The Problems of Muslim Countries
Muslim countries are plagued by the same problems that other countries have, like poverty, corruption, violence and inequality. But the problems of Muslim countries are in a league of their own. Muslim countries seem to be drifting in a sea of problems and unable to find their way out. The Muslim countries are probably the only large block of countries whose situation is worsening with no foreseeable end.
The Muslim countries are going backwards while most other less developed countries are going forward. Even seemingly positive trends, like the Arab spring, have ended up doing more harm than good, leading for example, to the destruction of Libya.
While the endemic problems of lack of education and underdeveloped economies have persisted in the Muslim World for generations, new problems of lawlessness, anarchy, high levels of violence and the destruction of national life have become evident in recent years in Iraq and Libya, with a reasonably strong possibility that some of the other Muslim countries will follow suit.
It is therefore pertinent to ask the question, is Islam to bare at least some of the blame for the problems of Muslims countries? This question is especially important as some Muslims have suggested that the problem is that the Muslim countries are not Muslim enough. They are even fighting to ensure that Muslims countries are brought ever closer to what they see as the true Islamic way.
Below I will discuss how Islam contributes to existing problems and creates new problems for Muslims and their neighbours.
The self destructiveness of Jihad
The Islamic doctrine of Jihad encourages Muslims to conquer and subjugate the Non Muslims. Jihad is a war of Muslims against outsiders. The Muslims are given licence to attack the Non Muslims and kill them and subjugate them.
There are numerous divisions and schools of thought in Islam, with the Sunni Shii division being the greatest. Each of these schools believes that its interpretation is the correct one. Therefore, each school believes that to some extent the followers of the other schools are heretics. Each school therefore can take the doctrine of Jihad to its logical conclusion and declare war on the other Muslims. It is therefore inevitable that, according to the doctrine of Jihad, Muslims will kill each other. This has come to fruition time and time again throughout the history of Islam, including in recent years in Algeria, Iraq and Libya. At times, it has lead to warfare between Muslim states, as between the old Ottoman Empire and the Iranian Safavids as well as between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, and now with Saudi Arabia and Qatar against Iran and Syria.
The counter productiveness of “Us and Them”
Related to the idea of Jihad is the Muslim idea of “us and them”, of a pure Muslim “nation” and impure Non Muslims. It is even believed that Non Muslims are so unclean that a Muslim must avoid water that has touched a Non Muslim. Therefore Muslims must avoid swimming in the same pool as a Non Muslim.
The consequences of this are negative not only for the Non Muslims but for the Muslims as well. The Non Muslims will accommodate themselves to the Muslims’ discrimination in various ways. Where Muslims are the majority, the Non Muslims will live in enclaves away from the Muslims and in many cases leave the Muslim countries or regions. This is a loss for the Muslims as often many of educated and skilled people in Muslim countries belong to the Non Muslim communities. This leads to the underdevelopment of the Muslims countries.
Where Non Muslims are the majority, as in the West, the majority will start to be hostile and suspicious of the Muslims which will lead to the marginalisation of the Muslims as is happening in countries like England that were formerly reknowned for their tolerance.
In both cases, the end result is greater poverty and hardship of the Muslims.
The myth of the Ummah
The us and them mentality is extended globally to encompass the “Ummah” which is the global Muslim community. This idea holds that the Muslims are all in it together. In fact, this very idea does more harm than good to at least some of the Muslims countries, as it misleads them into having a wrong foreign policy. It can be seen that the Muslim countries frequently turn on each other and betray each other. For example, in NATO’s recent oil grab in Libya, it was assisted by Qatar. The end result is that Libya is a dysfunctional country and its oil in the hands of the Non Muslims.
By contrast, the few countries that stood by Libya were Non Muslim countries like Venezuela and Cuba. The leaders of these countries were motivated by ideals of a common humanity, while the Muslim countries are motivated by Islamic sectarianism.
Furthermore, many Muslims are treated better by Non Muslims than by Muslims. Consider the treatment of a typical Bangladeshi in England with his treatment in Saudi Arabia. No Bangladeshi can deny that he will get far better treatment in England than in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, the Saudis and other Arabs, while despising lowly Bangladeshis are eager to hobnob with the infidel Westerners. Many Arab royals (male and female) have married Westerners. By contrast, even a common ugly Saudi Arab is unlikely to marry even Miss Bangladesh, so great is their contempt for Bangladeshis. Furthermore, while having vast wealth, some of which is lavished on vainglorious prestige projects and even given as endowments to infidel universities in the West, very little is spent on improving the meagre living conditions of the poverty stricken majority of people in the Ummah, including Bangladesh. And yet a typical Muslim Bangladeshi will gain comfort from the illusion that he is of the same nation as the Saudis and feel hostility to Non Muslim Bengalis who ought to be his best friends.
Many Muslim countries (like Bangladesh) will benefit from rejecting the idea of the Ummah and seeking alliances and friendship with other nations based on cultural similarities, impartial moral criteria or at least enlightened self interest. This will enable the development of the poor Muslim countries to a point that even the Saudis will start to respect them.
Underdevelopment due to Muslim Attitudes to education and knowledge
The development of modern facilities, infrastructure and the skills and knowledge of the people are all part of an overall development of society. It is necessary to have a broadly educated population and institutions in order to modernise. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, have good infrastructure, but the concept, design and construction is undertaken by imported workers. The native Saudis have very little input into the creation of them. Other Muslim countries have been able to make a few advanced scientific achievements, like Pakistan’s development of atomic weapons, but these are isolated and serve to highlight the country’s lack of development in all other fields.
No Muslim country has been able to make the broad based social changes required to create a modern prosperous society. The tendencies described above, including the departure of Non Muslims from Muslim societies, stunt the development of Muslim societies.
Furthermore, the madrassa education that is widespread throughout the Muslim world is counterproductive and at best creates a generation of barely literate people with a rote memory of the Quran but little skills of practical value. And this is the education promoted by Saudi funding throughout the poor Muslim countries.
And the more fortunate Muslims who live in Western countries like England, while having access to 1st world schools, often turn their backs on them in favour of religious schools whose output can be seen in the statistics for the educational attainments of different ethnic groups in England, which show Pakistanis and Bangladeshis at the bottom of the pile.
The reasons for the stunting of contemporary Muslim achievement in education is partly due to the belief that Islam is the answer to everything and that all that is required of one is to be a good Muslim. And to be a good Muslim does not require getting an education or enhancing scientific research. All that is needed is to live according to the Quran.
With such a meagre ambition, it is no surprise that Muslim achievements are mediocre.
The obsession with Islamising everything
Many Muslims can’t help trying to look at everything from an Islamic point of view. Every change or innovation is judged with suspicion and grudgingly accepted by the Muslim old guard if deemed of use and not in contravention of Islam. At the same time, in the wealthy Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia, money is spent to unleash the strictest form of Islam on others, including the hapless Afghans under the Taliban. The Saudis have the money to mitigate and live alongside strict Islam but the poor Afghans didn’t have the money and hence the women there went without education and even hospital care in order to satisfy the strict tenets of Islam. Even in Saudi Arabia, in one incident, many schoolgirls died because the religious police prevented them from leaving a burning school building because they did not have the right clothing to be in public. More laughably, but still stupidly, an Islamic court in Malaysia banned Yoga as un-Islamic. In Egypt, female circumcision, though not an Islamic practice, is widely practiced with the sanction of the Muslim clergy.
While the above examples are condemned by many Muslims, they are only the extreme of a broad tendency in Islamic nations to Islamise everything and for the Islamic establishments to control and filter everything. Because of this, people in Muslim countries have to be ever watchful of everything they say and do. This tendency has a dampening effect on progress and on intellectual life and innovativeness and will explain at least some of the backwardness of the Muslim world.
The fear of the new and of innovation
The reason for the need to Islamise everything is because Islam presents itself as an all encompassing all explaining faith. In the past, the same thinking lead to the Caliph Omar burning the library of Alexandria. Muslims nowadays grudgingly accept that Islam does not literally explain everything but the desire to control everything persists and every new innovation is viewed with anxiety and suspicion even when it is something innocuous like Yoga.
What should Muslims Do?
Muslims should look at the mistakes they are making and seek to rectify them. A few thoughts are given below.
Abandon the “Us and Them” mentality.
Muslims should reject the inaccurate, misleading and simplistic idea that the Muslims are in one camp and the Non Muslims are in the other camp, both at an individual level and also at a national level. Do not think of Non Muslims as your enemies. The Non Muslims inside your country are your best asset. Many Muslim countries (e.g. Lebanon or Malaysia) will not be able to function without their Non Muslim population. And many of these Non Muslims are more patriotic than the Muslims who are mislead by the chimera of the Ummah. The Non Muslims in the Muslim countries are eager to help to develop their country and Muslims would be fools to reject them. The same goes for the Non Muslim countries, many of which are far more reliable allies than any Muslim country is ever likely to be.
Give useful aid
The wealthy Muslim countries that provide assistance to other Muslim countries should be more discerning with the aid that they provide. Aid and assistance should focus on assisting the development of the receiving country. Most Muslim countries are in need of targeted development assistance. Money should not be wasted exporting Wahabism and substandard madrassa education which only do harm to the unfortunate recipients of such assistance. Such aid will only turn the Muslim world into a giant Afghanistan and the Muslims living as minorities in Non Muslim countries into underachieving outcasts.
Instead all money that Muslim countries give to other Muslim countries should be designed to provide tangible economic and social improvements which are sorely needed in most of the Muslim countries. For example, Saudi Arabia is estimated to have spent about a hundred billion dollars on Islamic propaganda, most of which has done no good to the Muslims. The money amounts to approximately a thousand dollars per Bangladeshi, which, had it been spent on the development of Bangladesh, could have turned Bangladesh into a second world country on a par with some of its more prosperous neighbours like Malaysia
End self destructive Jihadi campaigns
Many uneducated and often mentally ill youth have entered various Islamic militant groups in various parts of the Muslim world from Afghanistan to Libya. These people are usually the products of bad upbringings and are unlikely to be reading this article. However, these militant groups are often funded by those who ought to know better. For example, the government of Qatar provided hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists in Libya who went on a rampage killing civilians and destroying Libyan cities and facilities. And yet the government of Qatar is apparently one of the most enlightened in the Middle East with a forward thinking agenda for its own development. It can be seen even here that a wealthy Muslim country, while modernising at home, is dumping violent Jihadism on another Muslim country, when the money given to the militants could have helped a small Muslim country like say Djibouti, make a great leap in modernisation. The Qatarese want all the good things in life for themselves, but for other Muslims countries, they provide Jihad.
Therefore Muslims should eschew Jihad, either as wealthy donors or as fighters if they have the interest of Muslims at heart. The Jihadi campaigns largely end up killing and displacing and impoverishing innocent people most of whom are Muslims.
Stop Islamising Everything
It is not possible to control every activity and every thought of large numbers of people. The attempt to do so will have negative consequences in various was.
Islam isn’t everything. And the attempt to Islamise everything will only stifle and diminish. The victims of this will be the Muslims themselves who will be left further and further behind and even the backward Non Muslims societies communities will progress more than the Muslims.