such as Niyaz Fatehpuri, have concluded that backward religious teachers make for backward Muslim societies and that modernization and improved contextualization of religious education would help to tackle persistent poverty and underdevelopment (see Juli Shahin`s book published earlier this year in Pakistan, “The War Within Islam”, support@Ferozsons.com.pk).
Many global trouble spots are in Muslim countries or Muslim minority areas (Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir, Palestine, Pakistan, southern Philippines, Somalia, southern Thailand, Yemen and South Russia and the Central Asian Republics).
Extremist politicization of Islam based on injustices and problems in these areas tends to divert the attention of Muslim societies from core problems of poverty and underdevelopment.
Pakistan has become the pivotal point of the global struggle for Muslim modernization in terms of the battle against violent extremism and under-development and for consolidation of democracy and economic and social progress.
By contrast Indonesia and Turkey have both proven to be engines of economic and social development capable of reducing poverty and raising income levels, with full participation of Islamic parties in peaceful and democratic elections.
Dr. Terry Lacey
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