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Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Sobering Mathematical Reality

[A guest post by Zahava]

Like most people I know, in the wake of the recent terrorism in Paris I have been following the news and the op-eds with great sadness and concern.

As is always the case following a terror attack, the internet is brimming with articles covering every angle of the incident. And while I certainly can't read everything, I do try to read from a wide selection of opposing perspectives in order to gain a broad, semi-balanced understanding of how current events are being perceived and acted upon.

This morning, I read Mayim Bialik’s reaction to the Paris super-market shooting over at Kveller.com, and was struck numb by one of her commenters. The following is excerpted from the comment that so grabbed my attention:

“But as Bridgette Gabriel points out, there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world and 10%-25% are considered radical. That's 120 million to 300 million people who want to see me dead because I had a bar mitzvah. No matter how you look at it, that's a bloody big group of people. And for some reason Liberal minded people seem to think that those taking action are just a splinter group - a very vocal and active minority.”

(note: emphasis mine)

Now this is hardly a novel sentiment. However, it wasn’t the sentiment itself per se, but rather the timing and the context to the situation. As a result of not one, but two terrorist attacks which specifically targeted civilians in a western country, there have been numerous articles focusing on the current and projected demographic statistics for not only western Europe, but the entire world.

My ‘aha’ moment – the one which sent me on my own-little fact-finding mission, was the result of seeing the above comment juxtapositioned alongside the following excerpt from Mayim’s piece:

“I always felt like there were a lot of Jews in the US and the world based on my childhood experience. I was wrong. We are less than 2% of the US population, and 0.2% of the world population.

(again, emphasis mine)

What struck me, you see, was that in the greater context of global demographics, it isn’t just the radicalized segment of the Muslim population that is commonly (and I would submit, falsely) referred to as ‘minority’, but rather the Muslim population in general.

Exhibit A:


[click to embiggen]

According to these charts from Wikipedia’s List of Religious Populations, while from a technical standpoint, Islam can be perceived as a minority when compared to Christianity, it is really intellectually dishonest to claim that Muslims are a minority component of the global community.

It is true that historically, Muslims have been minority populations within western countries — the Americas, Australia, Europe, large segments of Asia, and isolated segments of Africa, and it is equally true that the majority demographic in each of these places is Christian.

It is also true that some of these Muslim minorities suffer from discrimination within these societies – which are often referred to 'Judeo-Christian' societies. It should be noted that the ‘Judeo-Christian’ nomenclature, however, refers to commonalities in theological approaches, and is most definitely not intended to suggest that Jews have equal demographic standing. In the Modern Age, Jews have never been anything more than a microscopic portion of the global demographic composite. In 1899, Mark Twain suggested that Jews comprised only 1% of the global population — the 2012 Pew Report shows that percentage has shrunk to 0.2%.

If we, for a moment, put aside our political and emotional affiliations and look dispassionately at the numbers, the statistics are staggering.

These tables indicate a census of approximately 7.64 billion people:

  • 2.2 = Christianity
  • 1.8 = Islam
  • ~1.1 = Secular/Non-affiliated
  • 1 = Hinduism
  • 1.54 = Composite of 17 ‘other’ religious groupings

If we accept the contention that only 10-25% of the Muslim population is radicalized, this means that there are 180-450 million Muslims who support jihad.  But even if we assume these estimates are grossly inflated... for the sake of argument let's say that only 5% of Muslims worldwide are supporters of Jihad; that still leaves us to contend with a staggering 90 million people who consider it a holy obligation to conquer the world and subjugate its population in the name of Islam!

Now, 90, 180 or 450 million may be a quantifiable minority when compared to the entire global Christian community – but it significantly exceeds not only the global Jewish population in its entirety – as well as the combined totals of Jews and a number of other religious minorities.

As violent incidents rise sharply in areas not historically associated with terror, if we dare to impose the intellectual honesty demanded by this rise, we should be asking and seeking answers to the following questions:

  • The four global dominant religions are Christianity, Islam, Secular/Atheist/Agnostic and Hinduism. Of the 3 non-Muslim theologies, what percentage of each religion is engaged in terror-related activity or at least actively supporting it?
  • How do the three percentages compare to 90, 180 or 450 million?
  • Do the non-radicalized majorities of these non-Muslim religions condemn terror-related activity or are they a silent majority (and thus defato supporting it, albeit passively)?
  • In countries where Islam is either not a clear minority or is the state religion, what civil status/conditions exist for the non-Muslim minorities?

The fact that these questions are largely absent from public debate is shocking.

Terrorism is on the rise – this is indisputable. Left unchecked,is there any reason to expect that it will abate?

Also, blaming the political situation between Israel and the Palestinians for terror enacted outside Middle Eastern borders may be an expedient tool for political means, but it will not protect non-Muslim citizens, even if they are non-Jews, within Western countries for long.

Insufficient numbers of moderate and non-radicalized Muslims are stepping forward to stop the spread of fundamentalism from within Islam. This is also indisputable. Terror enacted by radical Muslims has spread from areas such as the Middle East, Asia, the Balkans, and large swaths of Africa, and into Europe, the Americas, and former Soviet-bloc countries. Since 9/11, isolated instances have morphed into a trickle of frightening events.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I am very alarmed that the questions aren't even being asked! 

I would posit that blaming Israel and Zionism for creating the conditions that “drive these radicalized Muslims to attack cartoonists and other non-party-to-the-conflict individuals for daring to insult the Prophet” hasn't really inhibited such behavior. If anything, each denouncement of Israel and each commiseration over the ‘evils of Zionism’ seem to have emboldened fundamentalists – demonstrated by the increasing frequency of such attacks.

The underlying problem is not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is hatred and intolerance – and the symptoms are violence and mayhem. While certainly radicalized Islam isn't the sole proprietor of hatred and intolerance, it is currently their most populous employer.

There is no denying that extremists exist within every religion – I am not suggesting that Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism are not without their own intolerant zealots – but they are demonstrably more effective at self-regulation. Non-Muslim radicalized segments are not growing at such highly disproportionate rates, nor are they inflicting the kind of disproportionate damage on global society as their radicalized Muslim counterparts.

It isn't discrimination against Islam to insist that the peaceful majority reign in their radicalized minority. Neither is it discrimination to accomplish the task ourselves if the peaceful Muslim majority can’t, or won’t, accomplish that task.

Appeasement will not halt intolerant conquest – it will actually speed its development. In WWII, global warfare was fueled by the schism created between Communism and Fascism. Both doctrines employed extreme intolerances for anything deemed outside their defined agendas and value systems.

In the aftermath of WWII, Europe shrugged off the mantle of Colonialism and has – for the most part – reinvented itself as a democratic and humanistic society. Perhaps in spite of it’s imperial past – or maybe because of it – Europe has been slow to recognize that its retreat from colonization left power vacuums in places ill equipped to replace its governance with its own newly adopted democratic values.

Thus, while Europe rebuilt herself with an eye toward equality and tolerance, her castoffs rebuilt themselves with the ideologies of whichever indigenous clans wielded the greatest power. In some instances, India for example, the former colonies rebuilt themselves upon similar ideals and objectives as the ‘new’ Europe. Others, Syria for example, rebuilt themselves upon nepotistic theocracies whose objectives were more closely aligned to the radical authoritarian nationalism Europe strove so hard to shed (and which is, in fact, the definition of fascism).

Europe, with the assistance of the Allied forces, triumphed over Fascism once – and it can again successfully defeat this newer, but no less mendacious strain. This strain simply replaces ‘nationalism’ with ‘theocracy’.  And this presents a challenge to western sensitivities:  Telling someone their politics suck is perfectly okay, but telling them there is something wrong with their religion is taboo.  But to move forward we need to be prepared to slaughter this sacred cow.

To do so, however, all democratic nations must recognize the advance of radical Islam for what it is and what it is not. First and foremost, it is not tolerant.  It is not a religion of peace. It is aggressive, and it is growing exponentially. Democratic nations must also recognize Israel, Zionism, Jews for what they are and are not.

Israel, Zionism, and Jews, by contrast, are largely tolerant of others. And even if that were not the case, none of these three inter-related entities are engaged in global territorial advancement or exponential population growth. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a specific, hopefully temprorary condition. Though it remains unresolved, it is both relatively short-lived from an historical perspective, and physically limited to a microscopic geographic area. And the combined casualties in the Israeli Palestinian conflict don't add up to a fraction of the death toll in the past decade in Nigeria or Sudan.  Most important, none of the Israeli, Zionist or Jewish entities are engaged in trying to colonize Europe, the Americas or any place else, for that matter.  Okay, maybe Hollywood, Long Island and parts of South Florida. [I kid]

To triumph over this current insidious spread of fascism, the free world needs to recognize that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been hijacked by radical Islam as a convenient fig leaf with which to divert attention from the more far-sighted goals of eradicating everything which is seen as a threat to fundamentalist Islam.

While the world focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with laser-like intensity, radical Islam perpetrates genocide in Syria, NIgeria and the Sudan, and mounts assaults against democratic embassies in Iraq and throughout the Arabia Peninsula. Radical Islam attacks the very foundation of democratic society not with advancing uniformed armies, but rather through the incremental migration of communities of emissaries, whose inflicted physical destruction and carnage further splinter and divide those under attack.

WWII came with an exceptionally high cost of human life. Freedom, unfortunately, has a price. Idealistically, we want desperately to believe that freedom is an inalienable right, but historically, we know that freedom must be assiduously defended. Intellectually, we know that hundreds of millions do not enjoy the freedoms which most of you reading this commentary take for granted.

I am neither ‘liberal’ nor ‘conservative’ – my political positions/perspectives are issue-based, as opposed to reflecting the platforms of a particular party or ideology.

While I do identify as a member of the national religious sector of Israeli society, and am personally observant, I don’t believe that Israel has yet arrived at an ideal solution regarding the regulation and management of religious matters.  But I am proud that our society is actively pursuing a just resolution to problems stemming from the intersection of “church and state” and believe that a just solution can and will be found.

I mention this here, because it provides essential context to my world-view and will better frame my conclusions. I am not one the marginal, extremists people think of when they hear the word 'settler'.  I don' condone ‘price tag’ or ‘hilltop youth’ philosophies/actions, and in fact actively condemn them. I am also not some paranoid Jew who blames anti-Semitism for all of Israel’s problems and issues, or even for all anti-Israel policies.

I don’t, for example, believe that all anti-Israel policies fall under the category of active anti-Semitism. I think that most, anti-Israel policies fall under the category of appeasement and/or weary and ill-informed attempts to finally and definitively solve that ‘pesky Middle East nonsense.’  

With a claim to only .2% of global demographics, I think the world would do well to ignore us entirely. Jews are not committing acts of terror in France, or in Spain, or in England, or in the US. And while in Israel we have sadly experienced instances of vigilantism and zealotry, they are isolated, actively condemned by vocal, and vast majority, and prosecuted by an active democratically elected government that holds a monopoly on the use of force. Most, certainly Jews don’t behead journalists over insults and injuries to our faith or our leaders. 

A mere 70 years following the conclusion of WWII, we find ourselves again on the brink of utter chaos. WWII achieved its objectives – at least temporarily -- freedom from tyranny and intolerance. The fact that today’s fascism is not ‘nationalistic’ but has been replaced by a theocratic radical authoritative body, doesn't make it any less dangerous or imperative. Hiding beneath the cloak of ‘political correctness’ won’t slow the advance of those who not only don’t believe in, or place value on, individual choice, but are methodically attempting to homogenize cultural diversity into a single culture -- theirs.

I’d tell you to go ask all the minority cultures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan or Syria how their civil rights have been protected under the governance of radical Islam, but I can’t. Over the past 66.5 years, those minorities have been largely systematically attacked and eradicated – they are dead or have emigrated -- and the ones who remain are unlikely to risk their lives over such luxurious folly.

And while 66.5 years coincides with Israel’s age, it wasn't the creation of the State of Israel that launched this destruction of minority societies in these regions, but rather it was the decolonization from these Muslim-majority lands. That’s right, the same withdrawal that enabled the restoration of Judea to the Jews is what enabled the nepotistic and theocratic clans in the Arab/Muslim lands to begin systematic purges of minority citizens and residents. How many Christians remain in Egypt? In Iraq? In Libya? In Turkey (the birthplace of Eastern Orthodoxy)? No matter each country’s specific current demographic, they are significantly diminished from 66.5 years ago.

It is the right of every democratic society to self-determine.  As such, dissenting and minority positions in such societies must occasionally live with choices superimposed upon them. However, when the society is democratic, those choices remain open to challenge and adjustment. The free world may determine that maintaining current freedoms and democratic policies are not worth the price being exacted by radical Islam. And if that is an actively selected majority choice, in the spirit of true democratic values, those of us in the minority position are obligated to collectively say “so be it.”

I don’t think the free world is ready to trade-in bikinis for burkas, nor do I think we have arrived at the place where bikini clad or [gasp!] nude beach go’ers are in imminent danger of being thrust into said burkas.

We have however, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us to admit it, arrived at the point where we can no longer afford to ignore the rising number of zealots who are willing to slaughter people whose only crimes are satire and disagreement, and whose only weapons are pens and keyboards. If the global community fails to recognize and curb this intolerant aggression, it will continue until the choice is no longer ours to make – it will have been made for us.

At the moment, the greatest dangers are psychological in nature and largely based in fear. Fear, when it shapes policy, is appeasement. As Churchill astutely posited in March 1938 – "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last".  The problem with appeasing a crocodile is that eventually their hunger returns. Unless killed, the crocodile will continue to hunt and consume in order to sustain itself.

If radical Islam were capable of being sated, the territorial areas of conflict would not be expanding. It is a predatory ideological mechanism which if left unchecked will radically alter the composition of global society.

Back to the comment that instigated this lengthy commentary – yes, at the moment, radical strains of Islam remain, thankfully, a minority in terms of the current global demographic schematic in which 21 religious affiliations are represented. Non-radicalized Islam, however, is not a minority segment of the world’s population and any such reference is at best delusional and at worst deceptive.

In golf terms, non-radicalized Islam may be perceived as having a slight handicap to Christianity, but it is numerically dominant to every other individual religion – and in most cases simply dwarfs them by comparison. And radicalized Islam, while is a minority to all but Christianity, non-radicalized Islam, Securalism and Hindusim, flat out dwarfs 13 the remaining 17 religions/affiliations by comparison. In fact, radicalized Islam dwarfs the combined totals of the remaining 13.

So when we discuss issues that truly threaten world peace, lets be honest and refrain from referring to non-radicalized Islam as some globally persecuted entity. While I lack empirical data to support my theory, based on statistics alone, I think it is safe to assume that non-radicalized Muslims suffer no more or less discrimination than any one else. And if we are going to examine discrimination vis-à-vis radicalized Muslims, based on vast amounts of empirical data, it is most definitely safe to conclude that it is they who perpetrate discriminatory practices. 

Posted by David Bogner on January 15, 2015 | Permalink


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Fantastic post! Our current leaders are evidently not up to the task at hand, here's to new leadership that is, and soon.

Posted by: Beth | Jan 15, 2015 5:51:15 PM

I fear it will take a great terrorist shock for western nations to turn against appeasement.That shock will come,the only question is when,and will the change in approach be too late to make a difference.

Posted by: Ed | Jan 15, 2015 7:51:52 PM

Like you, I am also not politically "conservative" nor "liberal", I don't belong to any political party, and I try my hardest to be unbiased. Here are my thoughts:

Minority status isn't relative to global population; it is relative to specific regions (usually countries). The majority of Muslims live in countries where, well, they are the majority. In the U.S., the are a minority. In many other countries, they are also still minorities. True, we Jews are pretty much always the minority *because* we are *also* a global minority, but their being a global majority does not mean that we should never consider Muslim populations minorities.

Also, analyzing statistics of population does not actually prove that Muslims are not discriminated against any more than anybody else. And those questions you say you are shocked about not being asked *are* being asked, and the answer to some of those are actually positive. Many Muslims condemn terror. Some are punished for it by radicals (i.e. in ISIS territory). For handy reference see: Muslims Condemning Things.

Last thing--10-25% is quite a large margin, and "considered" radical is language that could mean anything from consideration by scholars and/or practitioners of Islam to consideration by Sean Hannity. I agree, the number of radical Muslims is alarming, but that does not suddenly mean that it is not a minority (after all, 14 million Jews are a lot--and yet, we are still a small minority in most regions).

If you want to make a very large conclusion about an entire group of people, it might be best not to use global numbers to assume all sorts of specific details.

Posted by: Shosh | Jan 15, 2015 7:58:27 PM

Shosh: The three paragraphs following the charts actually specifically acknowledge and reference that in western countries/societies that Muslims are a minority population, and acknowledge that in these locations the communities are sometime subject to discrimination.

No where in the commentary have I made the claim that there are no moderate Muslims condemning terror perpetrated by radicalized Muslims. The addressed issues deal with the territorial advancements in Muslim regions (i.e. Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, etc.) and a rise in terrorist activity in non-Muslim regions (i.e. England, France, the U.S., etc.).

I agree that 10-25% is a wide range -- hence the inclusion of But even if we assume these estimates are grossly inflated... for the sake of argument let's say that only 5% of Muslims worldwide are supporters of Jihad; that still leaves us to contend with a staggering 90 million people who consider it a holy obligation to conquer the world and subjugate its population in the name of Islam!. If you'd be more comfortable with 1-2.5% the numbers are still staggering at 18,000,000 - 45,000,000.

The word minority is not a subjective word -- it is a quantitative word -- it means 'fewer than.' Muslims are only fewer than Christians. Muslims are greater than the individual totals of Secular/Atheist/Agnostic and Hindus. Muslims are also greater than the the combined totals of the remaining 17 represented religions.

The point of this post was to illustrate that despite the minority context of Muslim populations within some western countries, within the larger global context, it simply doesn't apply.

Posted by: zahava | Jan 15, 2015 11:40:25 PM

Ed, if 9/11 was not a big enough shock, I really, really don't want to see what is.

Posted by: Beth | Jan 16, 2015 2:44:40 AM

Long post but a good one.

First, the category Secular/Atheist/Agnostic is not useful. You see why.

Second, like Jews and Christians, Moslems are not a monolithic block. In regard to Jews, Moslems are like Scots: all Scots hate the English, but they hate each other, too, just a little less than they hate the English.

Third, when the Nazis won the Anscluss plebiscite with Austria they got 98% of the vote. Even decent people can be misled and misled very badly.

Fourth, I never hear of an Israeli Moslem blowing himself up in a queue. It is always a Palestinian. Why is this particular fact not reported?

Fifth, Islam was born with a sword in its hand, and it has never put it down. A hundred years after it started, the advance of the armies of Islam was stopped in France. Beating them back occupied the Spaniards for 700 years.

Sixth, Western gov'ts and those nations that follow the Western gov't traditions (Japan, South Korea, India, South Africa, most of South and Central America) follow some constitution; that is, man-made law. Moslems believe that God made Sharia, which means it can never be changed. (It also means that he who interprets Sharia has great power.) There can be no peace between these two positions. There can only be cease-fires.

I could go on, but I find this list depressing. Islam is not a religion of peace. Most Moslems are peaceful. That is not the same thing. Until those in power see the difference and speak the truth, we will continue to follow political correctness to the gates of Hell.

Posted by: antares | Jan 16, 2015 10:52:27 AM

antares: You've made thoughtful and cogent points -- all of them, thanks. I whole-heartedly agree with you that Muslims are not a monolithic bloc, and that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. Thank you for understanding the nature of this post and for adding clarity.

Posted by: zahava | Jan 16, 2015 3:04:48 PM

The leadership of Islam, or the radical ones if you prefer, are quite intelligent. They know, for example, that "white guilt" is a big part of Western society, especially in the so-called intellectual classes so they play up their "victimhood" to divert any attempts to discern their true agenda. As a result it has become politically incorrect to even suggest that Islam might not be a victim but rather the aggressor in many situations

Posted by: Garnel Ironheart | Jan 16, 2015 3:57:08 PM

Regardless of the exact details, it's painfully clear that, in many places, a Jew has a real possibility of meeting up with a Muslim extremist, although not necessarily an armed one out to kill at that moment.

Posted by: RAM | Jan 16, 2015 4:46:17 PM

We have all been looking at our Muslim neighbors differently. The numbers tell us that if you know ten, you are looking at at least one that would happily participate in your extermination. At Shacharit this morning, here in Chicago, I was thinking about how pathetic it would be if some terrorist decided to attack a shul, and how much like a carnival stand it would be if all the people could do was scurry and shriek. I would be nice if every shul had a low armored wall in one corner of the front, with access to a loaded firearm.

Posted by: Eliezer Eisenberg | Jan 18, 2015 10:38:07 PM

Zahava, this is brilliant. I don't even know where to begin to comment, because I have so much swirling in my head right now as a result of this post. So many things I have been struggling to give voice to, and so many things I never considered are all here. Thank you.

Posted by: Alissa | Jan 19, 2015 8:45:06 PM

Brilliant Zahava.

"At the moment, the greatest dangers are psychological in nature and largely based in fear."

So true.. its all in the head, despite having gone through the cons of being an immigrant in France, Lassana, a Muslim worked in the Kosher market and helped save lives.

Carrot and stick approach sets precedence here for basic humanity.

"The underlying problem is not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is hatred and intolerance – and the symptoms are violence and mayhem."

Take Stephen and Rami, Stephen is a Frenchman of Algerian decent, his Father is French and mother is Algerian. Rami is Israeli, born and raised.. if you had Stephen put on a t-shirt with the blue star of David and Rami the Crescent moon, if you gave a radicalized Muslim a gun and told them to shoot whoever of the two they pleased.. and later asked them why they pulled the trigger, the answer would unsatisfactory - this is what the rest of the world is having to deal with.

Posted by: Rami | Jan 21, 2015 1:16:59 AM


Posted by: Rami | Jan 21, 2015 9:27:03 AM

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