Religion is one, but not the only reason, why the Muslim world is so unsettled at this time. Demography, the quality of governance, memory of past Western involvement in the Middle East and Central Asia are as important, perhaps even more important than religion.
Past rapid rates of population growth mean that most large Muslim states have very young populations. Three South Asian nations – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – have large Muslim majorities while India, by the far the most populous country, has a large Muslim minority. The median age of the Muslim population in the western part of the Islamic world is about 24 years, which means that half of the 1.2 billion people who live here are below that age. A significant proportion of these is in the area’s large cities and have aspirations for leading productive lives most system of governance are unable – or not willing – to provide. Several decades ago, Albert O. Hirschman of Harvard University published a powerful book titled Exit, Voice and Loyalty. Alienated populations choose from the three options listed in the title of the book: many Muslim youth have gone for the option of “exit” from the system. They tried to stage the Arab Spring to bring about systemic change and move their part of the world towards more inclusive political, social and economic structures.