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placeholder November 24, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Complications face Muslim world, ex-CIA agent says

The Muslim world faces some substantial challenges, including a low birth rate, according to Middle Eastern expert Thomas Patrick Carroll.

"Muslims have a birth dearth," Carroll told the audience at November's Catholics@Work breakfast. In Iran, Turkey and some North African countries, the birth rate does not reach replacement levels. Iran's birth rate is below that of France and Italy.

Because of that "they are going to see some real problems in the next few decades."

Another critical challenge is the lack of strong state loyalties in the Islamic world.

"What group you are in really matters. Loyalty is strong first to your family, then to your tribe and next to your clan."

But "In the Middle East the middle part is gone," Carroll explained. "Loyalty to your state is a very new thing." That complicates the ability of modern states to build strength among their citizenry.

Carroll noted, as an example, that Iraq's late dictator Saddam Hussein came from a minority tribe. While in power, his tribe members prospered, living better than people in other tribes.

Carroll pointed out that the Islamic world prospered and grew for 1,000 years. But about 300 years ago it started losing its advantage as it failed to modernize and adopt scientific and other advances coming out of the West. This is exacerbated by Muslims' resentment of Western societies and contempt for Christianity.

In the Muslim world, Carroll noted, "everybody believes in God." In much of the region that translates into temporal success being equated with God's favor. Even today the vast oil resources in some countries, including Saudi Arabia, continue to be seen as signs of God's approval.

Carroll is a public lecturer on the Middle East, and at William Jessup University. His expertise developed from his experience as a CIA clandestine agent in Turkey. While there he and his wife converted to Catholicism.

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