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The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World

by Youssef Courbage & Emmanuel Todd translated by George Holoch

Pub Date: June 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-231-15002-6
Publisher: Columbia Univ.

An insightful academic study of how the unrest and turbulence that characterizes large areas of the Muslim world are the results of demographic—rather than ideological—trends.

Researchers Courbage and Todd argue that media-driven doomsday scenarios that pit the Christian West against the Islamic East are as false as they are harmful and misleading. Through careful analysis of demographic data from the Middle East, Central Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, the authors show how such factors as the overall decline in the birth rate and an increase in female literacy are symptoms of “a major anthropological transformation” that points to universal patterns of historical development. Regional differences—caused by dissimilarities in family structures as well as economic, political and theological variables—do not subvert the current demographic transitions the authors believe will lead to the Muslim world’s movement into the hyper-plural space of modernity now inhabited by the Christian West. Indeed, the dichotomy between “us” and “them” is false and created largely to hide other, more disturbing realities, such as disparities in income and standards of living. By breaking down the monolith of “Islamic civilization” into individual national units and studying the specific demographics of each, Courbage and Todd give readers a way to think about Muslim society that is both hopeful and enlightened. They offer a vision of a global future in which cultural diversity will no longer be viewed as “a source of conflict” but rather “evidence of the richness of human history.” Challenging and important reading.