Counter-Terrorism: It's the Women, Stupid


November 14, 2005: As American counter-terrorism specialists spend more time in Arab countries, they are getting a better grasp of why Islamic terrorism finds such a welcome there. It all apparently comes down to the treatment of women, especially the custom of keeping women illiterate. This, in turn, makes it difficult for women to get jobs outside the home. But, because of the illiteracy (half of Arab women are illiterate), there is a high birth rate. This is a pattern found in all cultures, throughout history. Once women are literate, the birth rate goes down.

As a consequence of the high birth rate, you have low economic growth and high unemployment. In the Arab world, the unemployment rate averages 15 percent (three times the U.S. rate, and 50 percent higher than the European rate.) This generates some truly deplorable stats. Like only one percent of the Arab population owns a personal computer, and only half of those are connected to the Internet. Compare that to East Asian nations (like South Korea or Taiwan), which were actually worse off, economically, than the Arab world right after World War II. But the East Asians educated their women. Now many of these nations have PCs in over half the homes, with nearly all of them hooked up to the Internet.

All those unemployed young Arab men are prime candidates for terrorist organization. When there seems to be no other way out, desperate measures begin to appear reasonable. But in the Arab world, the main impediment to educating women are the Islamic clergy. Not all of them, but the Islamic conservatives tend to grab the moral (or at least religious) high ground, and use that position to bully everyone else into going along with "pregnant and illiterate" attitude towards women. Even Saudi Arabia, with all that oil wealth, still has nearly half of its women illiterate. The Saudis love to trot out all the upper-class daughters who have gone to college (but cannot drive a car, or get a job because of social restrictions), as a smokescreen for their failure to let all the girls get educated.

Thus it appears that one way to end Islamic terrorism is to send all the girls to school, and let them stay there as long as they want. This policy is pushed wherever possible, and, naturally, Islamic extremists oppose it with great force and ferocity.


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