The Politics of Demography by Mohd. Zeyaul Haque (APRIL 29, 2010)

The political, diplomatic and military uses of data offered free of cost should make one think before rejoicing, writes Mohd. Zeyaul Haque.

If a Greek gives you a gift horse, be careful. This is an approximation of an old adage that cautions against “free” offerings by strangers who have no apparent reason to do that. Now, keep that in mind and look at the abundant data on Muslims and Islam, gathered collated, and published at great cost, but made widely and easily available, for free.

Think for a while why should anyone undertake such a huge expenditure of time, money and effort for something just for providing you with some information. “There are no free lunches”, but the wide array of data, a hugely expensive product, is offered free. Why?

Also, put it in the context of what cultural theorists like Michel Focoult and Edward Said have to say before rejoicing over the free gift. They have built on the idea, coming down from earlier thinkers that “knowledge” is never power-neutral. The production and dissemination (or control) of knowledge (especially of a demographic, anthropological or sociological nature) is always part of a political agenda.

As this theory goes, great powers generate data about the peoples and cultures they have subordinated to rule over them with greater efficiency and profit. Much of the Orientalist project of knowledge in the 19th century was aimed at producing sociological and historical knowledge about non-Western people to enable the administrators of the Empire to rule the colonised people with least trouble.

Now, think for a moment before rejoicing over news reports like “Islam is the fastest growing religion”. Why should anybody generate data at such great cost? What ultimate purpose such information serves? Put it in the context of some groups fueling fears of a Muslim takeover of Western Europe with the long-term purpose of staging a second Holocaust in Europe (this time against Muslims) in the not-so-distant future, and think of what kind of impact it would have on the fears of Europeans. Naturally, it would only accentuate the worries about a Muslim takeover of Europe, and bring the prospects of another Holocaust closer.

The central point here is data does not come for free. It is generated only to serve a larger goal.

There is more to ponder over. If Islam is really “the fastest growing religion” then how do we explain a recent PEW finding that Muslims are getting converted to Christianity in Africa. A PEW survey in Uganda found that fully one-third of Christian respondents had recently converted from Islam. How does it gell with the “fastest-growing religion” myth?

The same is going on in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq. Indonesia is another focus of Islam-to-Christianity conversions for quite a while now. The latest issue of Time magazine says Indonesian Muslims resent the trend and churches have been attacked regularly.

It is interesting to consider the effect of Islam’s expansion in Europe and the resultant European anger against Muslims alongside the expansion of Christianity in the Muslim lands of Asia and Africa and the growing resentment of Muslims against the church.

What does it all add up to? A brewing storm that has been described as “clash of civilisations”. And who benefits from such a clash? Certainly, not Muslims. Not Christians either. Think twice before parroting such data mindlessly. It does not help your well-being as it is part of the larger “clash of civilisations”, whose unstated goal is to target Muslims.


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