New chart of Muslims has lessons to offer

The new chart mapping out the distribution of Muslims around the world was put together by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life based on extensive studies conducted over three years in 232 countries and territories.

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The new chart mapping out the distribution of Muslims around the world was put together by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life based on extensive studies conducted over three years in 232 countries and territories, wrote Ahmed Amiri in the comment pages of the Emirati daily Al Ittihad. This ought to prompt a reconsideration of a number of faith-related issues.

The figures show that the number of Muslims around the world stands at 1.57 billion, accounting for 23 per cent of the world population which now totals 6.8 billion. Sixty per cent of Muslims live in Asia, while only 20 per cent are found in the Middle East and North Africa. "The question really is: would Muslim preachers, especially the Arabs among them, keep gratuitously disparaging the followers of religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism? Shouldn't they start developing a new discourse in the light of evidence that most Muslims live in countries where vast populations do not adhere to monotheism - think of China, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka?" The report says one in every five Muslims lives in a country where Islam is a minority religion; in other words, 314 million Muslims are considered minorities. So, instead of preaching self-righteousness, their spiritual leaders must promote the values of tolerance and cohabitation.

Israel is currently facing quite a unique political dilemma, noted the London-based daily Al Quds al Arabi in its editorial. The more uncompromising the Israeli administration is with respect to the issue of the settlements and the peace process, the further away its old friends are forced to stay.

And to find a way out of this predicament, Israel may consider one of two options: either go for peace by capitulating to the international consensus, which would entail re-entering negotiations with the Palestinians and observing the road map; or, go for war and launch a military adventure to kick up some dust in the region. The military option remains the more probable, and the Israel-US intensive military maneuvres over the past two weeks only reinforce this probability.

"Any military venture that Israel may get into would target one of two fronts, or both at once: Iran and southern Lebanon, in view of their growing military potential and the existential threat they represent." Benjamin Netanyahu's government will always prioritise the stability of its right-wing coalition, which secures its cabinet majority, over serious adherence to a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict. The reason is that would definitely involve settlement dismantlement and compromise over the future status of Jerusalem.

Turkey's fast-paced diplomatic expansion is decidedly turning heads, opined Mamdouh al Sheikh in the Dubai-based daily Al Bayan. "Indeed, the country has become a common denominator in most important regional issues. Turkey has recently fostered talks between Syria and Israel, and when two Arab states, Iraq and Syria, saw their relations come under serious strain, Ankara was the first to make a move towards resolving the tension. It has even become a solicited mediator in sticky internal matters as well, like the Kirkuk issue in Iraq or the recent Israeli incursion into Al Aqsa mosque."

Also, in a symbolic gesture, the Turkish government signed a deal to rebuild the Hejaz Railway which, destroyed during the First World War, marked a major rupture between Ankara and its Arab-Muslim neighbourhood. Arab and Turkish media are already talking about the "giant's resurrection" and "the Turkish century" in the sense that Turkey has a historic opportunity to make a comeback as a major international policy maker. Concurrently, the Turkish military is turning the page of a past fraught with coups and conspiracies while there is more acceptance among politicians of the Kurdish cause. "Turkey is thus valiantly, though sedately, moving towards self-realisation, unhindered by historical hitches."

"More than 300 dead and injured was the price that Taliban extremists and al Qa'eda members have charged for Pakistan's reception of the US secretary of state Hilary Clinton," commented Zouhir Qasibati in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

Having coincided with another deadly attack against UN workers in Kabul, the Taliban-al Qa'eda alliance is bringing down Nato's morale regarding the war on terror. This, in turn, is going to nurture the already growing unpopularity of the military option in Middle Asia and further the hesitation of the US president Barack Obama in adopting a new US strategy in Afghanistan. "Washington has entrusted Hamid Karzai with the civil aspect of management in Afghanistan and took charge, with Nato allies, of the battlefield. The first part of their mission has come to nil, and now the US administration fears that the ongoing war will only bring further destruction for years to come, and billions of dollars squandered for nothing."

Worried that pulling out will ease the way for the Taliban to reinstate their "emirate" and take control of Pakistan's nuclear facilities, the US finds itself left with a critical option: to start talks with them. * Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi