Archive for June, 2011

h1

Muslims in 2030

June 12, 2011

Ever wondered what will be the birth rate of Muslims in 2030?  The largest Muslim country in Africa in 15 years?  Or the Muslim majority country with the lowest number of people living below the poverty line?  Neither have I.

Muslims in 2030

At first they may seem like trivia questions, but on further thought, the answers can be used to fuel paranoia or promote progress.

The other day I was invited to a swanky gathering to reveal the results of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study on “The Future of the Global Muslim Population.”

I went because a colleague was going to speak afterwards about what the projections of the study mean to him, and I like to support colleagues.  But the part of me that probably would have excelled at statistics if I hadn’t thought math wasn’t for girls loved the all the pie charts and graphs.

Average birth rate in Muslim countries in 2030?  Down from 4.3 per woman in the 1990s to 2.9 today and 2.1 in 2030.  Largest Muslim country in Africa in 2030?  Move aside Egypt.  It will be Nigeria.   Muslim majority country with the lowest number of people living below poverty line?  Even before the revolution, viva Tunisia.  The Gulf countries were not included in this study, perhaps because they don’t have a poverty line, or at least not one that anyone sees.   EuroArabia fears in western Europe?  Fear not—the largest expected Muslim population will be France, and it will not exceed 10 percent.

As for the speakers who came on to explain the implications of this study, my friend, Amir Al Islam talked about Islam in America not being an immigrant religion anymore than Christianity or any other religion because one of its largest cohorts in the US is converts. The other speaker, also an American, attributed the US’s woes to its massive  consumerism and praised the Muslim world for not having gone down that path.  He said this with a straight face as we sat under crystal chandeliers at the Shangri La Hotel while valets outside parked Bentleys and Porches. You don’t have that consumerism in Bemidji, Minnesota, USA, and you don’t have it in Khandar, Afghanistan, Muslim World.

My pontification? There are no universal pontifications that can be made about Muslim world, anymore than I can compare Beverly Hills to Bemidji.  Sure there are commonalities, but it is a world as diverse as its reach.

h1

War and Body Image: Guernica and Arab American Literature

June 3, 2011

When my friend and author Randa Jarrar asked me for a short story for a collection she was editing for Guernica, I wrote “Girls on Ice.”  Those were the people talking in my head at the time.  Some form of them is always talking in my head because they are in part who I once was and who I see so many teenagers as today.   You can’t be Arab or Arab American and female and not have had severe body image anxiety shoved down your throat (as a teen in Beirut, my thoughts weren’t of the war but rather of wanting to be a respectable young woman, i.e. not fat–whereas as the friends I’d left back in Minnesota took fat as an annoyance, not a tragedy).  War was just an inevitable, uncontrollable part of life, and sadly still is, but beauty can be controlled, just ask any woman in the Middle East.  Perhaps we wage war on our bodies to shut out the wars we find ourselves powerless to control.  But when you come to America, you have to be concerned with achieving beyond the bathroom mirror.  Just ask the characters in these stories.

http://www.guernicamag.com/features/2692/jarrar_intro_6_1_11/