The Islamic monolith?

The Islamic monolith? November 7, 2018


Tansu Çiller with Felipe Gonzales
Dr. Tansu Çiller, a onetime professor of economics who served as prime minister of Turkey from 1993 until 1996, at a 1995 press conference with the then prime minister of Spain, Felipe González
Public domain photograph courtesy of the Ministerio de la Presidencia, Gobierno de España.  Curiously, she was elected head of the government of predominantly Islamic Turkey even before United States elected its first woman president.


Some further useful notes from John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (New York: Gallup Press, 2007), illustrating the diversity that is to be found across the Islamic world:


The majority of the world’s Muslims live in Asia and Africa, not the Arab world.  Only about one in five of the world’s Muslims are Arabs.  The largest Muslim communities are in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria rather than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Iran.  And millions of Muslims live in Europe, the United States, and Canada, where they represent the second and third largest religion (second largest in Europe and Canada and third largest in the United States).  Because of globalization and emigration, today the major cities where Muslims live are not only exotic-sounding places such as Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Mecca, Islamabad, and Kuala Lumpur, but also London, Paris, Marseilles, Brussels, New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.  (2)


Religiously, Muslims are Sunni (85%), who are the majority in most Muslim countries, or Shia (15%,) who predominate in Iran, Iraq, and Bahrein.  (2) 


Muslims speak not only Arabic, but also Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Swahili, Bahasa Indonesia, and Chinese, as well as English, French, German, Danish, and Spanish.  (3)


Women in some Muslim societies cannot drive cars and are sexually segregated, but women in many other parts of the Muslim world drive cars, ride motorcycles, and even fly planes.  (3)


A growing number of Muslim women are choosing to cover their heads, while others do not.  In the United Arab Emirates and Iran, women make up the majority of university students.  In other parts of the world, women lag behind men in even basic literacy.  (4)


Women serve in government in parliaments and cabinets and have headed governments in Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, while in other Muslim countries, women are struggling for the right to vote and run for office.  Muslim women may wear a sari, pantsuit, blue jeans, dress, or skirt, just as Muslim men may wear long flowing robes, blue jeans, pullover sweaters, or three-piece business suits and may be bearded or clean-shaven.  (4)



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