In this limited column series the author provokes a rethink at the Muslim situation and invites honest introspection. In Part - I he showed, using examples from Gujarat, how Muslims are themselves primarily responsible for the mess they have landed in. Continuing with his portrayal of the present condition of the Muslims, he reminds that effective remedial action can only come from a correct and comprehensive diagnosis. This, in turn, can only emanate from an honest fact sheet.
This series is largely based on the author's Urdu audio presentation KHITAB available from MG.
Let us name the top five nations to which our children would typically seek to immigrate. Not just economic prosperity, they may even factor in considerations like democratic rights, freedoms and tolerance, human dignity, delivery of justice, treatment of women, quality of press etc. Our survey produced not one Muslim country in this list.
For all their Muslim bashing, the US, UK, France, Canada, Australia etc still beat Muslim countries of the Middle and the Far East handsomely. Some Muslim countries did not even merit a recall. Few had heard of the members of Organization of Islamic Conference - OIC - such as Albania, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guayana, Kyrgyz, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Suriname, Togo or Uganda.
Let us now ask if the world's second largest [and to some Muslims, the largest] population gave to humanity international organizations in the fields of health, justice, education, disaster relief, child welfare, animal welfare, pollution control, checking war crimes et al. Or let us name the world's best universities whose accreditation our children may boast of.
No Muslim country has the equivalent of a Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Cornell or an MIT. Or, for that matter, none of the world's five best research labs, engineering colleges, management schools, astronomical observatories, weather forecasting labs are located in the Muslim countries. Incidentally, it is these non-Muslim institutions from where some of the most successful Muslims of today come. Lest we forget, Muslims constitute anywhere between 20% and 25% of humanity. In other words every fourth or fifth person walking this planet is a Muslim.
Human Development Index, or HDI, ranks nations broadly on health, knowledge and standard of living, a concept largely developed by Pakistan's Mahboobal Haque. Amongst the top 30 countries there is none Muslim but more than half in the bottom 10 are. And HDI ranking is not about nudity, prostitution, liquor consumption, crime, child abuse..
Not that we always rank low. On the list of corrupt people Muslim countries as a class rank the highest with Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan finding prominent mention [refer "Corruption Perceptions Index" or CPI published by Transparency International]. We also appear pretty high on the list of countries producing opium, or suffering the HIV/AIDS epidemic as per the World Bank Factbook. Nor, contrary to Islamic enjoinment on equality, do we distinguish as nations where income distribution is more just and even.
We may not subscribe to western style democracy as an ideal but we do not have to be enslaved either, which is precisely what we are. Freedom House's 2006 survey "Freedom in the World" reveals what we already know that the bulk of the Muslim world does not enjoy basic freedoms: of speech, of forming political, religious and trade associations, of agitation and protest etc.
No wonder we rank pretty high as nations spending a good part of their GDP on their military. Which leaves little resources for constructive nation building. What surprise then that on infant mortality index half of the worst suffering 20 countries are Muslim nations with none appearing in the best 20. On literacy index no Muslim country figures in the 30 most literate countries with many figuring amongst the least literate. Even Pakistan with 48% lags way behind India's 60%.
In the Worldwide Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, or RWB, we do not find a single Muslim country amongst the top 20 countries but half of the bottom twenty are Muslim nations.
Understandably on the Democracy Index we fare pathetically. No Muslim country appears in the first 40 most democratic countries, with an innocuous Mali taking 45th rank. Most Muslim countries appear in its last Division of least democratic countries.
So what? Well, it so happens that the most democratic countries are also the least corrupt and the ones with most free press. Consider the top five most democratic countries: Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. They are also amongst the eight least-corrupt and most free-press countries. Or consider why our own Right to Information Act is being hailed as the most potent of democratic weapons.
Isn't it ironical that while our own governments do not trust us, allow us basic freedoms, we never tire of questioning restrictions on such rights in the West. May it be said that a lack of democracy is at the root of many of Muslims ills?
To bring home the shock, shall we ask a question relating to our daily life? Let's list out the common items and devices that we the Muslims use without inhibitions, articles like the bicycle, scooter, car, airplane, train, computer, TV, telephone, microphone, fridge, radio, camera, tape-recorder, pressure cooker, mixer, commode and a hundred other everyday use items. Let's then look up a reliable encyclopedia to find who invented them. You are unlikely to find a Muslim inventor in this.
Can we fault the conclusion that Muslims allow others few rights but demand many for themselves, shy from institution and nation building, squander their money on weaponry that mostly kill fellow Muslims, produce children but don't build quality schools and colleges, fall sick and use hospitals but don't set them up, use science and technology products but don't invent them, borrow money but don't promote banks? Considering that Muslims constitute nearly one fourth of humanity they should have contributed at least one fourth of this public welfare infrastructure. From the Ummat of Rehmatul Lil Alameen one would expect much more.
In the next issue we shall examine the state of Muslim economies, consumption patterns and the Muslim performance in various fields. Yes, there is also much to gladden our heart and will be recounted, but this column is dedicated to presenting the dark side ruthlessly.