Op-Ed: Killing Civilians: A Muslim View
Dan CalicDan Calic is an historian, writer and advocate.
An often-discussed topic of considerable controversy is the notion of how many Muslims support killing civilians as a tactic. Numbers range from a tiny fraction up to 50% of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.
Those who consider themselves more liberal tend to lean toward the tiny fraction estimate, while conservatives
How many Muslims support killing civilians as a tactic?
lean toward the larger numbers. Part of what drives the thinking of liberals is their tendency to see things from a more idyllic viewpoint, plus their belief that few people, if any, are evil and that at the core of everyone there is goodness to be found. This view tends to discount the impact of living in a society where virtually every aspect of daily life is under strict adherence to fundamentalism, and where jihad for Allah is considered the single holiest act of a true follower of the faith. The martyr-killer is considered a hero and the martyr's family is showered with gifts and held in a place of honor among fellow believers.
The foregoing assessment is corroborated by a former Muslim terrorist, Walid Shoebat, who was born and raised in the Middle East, and who spent time in jail for his involvement with jihad. However, in the mid-1990s, he renounced Islam. By doing so he became an "enemy of Islam" and has been living under threat of death ever since. These days, in spite of being under a fatwa, Walid writes books, and speaks at churches, synagogues and numerous other events about Islam and jihad.
One of the reasons there has been considerable debate on this flashpoint topic is that statistics are not readily available. However, recently a report was published providing information which allows some deductive conclusions to be drawn.
On February 27, the Middle East Times, an America-based pro-Arab publication, ran an article with the following headline: "Majority of Muslims Oppose Attacking Civilians". The portion which the headline referred to provided some interesting statistics.
To support the notion that the majority of Muslims oppose attacking civilians, five countries - Egypt, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, along with the West Bank and Gaza, were listed alongside the percentages of their respective populations that opposed killing civilians.
According to the report, the percentages of the respective populations that opposed killing civilians were as follows:
Egypt: 80% of 78 million
Azerbaijan: 70% of 8 million
Turkey: 70% of 71 million
Indonesia: 70% of 246 million
Pakistan: 60% of 166 million
West Bank/Gaza: 60% of 4 million
Conversely, while the article did not include specific statements about those who are not opposed to killing civilians, the implied deduction is that the remaining percentages favor it, since they chose not to oppose it. They range from 20% [Egypt] to 40% [Pakistan, West Bank/Gaza] respectively.
By taking the current population of each referenced location, and turning the percentages into actual population figures, here's what the numbers look like for those who may be said to support killing civilians:
The percent which supports killing civilians is 31.6 percent.
Egypt: 20% or 15.6 million
Azerbaijan: 30% or 2.4 million
Turkey: 30% or 21.3 million
Indonesia: 30% or 73,8 million
Pakistan: 40% or 66.4 million
West Bank/Gaza: 40% or 1.6 million
Cumulative total: 181 million
Keep in mind that this figure refers to only the six places referenced in the report. If you take an average from this group, then the percent which supports killing civilians is 31.6 percent. By extending this to the worlds 1.5 billion Muslims, the figure comes close to 500 million.
Also worth noting is that the report was published in a pro-Arab publication which, in its zeal to provide a positive view of Muslims, apparently didn't realize it was also providing information to the contrary.
While the topic will likely remain controversial, at least we now have some documentation which can narrow the gap between hyperbole and credibility.