By Shaikh Abdul Rasheed
The ever-increasing challenges faced by the Muslim world need to be seriously dealt with well-crafted and all-comprehensive social, economic and political initiatives instead of insidious and myopic policies and methods maladroitly adopted by a raft of transnational extremist, terrorist and militant groups. Therefore, these short-sighted approaches have continued to create enormous challenges for the followers of Islam globally.
The demographics display an extraordinary trend of Muslim population growth. In 2010, there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and this figure is predicted to grow by 73 percent in the next four decades—more than double the general rate of growth. By 2050, Muslim population, estimated by the Pew Research Center, will be 2.8 billion globally, more than a quarter of the world’s population. Of the 11 countries expected to join the world’s largest economies this century, six have overwhelmingly Muslim populations and two have big Muslim minorities. Muslim minorities in Europe and North America are young, affluent and growing. One-third of all Muslims are under the age of 15 and two-thirds are under 30.
The Muslim middle class is expected to triple to 900 million by 2030. On account of their sheer numbers, economic and political power, they will reportedly move towards the energy-rich Middle East and developing Asian countries. These two regions are already home to a majority of world’s Muslims, though some Muslim minorities are in the saddle playing a significant role.
Muslims need to capitalise on their increasing number on economic, political and security fronts. As the faith of Muslims encompasses every aspect of life and embraces all changes occurring globally, all Islamic states have to establish brotherly/friendly relationships with one another by prudently bridging all the threatening differences existing among them. This will arguably and tremendously help them take all-out advantages of the ensuing social, economic and political changes. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the only representative organisation of all the Islamic states, can play a vital role in bringing about reconciliation among the conflicting Islamic states through result-oriented and earnest negotiations. For sustainable social, economic, political and cultural development, the heartfelt and unswerving cooperation and coordination between all Islamic states are highly required to fully maximise them.
The majority of young Muslims all over the world are potentially progressive and possess the characteristics of faith and modernity. While, a few young Muslims are traditionalists and more socially conservative, who have been ominously radicalised calculated to hijack Islam for violent extremism and hatred throughout the world.
Sectarianism is the root cause of the origin and development of sectarian terrorism which has divided the Muslim world into two blocks—Sunny and Shia—led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran, respectively. This has played havoc with life, property, social, religious, cultural and economic status of all the Muslims worldwide. Although KSA and Iran have not fought sectarian war directly, they have waged a number of proxy wars in the Middle East and elsewhere in a quest for expanding their respective sphere of influence. Both the countries have supported opposite sides in the prolonged military and political conflicts in Iraq and Syria, and Yemen is the latest battleground for the two rivals. The sectarian proxy wars damaging the social and political fabric of society in the Middle East has engulfed thousands of innocent lives and displaced millions of Muslims—men, women and children.
Religious terrorism, a kind of dangerous terrorism which involves self-sacrifice tactics such as suicide bombing, is motivated by religious extremism and oppressions experienced by politically devitalized, economically downtrodden and socially subjugated Muslim minorities. The fact is that the religious fanatics intending to get their own vested interests have resorted to extremism and terrorism, which have brought about damage in the world and have caused countless horrendous challenges for the Muslims. The horrific ramifications of extremism and terrorism, which world’s Muslims have been weathering since 9/11, are not out of sight from people of the world. All Muslims, indiscriminately believed to be terrorists, have been facing ignominious and reprehensible global response since the fateful the 9/11 incident.
The fact is that the panacea of all these myriad difficulties and problems faced by Muslims are peaceful and harmonious relationships amongst Muslim states; their socio-economic and political development with sustainability; zero intolerance for extremism and terrorism and peaceful and political resolution of all disputes adversely impacting the Ummah.
A comprehensive and well thought out approach is needed to initiate a relentless struggle against violent extremism and religious and sectarian terrorism. To identify and resolve the aforementioned problems, Muslims should set-up a peaceful atmosphere, instigate social cohesion among them and provide socio-economic and political justice to all without religious sects and creeds.
The writer is an academic, and can be reached on Twitter @ARShykh