Islam overtakes Catholicism as world's largest religion
Islamic Voice, May 1, 2008

The news that Muslims now make up 19.2 per cent of the world population, outstripping Catholics who stand at 17.2 per cent, should make us sit and take notice. The statistics are contained in the Vatican's 2008 Yearbook of Statistics. It may momentarily gladden hearts of some ignoramuses, but not of those who understand the link between demographic expansion and illiteracy, poverty and poor health conditions and consequent inassertiveness of a people. Moreover, its potential to add to the arsenal of scaremongers and phobia manufacturers too should not be lost sight of in a world where provoking hostilities against Muslims and Islam is increasingly becoming a pet project of a tightly monopolized world media. Such quarters have not desisted from questioning the growth and attributing it to an alleged intentional strategy on the part of the community to usurp control in Western democracies.

Rise in numbers of the followers of a faith should not necessarily be a compliment these days. It is the quality of followers, their creativity, their contribution to civilization and values, their capacity to innovate, their intellectual weight and assertion through diplomacy is what matters and gets counted. Sheer numbers do not add up to anything. But smaller yet more creative communities with greater say in academia, media, finance, industry, trade, commerce and diplomacy command much respect and attention. In fact, unplanned quantitative growth often scuttles the effort to upgrade quality, as could be seen in overpopulous countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Egypt and Indonesia. Similarly, countries endowed with immense natural resources are laggard due to deficient human resources. Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and the CIS states are examples. Such mismatches are galore over the map of the Muslim world. They rob the Muslim world of role models and spawn fatalism. This piece of news from the Vatican should therefore set off alarms rather than spark off jubilation among Muslims. Looking at the mindset of the ummah, this seems a remote possibility. But those who are in the know of the real lot of the community would agree that the Muslim world currently does not emit a ray of hope or provide any scope for optimism. Catchphrases like "Islam is the fastest growing religion" have done enough to reinforce the Muslim (mis)belief in the politics of numbers. It calls for a stupendous effort to effect a shift from sheer size and number to substance and quality. It is in this context that one is overwhelmed by a sense of pity over the naive of those who see the growth in population in terms of growth of religion. Such naive fans of Islam often forget that the Holy Prophet likened the teeming multitudes who would form his followers with gossamer and the flotsam on the surface of the ocean. Not to be ignored are his warnings as to the hazards of inassertiveness such numbers might produce. One wonders if the Prophet's words are finding an echo in these headlines.

Islam today may indeed boast of vast numbers, but Muslim morale is touching its nadir. The one billion plus people who reside in 50 and odd nation-states are a harried lot with dictators, despots and monarchs ruling them at the dawn of the 21st century. Hardly ever a piece of enthusing news makes it to the headlines from this region of vital natural resources. Political instability, social chaos and economic miseries have sapped them of their creative energies. Fatalism pervades the mindset of the entire ummah. Creative genius of the community constantly gets drained off to the developed and intellectually-free West in the absence of right ambience for rational debate and pragmatic action.

As the West's machinations constantly fuel conflict in the Islamic world, and refugees pour into Europe, growing numbers are bound to trigger unrest in even the "liberal" West. While birthrate for the native Englishwomen is 1.1 the birthrate for Muslim women is 3.4 or triple that of the average white population. We need to question if there is anything intentional on the part of the Muslims or is it sheer biological multiplication borne out of illiteracy and poverty.