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July 23, 2004

Islam and the West

This week's Spectator magazine (UK) has a lead article by Anthony Browne, a well known London Times journalist, arguing that: "Islam really does want to conquer the world. Thatís because Muslims, unlike many Christians, actually believe they are right, and that their religion is the path to salvation for all".

Nothing very surprising here, at least for GNXP readers, but Browne has some good quotes from influential Muslim clerics.

The Spectator is available online here (free registration may be required).

Addendum from Razib: Try username: and password: publicgnxp. Also, note this subheading, "Islam really does want to conquer the world. Thatís because Muslims, unlike many Christians, actually believe they are right, and that their religion is the path to salvation for all." The Spectator is British, so they encounter Christians with balls far less often than Americans. Personally, I was kind of excited for evangelical Christian missionaries to go into Iraq and see if the Muslims and the missionaries ended up inadvertently castrating each other.

Godless comments:

Here's the graph of the consanguinity prevalence as a function of geography:


Conversion gets a really bad rap from our press. But from a secularist point of view, as far as I know the most successful/assimilated/Westernized Arabs are the Lebanese Christians. Conversion changes all sorts of behaviors, including the practice of cousin marriage. And the world beating consanguinity rate is surely one of the factors keeping the Arab world down. (Data from consang.net, though their server appears to be down). See for example Bromiker et. al.:

Consanguineous marriages have been described as an important factor contributing to an increased occurrence of congenital malformations and subsequent morbidity and mortality among the offspring. Within the general population, the incidence of congenital malformations spans a wide range. With few exceptions, the frequency of major malformations reported in western countries ranges between 1.0 and 2.4% (1, 2). By contrast, the risk for congenital malformations in the offspring of marriages between first cousins has been reported to range between 2.9 and 8.0%

It's so high, in fact, that geneticists travel to Saudi Arabia to seek out rare neurological diseases:

In some parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the south, where Mrs. Hefthi was raised, the rate of marriage among blood relatives ranges from 55 to 70 percent, among the highest rates in the world, according to the Saudi government.

Widespread inbreeding in Saudi Arabia has produced several genetic disorders, Saudi public health officials said, including the blood diseases of thalassemia, a potentially fatal hemoglobin deficiency, and sickle cell anemia. Spinal muscular atrophy and diabetes are also common, especially in the regions with the longest traditions of marriage between relatives. Dr. Sakati said she had also found links between inbreeding and deafness and muteness...

"Saudi Arabia is a living genetics laboratory," said the executive director of the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research, Dr. Stephen R. Schroeder, an American geneticist who has been doing research in Saudi Arabia for the last year. "Here you can look at 10 families to study genetic disorders, where you would need 10,000 families to study disorders in the United States."

If Christian missionaries were allowed to do their work in Iraq, perhaps this practice could be slowly changed. Fat chance of that happening, of course.

Comment from Razib: My best friend in high school was from a Christian Lebanese background. My family also had many friends of Muslim Lebanese origin when we lived in Western Pennsylvania. Two points:

  • My friend told me that cousin marriage is practiced among the Christians as well.
  • I did not see any phenotypic difference between Christian and Muslim Lebanese.

The Christian Lebanese around Mt. Lebanon, the "Maronites," derive from a theological controversy dating to the 6th century. Eventually they aligned themselves with the Roman Catholic Church. This has had long term consequences, in that their wealth and cosmopolitanism is partly a reflection of the fact that Christian Lebanese have been "hooked in" to the French cultural international for many centuries. This is in contrast to the Shia, Sunni or Druze Lebanese, who don't have the same European contacts.

Second, the idea that the Christian and Muslim Lebanese are disaparate peoples is often asserted by the Maronites and other Christians, that the former are not Arab, and so forth. The fact is that the Muslim Lebanese are almost certainly converts, several memebers of my friend's extended family converted to Islam, so the process continues. Additionally, the area around Mt. Lebanon would probably be the last one where there would have been a movement of Arab tribal peoples during the spread of Islam (the Syrian coast in general is where there are still pockets of Aramaic speakers).

That being said, the rise of religious pluralism and further international contacts through the formation of a Protestantized minority couldn't hurt. And from the secular perspective, in Human Accomplishment Charles Murray seems to hint that Protestantism has a tendency to decay to secularism.

Posted by David B at 01:33 AM