Thursday, December 29, 2011

Muslims, Islam, Google and Books

See the occurrence of the words "Muslims" and "Islam" in the millions of English-language books scanned by Google, as a percentage of all published words, between 1960 and 2008:
Straight away we see a spike in 1975 for "Islam". I guessed at first that this must be related to the Islamic Revolution of Iran, but that was in 1978-79. Then I wondered if it might be the Black September's Munich Massacre, but that was 1972. Elijah Muhammad, founder of the US-based Nation of Islam, died in early 1975. Boxer Muhammad Ali converted from the Nation of Islam movement to Sunni Islam in 1975. Lebanon descended into a civil war in 1975, featuring conflict between Christians and Muslims. I'm not sure that any of this explains the 1975 spike, or if there is any real cause at all - perhaps this is just a one-off fluke. Any suggestions?

A second trend is rising results for "Muslims" in the 1980s, seeming to peak in 1983 and 1988. I wonder if this may be related to Anglo-American awareness of the Afghan Muslims fighting the Soviet Union. "Afghanistan" peaks twice in the 1980s also, fairly close to the peak for "Muslims".
When Afghan Muslims were allies to the US, I can imagine that there may have been a down-playing of religious differences (and, therefore, references to Islam) along with an increased sense of Muslims as fellow freedom-lovers struggling against communism. All speculation, of course.

Finally, "Muslims" relatively decreases while "Islam" increases since 1990. "Islam" shoots up in 2002, probably because of the interest in radical Islamism due to the September 11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan.
There might also be a rising sense of cultural discord between Europeans and Muslim immigrant groups. A hint:
So my guess is that there has been a growing consciousness of Islam as a religious and cultural issue. Yet if Islam has been a rising issue it may still be dwarfed by older ideological concerns:
I may be reading too much into these trends. Any other interpretations?

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