Friday, December 3, 2010

Who Supports Al Qaeda? Over 100 Million Muslims. That's Who.

Just one month after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Fareed Zakaria published his now famous essay, Why Do They Hate Us?, in which he wrote:
"The problem is not that Osama bin Laden believes that this is a religious war against America. It's that millions of people across the Islamic world seem to agree."
Zakaria is not some reactionary Islamophobe. He himself is Muslim and his father was a respected Islamic scholar. Zakaria can be safely categorized as a liberal (and the Right consistently attacks him for it). He has compared Bush's invasion of Iraq to Hitler's invasion of Poland, and he strongly supports the establishment of a mosque at Ground Zero (or an "Islamic Center" in "Lower Manhattan", whatever).

Today, of course, all right-thinking liberals are required to insist loudly that only a tiny minority of Muslims support violent Jihadism. But the truth turns out to be that even Zakaria's October 2001 estimate of "millions of people across the Islamic world" who "seem to agree" with Osama bin Laden was a low-ball estimate!

Who supports Al Qaeda? Well, according to recent data gathered by the good folks at the Pew Reseach Center (link: Muslim Publics Divided) the answer to that question is, in part: one third of all Muslims in Jordan, half of all Muslims in Nigeria, one fourth of all Muslims Indonesia, and one fifth of all Muslims in Egypt. In those four countries alone this represents one hundred million Muslims who support Al Qaeda.

Here's a quick and dirty breakdown using CIA factbook stats combined with the Pew survey results:

Jordan: population 6.2M, 93% Muslim, 34% support Al Qaeda = 2M
Nigeria: population 149M, 50% Muslim, 49% support Al Qaeda = 37M
Indonesia: population 238M, 86.1% Muslim, 23% support Al Qaeda = 47M
Egypt: population 78.9M, 91% Muslim, 20% support Al Qaeda = 14M
Total = 100M

If we add to this the data from Lebanon and Turkey where only 3% and 4% (respectively) of those surveyed support Al Qaeda, that adds another 0.7M and 3.1M (respectively) for a grand total (from these 6 countries) of 104M jihadist extremists. That's quite a lot for a tiny minority!

But wait. There's more. These six countries have a total Muslim population of about 555M, while the total Muslim population in the world is at least 1.1B and even as high as 1.5B. And there's also the fact that in addition to Al Qaeda there are other, competing, violent extremist currents in the Muslim world (such as Shia extremists, often supported by Iran, who are deadly enemies of Sunni extremists like Al Qaeda).

A very conservative approach would be to assume that the rest of the Muslim world has only half the number of extremists as that found in the countries surveyed by Pew, which would yield a world-wide headcount of 150 million Muslim supporters of Al Qaeda and other groups like it!

Oh, but it turns out that this is the good news! What? That's right. Because, you know, 150M isn't tiny, but it is still a minority among Muslims. Fell better? Well, don't.

The bad news is that huge majorities (ranging from 72% to 95%) of Muslims in five of the countries polled support a "large role for Islam in politics". In one other country, Jordan, there is still a majority, but a smaller one: 53%. In Turkey 45% (that's still a very respectable 34M) think this is a good idea, while only 38% say it is a bad idea. In fact, Pew did not find any Muslim country where a majority said that a large role for Islam in politics was a bad idea. See what I mean about bad news?

Well, you might object, that's kind of vague. "A large role for Islam", why, that could mean very different things to different people. Maybe it means they all want to have peace and harmony and government subsidized Sufi dancing? Uh, no. Pew also found that there is a clear correlation between the number of people who want a "large role for Islam in politics" and the numbers of people who support such things as (1) stoning adulterers to death, (2) cutting off the hands of thieves, and (3) the death penalty for apostasy. Oh. Does Karen Armstrong know about this?

If we do the math just looking just at Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria, a whopping 250M+ Muslims in those five nations (all of which are considered to be "U.S. allies", btw) believe that anyone who is born a Muslim but who chooses to leave that religion should be put to death!

And if all of that isn't enough to scare the crap out of you, well, there's this (source):

Further reading:


RetroKali said...

Geez. I have so many feelings on this. On the one hand this is scary just as any militant group of organized religion is. On the other hand when I lived in Germany where a large population of the country is Turkish and Muslim, if you would have asked most of my Muslim friends this question they would have responded as any person would who had been "raised" Christian and asked if they believed in Armageddon. "yeah sure".I am sure somewhere Hakim is showing little Azim a video of VeggieTales and saying "look, look how they are indoctrinating their children.". The only difference is that most Christians are too comfortable to disrupt their lives for their beliefs, and in the Middle East, they have a lot less to lose.
It is my belief ( maybe mistakenly) that the human spirit cannot be contained and that most opressive regimes will grow but eventually die.( to be replaced by something better or worse). An lot of Muslims support Al Quada out of fear but given the chance would like to have free speech, etc. As the law of balance goes the pendulum has to swing the other way. Underneath it all there has to be a (silent) movement for change. I think it really could go either way.
With a culture that is so different from ours in manner, speech and belief it is important to remember that we are all people. We all think about things. It is human nature.
These are all just thoughts and I am not making any really strong statements one way or the other, just throwing thoughts out there.It is not that I am afraid to commit, it is just that I think that sometimes the us versus them mentality is dangerous, as turning a blind eye to a possibly threatening movement is also. We have to keep a balance.

Anonymous said...

Hi RetroKali,

I understand your point about avoiding an us/them attitude, but to call Islamic Jihadists a "a possibly threatening movement" does completely ignore what is actually happening in the world.

Take a look at the news headlines any day you like. Which ever day you choose, you will find that people have been murdered that day in the name of Islam by people acting in the name of Islam.

It might be the usual everyday bloodshed carried out in Iraq or southern Thailand. Or it might be a murder of Coptic Christians by Jihadists in Egypt.

It could be a stoning of a woman, the hanging of a young gay man, the botched 'circumcism' of a baby girl. An 'honor' killing, or, perhaps, something more high-profile like another attempt on an airplane.

Whatever it is, whatever today's Jihadist atocity is, it's more than just a possibility and more than just a threat. It's actually happening. And the world is basically ignoring it.

Until the truth is told, and thank goodness for websites such as this one, how can these problems be properly addressed - by both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Yes, I agree that we don't want an attitude that pits Muslims against non-Muslims. That's why the best people to counter the Jihadists are Muslims and ex-Muslims themselves.

But pretending that all Muslims are 'moderate' does not help all of those that really are in the very vital work they have to do.

All the best,


Adon said...

I think the biggest problem isn't just that 1/3 of Muslim populations support Jihadist groups, it's that 99 % of the remaining 2/3 don't have a problem with it.

Anyway, if someone is planning to attend Qatar's World cup in 2022, well, umm don't. The state of Qatar may not exist by this time and Al-Qaeda already announced they'll do their best to blow up the stadiums, but i guess this kind of news doesn't get reported by Western media anymore.