Estimating Extreme Islam Numbers

One of the more stupid statements around is that extreme Islam is no different from extreme Christianity – that the religions are basically the same and both suffer from a small number of extreme adherents who give the rest a bad name.

Now this is true at a superficial level. An insane Christian who blows up an abortion clinic is just as bad as a mad Muslim who blows up a kindergarten.

But it misses the key point that the numbers of “extreme” adherents is several magnitudes higher in Islam. In Christianity the number of extreme followers who believe it is religiously justified to execute civilians is oh say a few dozen or a few hundred at the very most. And there is no doubt Christian leaders condemn any killing of innocents.

Now while the number of Muslims who are actively part of terror groups is thought to be around 10,000 the problem is that literally millions and tens of millions support them. It’s not just a few thousand.

A Pew survey in May 2005 of almost 18,000 people found the following levels of support for violence against civilian targets:

Jordan 88%
Lebanon 58%
Pakistan 44%
Indonesia 33%
Turkey 20%
Morocco 18%

Now taking into account the population in each country, this gets estimates for Extreme Islam followers of:

Jordan 5.0 million
Lebanon 2 million
Pakistan 70 million
Indonesia 80 million
Turkey 14 million
Morocco 6 million

So in just those six countries you have around 177 million people who believe suicide bombing is acceptable. They represent one third of the total Muslim population so if the percentages are the same globally (I doubt they are, so should be lower) then one could be talking up to half a billion who support suicide bombings and killing people in God’s name so to speak.

Now this is still a minority of all Muslims, but it is a pretty damn big minority and the next time some moron says oh they are more worried about extreme Christian fundamentalists than they are extreme Islamic fundamentalists then think about that massive difference in numbers.

Now again I stress the majority of Muslims do not support suicide bombings and the like. And this would be especially true in New Zealand. This article is not about whipping up hysteria against individuals who happen to be Muslim. It is about recognising that the problem is huge. It is hard to credibly claim that Islam is a religion of peace and it is only a few extremists who ruin it for the rest.

Islam is a religion which has a massive split in it. Around two-thirds or more do not support violence targeted against civilians, yet somewhere between say 20% and 33% do. That’s not a small faction but a big fraction 🙂

And in case people think that it might just be say in Israel or Iraq that many Muslims support suicide bombings (not that I personally think that makes it in anyway more acceptable) then consider that support for the man who masterminded the plan to fly planes into the Twin Towers, Osama bin Laden, is also very high:

Jordan 60% = 3 million
Pakistan 51% = 80 million
Indonesia 35% = 80 million
Morocco 26% = 8 million
Turkey 7% = 5 million
Lebanon 2% = 70,000

So that’s 176 million or so who support the guy who dreamed up flying planes into towers, bombing tubes and nightclubs etc.

The challenge for moderate Islam, and the entire world, is how to reduce the proportion of Muslims who regard violence targeted towards civilians as sometimes acceptable from as much as a third down to 1% or so. And this won’t happen in a year or even ten years, but as the Pew survey shows there has been improvements in most countries from a couple of years ago, so progress can be made.

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