Abraham’s son Ishmael has come back to haunt us in the religion of Islam, which is Christianity’s greatest competitor for the hearts and minds of people around the world. With more than 538 million adherents, it is the second-largest religious grouping today. Apart from Christianity it is geographically the most widespread of all the religions. North America has 242,000 Muslims, South America 195,000, Europe 8 million, Asia 432 million, Africa 99 million, and Oceania 66,000 (the figures are from the 1976 Britannica Book of the Year).

Islam has as its heartland the Mideast, history’s traditional focal point. It is solidly entrenched at the point where three great continents intersect—Europe, Africa, and Asia. North Africa is overwhelmingly Islamic, Turkey is Islamic, and Europe has 8 million Muslims. Except for Israel, which is a tiny reminder that Abraham had another son, Islam controls the conjunction of these three continents.

Economically, Islamic nations can now determine the destiny of virtually every nation through their near monopoly of the earth’s energy resources, vital to every technocratic society. They have already exerted this leverage once and helped to produce the greatest economic slide since the depression of the 1930s. No one can predict with any certainty what would happen to the world should these Islamic nations turn off the oil supply that keeps even the richest nations afloat.

As a religion, Islam has great strengths. It is monotheistic, believing that Allah is sovereign as well as merciful and compassionate. It believes in the certainty of a just judgment day, insists on a continuous life of prayer, has a world-wide outlook, is aggressively missionary, and almost worships the Koran as a book dictated ...

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