While politically correct groups in the West herald Islamists as the epitome of Muslim identity, in the Arab world, Islamists are pushing Muslims out of their faith.
A recent article in The Sun reported, “Arabs are turning their backs on religion in record numbers ‘in backlash against Islamists,'” citing the following statistics:
- There’s a higher number of departure from theological affiliation among the 18-29 age group versus the 30+ age group
- The percentage of non-religious residents in Arab states spikes to about 46% of the population for Tunisia and Palestine
The statistics mirror a sentiment from an earlier conversation with Charlotte Littlewood, founding director of Become the Voice, a non-profit group that trains young Palestinians on social issue campaigns.
It was clear to Littlewood that young Muslims in Hebron were less interested in the political issues surrounding Palestine and Israel, less wound up with their identity as Muslims, and more focused on creating meaningful social changes in their communities.
That attitude is also reflected in private conversations with conservative political consultants catering to Middle Eastern countries.
Almost all of these consultants have privately shared they find more allies and support among Muslims in the Middle East than Muslims in the West. The latter are mostly herded under the propaganda of Western Islamists for whom religious identity has become a political weapon.
In the West, there is, however, a slow resistance to the politicization of faith (to which Islamists excel). In Arab nations however, it seems that shift away from political religiosity has more momentum.
According to the article in The Sun, the phenomena of Arabs “losing their religion” also has to do with “a loss of trust in religious leaders and political parties,” adding further that:
“Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, the ‘Arab Spring’ countries, saw three of the four biggest rises in non-believers. These results suggest that the rise of Islamist parties after the overthrow of secular dictators caused people to be put off religion altogether.
“In 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi was overthrown by the Egyptian army after a year in office. Meanwhile Libya experienced a civil war between Brotherhood-leaning, jihadist and anti-Brotherhood factions.”
If Arabs between the ages of 18-29 are more likely to turn their backs on their inherited religion, the next set of questions that follow are:
- How does it impact secularism in the Middle East, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia that have embraced culturally moderate reforms that include night clubs, concerts and recently granted the women the right to drive? Will these changes in secular culture trickle down to more structural faith-based reforms in the next two generations?
- How will embracing a secular identity reshape Muslim reform in the Middle East? Will the changes be driven by theological re-interpretations or will current theological models simply be outdated in due time as part of the drive to abandon faith?
- Will turning one’s back on religion inherently create a more secular Middle East? Many of the challenges in that part of world aren’t inherent to religion but to unchallenged cultural practices. Without a spirit of enlightenment that reform brings, it’s questionable whether the shift away from religion will benefit vulnerable minority communities.
- Will Islamists ultimately serve to alienate Muslims in West as well?