The 22 Arab nations of the world currently have a population of 280 million people. In spite of oil wealth for a small number of the Arab states, the majority of these people live in extreme poverty. Even where there is oil revenue, the wealth often "sticks to the hands" of a relatively few national leaders or "royal" families and does not trickle down to the masses.
By comparison, the gross domestic product of Spain is greater than that of all of the 22 Arab countries combined.
What does the future portend? The population of these 22 nations doubled in the past 50 years and will nearly double again in less than 20 years. UN estimates place the 2020 population figures at between 410 and 460 million. Among the fastest growing populations are Somalia, the poorest Arab country, and Saudi Arabia, whose general population already reels under a greatly reduced average income. Iraq, currently at slightly less than 23 million, will have 35 to 41 million people by 2020.
Egypt, the largest Arab country, will reach 100 million people if it continues to grow at the present rate. Due to vanishing work opportunities in the Saudi oil fields, thousands of college graduates in today's Egypt do not have enough income to marry and have a family. That causes much unrest and anger.
The population growth in Arab countries also means explosive growth in the population of adherents to Islam. Egypt is 94 percent Sunni Muslim. Iraq is 97 percent Muslim (Shiite 60 to 65 percent, Sunni 32 to 37 percent). Saudi Arabia is 100 percent Muslim. Somalia is 100 percent Sunni Muslim.
Writing of the current Muslim population, Dennis Prager says: "Though most people ignore the fact, almost all of the world's believing Muslims believe that all of mankind should be Muslim. This, in and by itself, is not troubling—after all, most Christians would like the whole world to be Christian, and most Westerners would like the whole world to be democratic. What is troubling is that if only 10 percent of these Muslims are prepared to use violence to impose their religion on others, we are talking about 100 million people" (emphasis added). (In fact, his figures on the total Muslim population of the world are on the conservative side.)
And, as noted in the last issue of World News and Prophecy, the lack of adequate water supplies is now, and will continue to be, a serious problem.
"About 85 per cent of countries in the region share their total available water with at least one other country either as riparians [along a common river] or by sharing a common aquifer. More powerful upstream and downstream countries have been able to determine the water shares of the other riparian or aquifer-sharing countries.
"Equitable water-sharing is often compromised by politics.
" The rapid increase in population in the region is putting increasing pressure on water availability per capita. Meanwhile, the persistently high share of water used in agriculture (including ambitious, intensive irrigation programmes) is starving other users, industrial and domestic—in the case of the latter, also helping to worsen health problems. Current shortages can only worsen, even without factoring in any impact of climate change.
" Conservation and reuse programmes are weak, and no country in the region has effective water-demand management systems and economic instruments to rationalize the use of water" ("UN Arab Human Development Report 2002," pp. 44-45).
Additional Sources: Dennis Prager, "The Future Is Muslim, European or American," Creators Syndicate, Inc., Feb. 26, 2003; CIA World Fact Book 2002; Thomas L. Friedman, "Arabs at the Crossroads," The New York Times, July 3, 2002.