The “problem of Islam” has nothing to do with religion. At root it’s about development. Specifically uneven development. Up until 1989, the Middle East faced a lot of the same problems that the rest of the world did. The rest of the world got to emerge from the cold war, the Middle East didn’t. Rivalries between Iran, the US, Israel, Syria, Iraq and others persisted while the rest of the world moved on and got rich. But there was a country in the Middle East that has been rich for over half a century. Saudi Arabia used its riches to attempt to crush Islamic diversity world-wide. They failed.
Saudi Arabia is no longer the only rich Muslim country. Its influence is fading. This will accelerate in the new oil price environment. But nobody fully appreciates what has happened. The Saudi megaphone has been the largest for quite some time. They have the eager participation of Islamophobes in the West, who are happy to call Saudi religion the only version of Islam. Saudi Arabia’s project failed. But very few know it even existed. This video attempts to set the record straight.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. With this Everybody’s Lying About Islam series I’ve been promising to tell the truth about Islam, but so far I’ve participated in one of the greatest myths about the subject. I’ve been talking about Saudi Arabia, a country with a uniquely brutal form of Islam. I’ve been talking about Arabs, and I’ve been talking about the Middle East. This region, these problems and this brutal form of religion are what most Americans see when they think about Islam. This image is a myth.
In fact, the five countries with the largest Muslim population are all non-Arab. There are two reasons why the Middle East gets the lion’s share of the attention. First, the Middle East makes for exciting news. For decades, the region has been a disaster, so those few countries, and the kinds of Islam practiced there are what the world hears about. Nobody reads about the peaceful and progressively more prosperous lives of the people of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim Majority country.
The second reason is Saudi Arabia. They have money, and they’ve had it for the past 50 years. Oil wealth skyrocketed many Saudi Arabians to a first world level of affluence. Saudi Arabians were traveling the world and making an impression long before the Turks or the Indonesians could. This has had an effect on popular culture in the West. More importantly, this money has allowed them to push their version of Islam world-wide. Cannonball Run 2. The brutal Saudi version of the religion, that just 29 million people live under, is the most public face of Islam. The Saudis fund multiple international organizations that portray their sect as the only true way to practice Islam. They’ve had a lot of success making non-Muslims in rich countries see Saudi Islam as the main version. More tragically, they’ve had some limited success forcing Muslims in weak countries like Afghanistan and Nigeria to adopt their practices.
This has given rise to more telegenic terrorist organizations like the Taliban and Boko Haram. Which in turn leads to more negativity about Islam in the US and European press.
This is not the story of Islam. Most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have had a pretty good couple decades. They are getting richer. and better educated, and they are finding interesting ways to make Islam and modernity work. I’ve done videos about success stories like Tunisia and Indonesia in the past. You can find those here. As this Everybody’s lying about Islam series continues I intend to include more happy stories. But we’ve got to deal with Saudi Arabia first.
If you want to cut straight to the positivity though, you can go ahead and buy my essay “Everybody’s Lying About Islam”, available now on the Amazon Kindle. It points out why Islam is nothing to be afraid of. Thanks for watching, please subscribe.