Of Arabs and Muslims and the Big Ban


This article slightly updates a previous one that IPS had published regarding the recurrent confusion about who are Arabs and who, Muslims.

Arab countries in the Middle East and North of Africa. Dark Green: Arab majority population. Light Green: Arab minority countries | Credit: Public Domain.

Arab countries in the Middle East and North of Africa. Dark Green: Arab majority population. Light Green: Arab minority countries | Credit: Public Domain.

.

ROME, Feb 20 2017 (IPS) – Now that President Donald Trump’s decision to ban citizens of seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States continues to drift into legal labyrinths about its legality–or not, it may be useful to clarify some myths that often lead to an even greater confusion regarding the over-written, under-reported issue of who are Arabs and who Muslims.

To start with, it is a common belief – too often heralded by the mainstream media – that the Middle East is formed entirely of Arab countries, and that it is about the so-wrongly called Muslim, Arab World.

This is simply not accurate.

Firstly, because such an Arab World (or Arab Nation) does not actually exist as such. There is not much in common between a Mauritanian and an Omani; a Moroccan and a Yemeni; an Egyptian and a Bahraini, just to mention some examples. They all have different ethnic roots, history, original languages, traditions and religious beliefs.

Example: The Amazighs – also known as the Berbers – are an ethnic group indigenous to the North of Africa, living in lands stretching from the Atlantic cost to the Western Desert in Egypt. Historically, they spoke Berber languages.

There are around 25-30 million Berber speakers in North Africa. The total number of ethnic Berbers (including non-Berber speakers) is estimated to be far greater. They have been “Arabised” and “Islamised” since the Muslim conquest of North of Africa in the 7th century.

Secondly, because not all Muslims are Arabs, nor all Arabs are Muslims. Not to mention the very fact that not all Arabs are even Arabs. It would be more accurate to talk about “Arabised,” “Islamised” peoples or nations rather than an Arab World or Arab Nation.

Here are seven key facts about Muslims that large media, in particular the Western information tools, often neglect or ignore:

1. Not all Muslims Are Arabs

In fact, according to the most acknowledged statistics, the number of Muslims around the world amounts to an estimated 1.56 billion people, compared to estimated 2.2 billion Christians and 1.4 million Jewish.

Of this total, Arab countries are home to around 380 million people, that is only about 24 per cent of all Muslims.

2. Not all Arabs Are Muslims

While Islam is the religion of the majority of Arab population, not all Arabs are Muslims.

In fact, it is estimated that Christians represent between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of the Arab combined population. Therefore, Arab Muslims amount to just around one-fifth of all the world’s Muslims.

Arab Christians are concentrated mainly in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon and Egypt, where they represent up to 13 per cent of the total population amounting to 95 million inhabitants according to last year’s census.

It is also estimated that there are more Muslims in the United Kingdom than in Lebanon, and more Muslims in China than in Syria.

3. Major Muslim Countries Are in Asia

According to the U.S-based Pew Research Center, this would be the percentage of major religious groups in 2012: Christianity 31.5 per cent; Islam 23.2 per cent; Hinduism 15.0 per cent, and Buddhism 7.1 per cent of the world’s total population.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center estimated that in 2010 there were 49 Muslim-majority countries.

South and Southeast Asia would account for around 62 per cent of the world’s Muslims.

According to these estimates, the largest Muslim population in a single country lives in Indonesia, which is home to 12.7 per cent of all world’s Muslims.

Pakistan (with 11.0 per cent of all Muslims) is the second largest Muslim-majority nation, followed by India (10.9 per cent), and Bangladesh (9.2 per cent).

The Pew Research Center estimates that about 20 per cent of Muslims live in Arab countries, and that two non-Arab countries – Turkey and Iran – are the largest Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East.

In short, a large number of Muslim majority countries are not Arabs. This is the case of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey.

3. Largest Muslim Groups

It is estimated that 75 to 90 per cent of Islam followers are Sunni, while Shii represent 10 to 20 per cent of the global Muslim population.

The sometimes armed, violent conflicts between these two groups are often due to political impositions. But this is not restricted to Arab or Muslim countries, as evidenced by the decades of armed conflict between Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland.

4. Muslims Do Not Have Their Own God

In Arabic (the language in which the sacred book, the Koran, was written and diffused) the word “table” is said “tawla;” a “tree” is called “shajarah;” and a “book” is “ketab.” In Arabic “God” is “Allah”.

In addition, Islam does not at all deny the existence of Christianity or Christ. And it does fully recognise and pay due respect to the Talmud and the Bible.

Probably the main difference is that Islam considers Christ as God’s closest and most beloved “prophet,” not his son.

5. Islamic “Traditions”

Islam landed in the 7th century in the Gulf or Arab Peninsula deserts. There, both men and women used to cover their faces and heads to protect themselves from the strong heat and sand storms. It is not, therefore, about a purely Islam religious imposition.

Meanwhile, in the Arab deserts, populations used to have nomadic life, with men travelling in caravans, while women and the elderly would handle the daily life of their families. Islamic societies were therefore actually matriarchal.

Genital mutilations are common to Islam, Judaism (male) and many other religious beliefs, in particular in Africa.

Likewise other major monotheistic religions, a number of Muslim clerics have been using faith to increase their influence and power. This is fundamentally why so many “new traditions” have been gradually imposed on Muslims. This is the case, for example, of denying the right of women to education.

As with other major monotheistic religions, some Muslim clerics used their ever-growing powers to promote inhuman, brutal actions. This is the case of “Jihad” fundamentalists.

This has not been an exclusive case of Muslims along the history of humankind. Just remember the Spanish-Portuguese invasion of Latin America, where indigenous populations were exterminated and Christianity imposed by the sword, for the sake of the glory of Kings, Emperors… and Popes.

6. The Unfinished Wars between the West and Islam (and Vice-Versa)

There is a growing belief among Arab and Muslim academicians that the on-going violent conflicts between Muslims and the West (and vice-versa) are due to the “unfinished” war between the Christian West and the Islamic Ottoman Empire, in spite of the fact that the latter was dismantled in the early 1920s.

This would explain the successive wars in the Balkans and the Middle East, for instance.

7. The “Religion” of Oil

It has become too common, and thus too given for certain, that oil producers are predominantly Arabs and Muslims. This is not accurate.

To start with, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was founded in (the under British mandate) Baghdad, Iraq, in 1960 by five countries: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. These were later joined by Qatar (1961), Indonesia (1962), Libya (1962), the United Arab Emirates (1967), Algeria (1969), Nigeria (1971), Ecuador (1973), Gabon (1975) and Angola (2007).

And here you are: OPEC full membership includes: Ecuador, Venezuela, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola. None of these is either Arab or Muslim. They are all Christian states. As for Iran and Indonesia, these are Muslim countries, but not Arab.

Then you have other major oil and gas producers and exporters outside the OPEC ranks: the United States [which produces more oil (13,973,000 barrels per day) than Saudi Arabia (11,624,000)]; Russia (10,853,000); China (4,572,000); Canada (4,383,000, more than United Arab Emirates or Iran or Iraq); Norway (1,904,000, more than Algeria) and Mexico, among others.

Again, none of these oil producers is Arab or Muslim.

In short, not all Muslims are Arabs (these are less than 20 per cent of the total); not all Arabs are Muslims, and… not all Arabs are even Arabs!

Related IPS Articles

baher-kamal*Baher Kamal, Egyptian-born, Spanish-national secular journalist. He is founder and publisher of Human Wrongs Watch. Kamal is a pro-peace, non-violence, human rights, coexistence defender, with more than 45 years of professional experience.
 
With these issues in sight, he covered practically all professional posts, from correspondent to chief editor of dailies and international news agencies. 
.
.

More articles by Baher Kamal in Human Wrongs Watch:

Every Year 700 Million People Fall Ill from Contaminated Food

A Dire Vacuum in a World in Crisis  

Indigenous Peoples Lands Guard 80 Per Cent of World’s Biodiversity

World’s 40,000 MP’s Must Enjoy Their Rights – But Are They?

Want to Prevent Stroke, Diabetes, Cancer? Get Moving… Now!

Trump to Pull Out of the UN, Expel It from the US?

Inequality (III): Less Employment… and More ‘Junk’ Jobs

Inequality (II): “It Will Take 170 Years for Women to Be Paid as Men Are”

Inequality (I): Half of World’s Wealth, in the Pockets of Just Eight Men

Poor Darwin – Robots, Not Nature, Now Make the Selection

When Your Healers Become Your Killers

Is Cash Aid to the Poor Wasted on Tobacco and Alcohol?

Poor Darwin – Robots, Not Nature, Now Make the Selection

When Your Healers Become Your Killers

Is Cash Aid to the Poor Wasted on Tobacco and Alcohol?

“Bonn Has Become an Insider Tip on the International Stage”

Battle of the Desert (and III): The Silk Road

Battle of the Desert (II): A ‘Great Green Wall for Africa’

Battle of the Desert (I): To Fight or to Flee?

Children of the ‘Others’, Sons of Minor Gods

Trump – The Symptom

World to Cut Gas Emissions by 25 Percent More Than Paris Agreement

Toxic Air – The ‘Invisible Killer’ that Stifles 300 Million Children

Dying for Europe

Climate Doomsday – Another Step Closer

What Happens When a Small Farmer Migrates?

‘The Earth Is Not Flat; It Is Urban’

Take a Deep Breath?… But 9 in 10 People Live with Excessive Air Pollution!

Believe It or Not, Pulses Reduce Gas Emissions!

Ships Bring Your Coffee, Snack and TV Set, But Also Pests and Diseases

One Humanity? Millions of Children Tortured, Smuggled, Abused, Enslaved…

Arable Lands Lost at Unprecedented Rate: 33,000 Hectares… a Day!

War on Climate Terror (II): Fleeing Disasters, Escaping Drought, Migrating

War on Climate Terror (I): Deserts Bury Two Thirds of African Lands

African Farmers Can Feed the World, If Only…

Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disaster

400 Million People Live with Hepatitis But They Do Not Know

Rights of Indigenous Peoples ‘Critical’ to Combat Climate Change

Forests: To Farm or Not to Farm? That’s the Question!

‘Monster’ El Niño Subsides, ‘Monster’ La Niña Hitting Soon

‘Modern World Is Chaotic, Confused; Human Security a Must’

Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?

‘Hate Is Mainstreamed, Walls Are Back, Suspicion Kills’

What If Turkey Drops Its “Human Bomb” on Europe?

Humanitarian Aid – Business As Unusual?

World Oceans Day – A Death Sea Called Mediterranean

The Humanitarian Clock Is Ticking, The Powerful Feign Deafness

Humanitarian Summit, The Big Fiasco

Humanitarian Summit: Too Big to Fail?

Humanitarian Summit Aims to Mobilise Up to 30 Billion Dollars

Africa, Resolved to Address African Problems With African Solutions

‘We Cannot Keep Jumping from Crisis to Crisis’

‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’

Now 1 in 2 World’s Refugees Live in Urban Areas

Middle East – The Mother of All Humanitarian Crises

Mideast: 1 in 3 Pays Bribe to Access Basic Public Services

Any Way to Halt Extremism?

Climate: Africa’s Human Existence at Severe Risk

No Water in the Kingdom of the Two Seas – Nor Elsewhere

Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?

Can an Animal Heist Fable Help Solve the Middle East Crisis?

A “Colombian Triangle” for Daesh in Libya?

‘Worse Than World War I’

‘Take My Iraqis and Give Me Some Syrians’ – Europe to Turkey

New Nuclear Hysteria in the Middle East

Africa Launches Largest Trading Block with 620 Million Consumers

Big War Lords Playing Brinkmanship Game in Syria

Cameron at large: Want Not to Become a Terrorist? Speak Fluent English!

Women’s Rights First – African Summit

Africa, Only If It Bleeds It Leads?

Seven Top Challenges Facing African Women

Africa Focuses on Women Rights, Reaffirms Solidarity with Sahrawi People in Struggle for Self Determination

Once Auctioned, What to Do with the ‘Stock’ of Syrian Refugees?

… And All of a Sudden Syria!

Silence, Please! A New Middle East Is in the Making

The Over-Written, Under-Reported Middle East (II): 99.5 Years of (Imposed) Solitude

The Over-Written, Under-Reported Middle East (I): Of Arabs and Muslims

Syria – Minding the Minds

Egypt in the Rear Mirror (I): The Irresistible Temptation to Analyse What One Ignores

Egypt in the Rear Mirror (II): Who Are the Not-So-Invisible Powers Behind the Troglodytes?

Fed Up With Empty Promises, The Arabs May Abandon Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Anti-Nukes Move from Norway to Bahrain

Middle East Nuclear Free Bid Moves to Finland – Yet Another Lost Chance?

Annual Spending on Nuclear Weapons, Equivalent To UN Budget For 45 Years

Watch The Sky–It May Rain Atomic Bombs

Save The Planet? Just Eat Cars, Drink Fuel!

Who Is Afraid of 300 Or 400 Or 500 Million Miserables?

Violence And Death For Millions Of Life-Givers

Whither Egypt (I) – Did You Say Dictatorship?

Whither Egypt (II) – Economic Bankruptcy

Politicians Promote Fossil Fuels with Half a Trillion Dollars a Year

Who Dares to Challenge a 32 Billion Dollars Business – Human Trafficking?

Palestine: Yet Another One Hundred Years of Solitude

Does Anyone Know Anything About A New Country Called South Sudan?

South Sudan: Yet Another Kitchen-Garden?

Somalia? Which Somalia? Some Facts About Everybody’s — Nobody’s Land

Requiem For Palestine (I): A Conflict Born With A Solution

Requiem For Palestine (II): Can Gruyere Be A Solution?

2017 Human Wrongs Watch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: