With about 1.4 billion people professing the faith, 20% of the world’s population, Islam is the world’s second-largest religion after Christianity; around 50 countries have Muslim majorities and another 35 have significant minorities. Six million Muslims live in the USA – around 2% of the population. It is the world’s fastest growing religion.
It is hard for most people in Western countries, where church and state are rigorously separated, to understand that for Muslims, there’s little distinction between politics, culture and religion: each flows seamlessly through the other. Recognizing the religious integrity makes sense of certain customs and manners. In turn, it guides the traveller in appropriate conduct and minimizes the chance of giving offence. Indeed, if you take the time to understand Islam, it will pay dividends when you interact with Arab people.
Despite modern connotations with fundamentalism and the violent beginnings of Islam in the Peninsula itself, Islam is an inherently peaceful creed. The word ‘Islam’ means ‘submission’, or ‘self-surrender’. It also means ‘peace’. Taken as a whole, Islam is the attainment of peace – with self, society and the environment – through conscious submission to the will of God. To submit to the will of God does not just entail paying lip service to God through ceremony, but through all daily thoughts and deeds.
My Travels in Muslim Countries.
In my last four years of travel, I have visited many Muslim countries, whether they represented the majority of citizens or very large numbers in the population. They represent an amazing variety of Islamic belief and practice.
2012-2013. India has the world’s second largest population of Muslims. Maldives. Malaysia.
2013-2014. Myanmar has a small, very persecuted number of Muslims, the Rohinga.
Sabah Malaysia, Brunei.
2014-2015. Indonesia.. The country with the most Muslims in the world.
2015-2016. China: Gansu Province has a significant Muslim minority. Xinjiang, with the Uighurs, is ostensibly Muslim but the Han Chinese make up a majority of the population. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan: all predominately Muslim. Gulf Peninsula: United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait. Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel (Palestinians make up less than half the population but a significant one).
As of 2016, there are several Islamic countries that are impossible to travel to: Syria, Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia; and some that are difficult to go to: Somalia.
In my future travel plans are the following Muslim countries: Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, Sarawak Malaysia.
What follows are a series of articles I have collected over the past few years. Many do not portray Islam as a religion that espouses “peace”. Every Muslim I have talked to agrees that ISIS is not Muslim. “Infidel” represents a particularly Somali version of Islam and how Dutch society has dealt with it – it doesn’t portray a pretty picture.
ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW
WHY DO THEY HATE US?
SAUDI ARABIA – Islam and Terrorism, Women, Shia in Saudi Arabia
ISLAMIC POWER STRUGGLE
INVASION OF ISLAM
BANNING THE BURQA