Islam Revival - Part 1

WORLDWIDE REVIVAL

In the Middle East

Less than a decade ago the emerging world power appeared to be the Arabs. Between 1973 and 1979 the price of a barrel of oil rose from less than $3 to as high as $39. "With daily production of 32 million barrels the 13 countries of OPEC—The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, six of which are Arab—were earning $8.7 billion a day, $262 billion a month in 1979."48 The Camp David accords hinted at the possibility of an eventual peace with Israel. In addition, "the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of neighboring but non-Arab Iran had treated both the US and Soviet governments with contempt and gotten away with it."49 Things could hardly have appeared more promising for them.

However, things did not work out as expected. The Los Angeles Times recently commented on this in a front-page article entitled "What Went Wrong?":

Oil did not produce political power. The Camp David accords and other initiatives did not bring peace to the Middle East. Today, Lebanon is engulfed in self-ignited flames. Iraq and Iran are using poison gas and aerial bombardments to destroy each other. The Palestinians are in their third diaspora—first expelled from Israel in 1948, then from Jordan in 1970 and from Lebanon in 1982. Five wars with Israel have brought 3,000 square miles of Arab land under Israeli occupation but yielded not an inch of Palestine for Arabs. Khomeini, who briefly symbolized the hope of the Islamic revival, has become, in the eyes of most Arabs, little more than a scoundrel, a brutal old man who manipulates religion for political purposes. And the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, dominated by the Arabs, is unable even to agree on how to shore up world oil prices or how to maintain its own slipping share of the market."50

Most of the 157 million Arabs in the Middle East are not financially well off. Of the 18 Arab countries only five (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Libya) can be considered super-rich. The rest of them are struggling to get by (e.g., the per capita annual income in Egypt is only $560).

Nevertheless, in spite of all these problems, the Middle East is experiencing a revival of Islamic fundamentalism which is the harbinger of a worldwide Islamic revival. The resurgence varies from country to country. In the countries dominated by Shi'ites it is much more militant.

The Shi'ites, with a predisposition towards martyrdom and following charismatic leaders, are usually the ones who dominate the headlines. They believe in the jihad or "holy war." For example, the recent hijacking of the TWA Flight 847 was executed by members of the radical Shi'ite group Hezbollah or "Party of God." After the ordeal was ended one of the two hijackers lamented that they were not killed during the crisis:

We did not think that we would go back to our kin and brothers, but we were hoping that God would allow us martyrdom for the sake of defending our nation and pride.51

However, the majority of the Muslim countries in the Middle East are most heavily populated and ruled by Sunnites. The Islamic revolution or revival in these countries is more moderate in temperament, although just as deep in zeal. The excesses and crimes of some Shi'ite groups (and even Shi'ite countries, such as Iran) are not a genuine reflection of the character of the majority of Muslims.

Worldwide

A recent survey of world religions states that Islam is the world's fastest-growing religion with nearly one billion followers. Thus, Islam is the faith of one-fifth of the world's population. Over the past 50 years Islam has increased by about 500 percent. During this same period Christianity, also with about one billion adherents, grew by only 47 percent.52

According to Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, the director of the Islamic Society of Orange County (California), 85 percent of the world's Muslims are non-Arabic.53 Today 67 different nations, encompassing a seventh of the world's total land mass, make up "The House of Islam."

Amazingly, there is no indication that Islam's growth has reached its apex. Forty percent of Southeast Asia is Muslim. In South Asia 31 percent of the population is Muslim. Over 92 percent of the Middle East and North Africa is Muslim. Nearly 50 percent of West Africa is Muslim.

The largest Islamic nation in the world is Indonesia with 153 million Muslims. The next four largest are Pakistan (86 million), India (82 million), Bangladesh (78 million), and the USSR (50 million). Demographic studies of the Soviet Union indicate that by the year 2000 their Muslim population will be about 100 million."

Great inroads also have been made in the West. In Western Europe Islam is the second largest religion. Two years ago Al Islam, an Islamic magazine in West Germany, confidently predicted that within two decades Europe would be won over to Islam.

In Greece there are now nearly 300 mosques. In France, there are about one and a half million Muslims, "about six Muslim residents in France for every born again French Christian."55

Even in Great Britain impressive inroads are occurring. Saudi Arabia has bought an Arabic language paper in London called The Middle East. Backed by an annual budget of $75 million, the magazine's purpose is to spread the Arabic political view and to propagate Islam. England now has about 300 mosques, many of them former Protestant churches which were bought by Muslims. In 1983 Queen Elizabeth attended the dedication of a newly-constructed $7.5 million mosque in the affluent Regents Park.

In the USA

The United States has not been immune to Islamic expansionism. The first mosque in this country was built in 1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.56 Today there is at least one mosque in virtually every major American city. There are an estimated three million Muslims in America, nearly two million of which are converts." Detroit alone has 250,000 Muslims. In Chicago a new $15 million mosque was just recently completed. In all there are more than 200 mosques and Islamic groups in this country.

The Muslim Student Association is probably the most active Islamic organization in America. Their stated objectives are:

... producing and disseminating Islamic knowledge, establishing Islamic institutions, providing daily requirements, initiating daawah (the propagation of the faith), recruiting and training personnel, [and] promoting and nourishing the unity of Muslims.59

Several years ago a fledgling Islamic community, named "Dar al-Islam" or the "Place of Islam," began in northern New Mexico. It is a former 1,100-acre horse ranch which is being converted into a "showplace of Islamic culture in America."60 It features a kindergarten, grade school and high school, and there are plans for a college and a postgraduate school. The multi-million dollar project is being funded by numerous wealthy Muslims, mostly Saudi Arabians, including members of King Fahd's own royal family. Dar al-Islam's president is Abdullah Nooridin Durkee, previously known as Steve Durkee, a former Catholic who converted to Islam in 1973.

The funding of Islamic outreaches in the US may be most evident in the large gifts and grants given to numerous American universities. A few examples:

$l million to endow the King Faisal Chair for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Southern California, from the government of Saudi Arabia; $200,000 for a program of Islamic and Arabian development studies to Duke University, from the government of Saudi Arabia; $750,000 from the government of Libya for the al-Mukhtar Chair of Arab Culture at Georgetown University, and $88,000 to help fund an interdisciplinary program on Arab development at the University of Utah;…An annually endowed chair at Harvard University, the only chair in the history of Islamic science in the world, from the government of Kuwait.61

We could continue our examination of Islam's penetration into this country at great length. However, from even the few cases we have noted it should be more than evident that Islam is rapidly becoming a significant religious force in America.