What's your image of the countries in which most Muslims in the world live?
Do you picture an oppressive Middle Eastern nation run by a royal Arab family? Well, there certainly are such countries, but a new study by the U.S. Commission on International Religion Freedom says that image is not a realistic picture of the Islamic world.
The study found that more than half of the world's Muslim population (somewhere in the 1-billion-plus range) lives in countries that are not Islamic republics nor are they countries that have declared Islam to be the state religion.
Beyond that, the study says, some countries in which Islam is the state religion provide constitutional guarantees of religious freedom "that compare favorably with international legal standards."
By the way, did you know that the most populous Islamic country in the world is not even in the Middle East? It's Indonesia.
When I speak to predominantly Christian groups I often ask if anyone knows how many Muslims there are in the world compared with the number of Christians. The answer almost always puts Muslims way ahead of Christians. Not so. There are about 2 billion Christians in the world, almost twice the number of Muslims.
My point in raising all this today is that I think that if we're going to talk about these subjects -- and, since 9-11, lots of people are talking and talking -- it helps to have a few basic facts right. Otherwise the conclusions we draw will be unreliable. And we've got enough misinformation in the world.
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