Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fear and loathing in Dar al Islam

More interesting tidbits from StrategyPage:

September 26, 2008: U.S. Army reservists, whose civilian jobs were as cops, serving in Iraq noted, an interesting similarity between terrorism and crime, in general, back home. That is, the similarity in ages of the Iraqi terrorists, and common criminals back in the United States. In both cases, 80 percent of the suspects were between 18 and 25. This is the prime age for criminal and anti-social behavior, and has been for a long time. In the United States, it was also the case that young criminals tended to be poorly educated, and often illiterate.

This pattern accounts for the popularity of Islamic terrorism in the Moslem world. The poor economic, political and scientific performance of the Moslem, especially the Arab, world when compared to the West leaves young Moslems with few options. There are practical reasons for this lack of progress. For example, the Arab world didn't adopt printing until two centuries after it became common in the West. This was partly due to the complexities of written Arabic. There are thousands of rules governing how Arabic letters are joined, and it was difficult for typographers to make it work. A further complication was resistance from the Islamic religious establishment. Printed Arabic had to be very much like written Arabic, otherwise one was defaming the language of the Koran, which is God's word. This is one of the reasons the Arab world publishes books at a tenth the rate of the rest of the world. The lack of books leads to knowledge being transmitted more slowly.

That brings up another obstacle. For a thousand years, there has been a struggle between a large segment of the Islamic clergy, and Moslem scientists and engineers. In a pattern that persists to the present, Islamic conservatives condemned many things that are "new" as "un-Islamic." Thus the al Qaeda enthusiasm for this attitude is nothing new. The price paid for this attitude has been enormous. Moslem countries contain a disproportionate number of the illiterates on the planet. Arab college students are much less likely to study science and engineering than are non-Moslem students. The West produces more than a hundred times as many Nobel prizes in science, per million people, than does the Islamic world.

The education shortage results in less wealth. GDP of all Islamic countries is a fifth of the European Union and the United States (which contain half as many people.) Unemployment rates are much higher in Islamic countries, and most are ruled by dictators or monarchs. Without science, education and democracy, you find that science and economic progress cannot flourish.

It's only recently become fashionable among Moslems to attribute this to internal conditions. The Arab Reform Movement tries, with limited success, to overcome this "blame the outsider" attitude. Even the Saudi royal family is behind the Arab Reform Movement, and the need for the Islamic world to invest more in education and economic freedom. But thousand year old habits are difficult to erase quickly. This is why Westerners can speak with educated Moslems and come away thinking that friendly relations between the Western and Islamic world are more likely than not. But among the vast majority of poorly educated, and often illiterate, Moslems, the West is feared and hated. Moslem tyrants play on this, as they have for centuries, to blame the misery the tyrants have created on infidel (non-Moslem) foreigners.

The poor economic performance, and tendency not to allow women to be educated, leads to many young, ignorant, unemployed men. These are prime prospects for Islamic radical groups. The pitch is that it is all fault of someone else, and that if we kill enough of the right people (local tyrants, and their foreign allies), than all will be right again. It won't, it hasn't, but it works great for recruiting.

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