Charles Kurzman is a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His books include Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook, Modernist Islam, 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, and Democracy Denied, 1905-1915: Intellectuals and the Fate of Democracy. He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Missing Martyrs looks back at Islamic debates of one century ago, when constitutionalism and democracy first became mass movements in Muslim societies. In the Ottoman Empire, the sultan’s proclamation of the constitution in 1908, after a mutiny by pro-democratic officers, was greeted with huge celebrations. On Page 99, the governor of Jerusalem describes one such event: “The voices of joy in the city of Jerusalem, which has no equal in the world to the contrast of religions, sects, and races in it, were raised to the heavens in a thousand languages and styles. Speeches were given. Hands were shaken. Pleasant tunes were played. In short, the proper things were expressed for the honor of liberty.” But liberty had its opponents, too. Despots and authoritarian Islamic movements schemed to thwart democratization, and to undermine the new democracies before they grew too strong.
This debate continues today in Muslim societies. Pro-democracy movements remain hugely popular among Muslims, as we have seen this year in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. Yet this unmet demand for democracy faces resistance from despots and from authoritarian Islamic movements, including revolutionary movements such as al-Qaida. The Missing Martyrs examines why these revolutionary movements and their terrorist methods have failed to mobilize many Muslims. This may sound counterintuitive, since terrorism is such a scourge in the contemporary world, but the terrorists’ public statements routinely complain about their recruitment troubles, and the scope of the threat is not nearly so large as many of us feared it might be. If even one tenth of one percent of the world’s billion Muslims were committed to martyrdom and revolutionary violence, we would see attacks everywhere, every day — but fortunately, we do not. Page 99 of the book describes one reason why: Liberal Islamic values have century-old roots in Muslim societies that provide a bulwark against terrorism.