chapter  11
30 Pages

Global aspects and implications of horizontal inequalities: Inequalities experienced by Muslims worldwide


Both within and across countries, most attention has been devoted to measuring inequality among individuals (and globally countries). Within countries, increasing evidence shows that inequalities among groupswhat are known as horizontal inequalities (HIs)—are important for wellbeing, for effective policies toward poverty and for political stability; and a set of policies to correct such HIs are being identified (Stewart, 2008). However, apart from measurement of inter-country inequality and North-South inequalities, the global component of HIs is generally neglected (see Berry and Serieux, 2004; Bourgignon and Morrisson, 2002; Wade, 2001). This chapter argues that HIs at a global level are also important for world stability and wellbeing, in much the same way they are at the national level. Like national level analysis, the inequalities in question are not only socio-economic in nature, but also political and cultural. Consequently, the analysis has important implications for global governance as well as the global distribution of resources, since it implies that for global stability, there needs to be an equitable sharing of global resources across groups, and major global groups need to be incorporated in global governance. The groups of relevance are those with which “members” have strong

affiliation. The most obvious and formally organized groups of this kind are national, but here I am primarily concerned with religious and ethnic identity groups whose members cross national boundaries. This boundarycrossing may stimulate global resentments and even violence, may lead to global flows of support for (and against) the extended group (including

finance, arms, propaganda, political maneuvering) and consequently requires global rather than national solutions. Identities are fluid and change over time, and the salient identities

with global force also change. Historically, the Jews, the Lebanese and the Chinese have formed global groups with a common identity-with the strength of members’ affiliation varying between individuals and over time. Christianity is another global identity (whose unity has varied over time) with implications for global politics, as illustrated by the Crusades and the worldwide activities of missionaries. Each of these groups remains of significance, but probably the most dominant contemporary global identity group is that of Muslims, and I shall illustrate my argument with information on this group. Muslims do not have organizational hierarchies which unite them, in

contrast to Catholics, but they do have a strong theological basis for global identity, in the form of the Ummah, or the indivisible community of the faithful. As Schmidt (2004: 41) puts it, “[t]he idea of the Ummah … is not a materialized homeland that one may look up on a map. Rather we are dealing with a mythological homeland that is both nowhere and everywhere offering membership across national boundaries.” Yet it is essential to acknowledge that Muslims are not homogeneous: besides many other differences, there are sharp divisions between Shiites and Sunnis which often lead to violent conflict; in addition, there are differences between liberals and radicals, in history, economic activity, education, nationality, language. As Sivan (2003: 25) notes, “the movement as a whole … is made up of a plethora of groups, more or less structured, loosely coordinated … often overlapping.” A big question, then, is whether there is nonetheless sufficient unity, or shared identity, to make the discussion of Muslims as a single, albeit non-homogeneous, group, meaningful. Some evidence on this will be presented in the course of the discussion. To develop the argument the chapter is organized as follows. First,

I define HIs and illustrate their role in the national arena. Second, I illustrate the presence of such inequalities with an overview of roughly contemporary data on Muslims. Third, I provide some evidence on the international links across Muslim groups, whereby grievance in one place can be communicated globally. This shared identity is confirmed by evidence from some perceptions surveys summarized in the fourth section. Finally, I conclude that since the inequalities (and resultant mobilization) present themselves both within and across countries, policies to address them need to be correspondingly multilayered, as well as being multidimensional. This has strong implications for global governance, which will be discussed in the final section.