Why the Middle East fails: Too many young men, not enough young women

Remove wine and women, however, and the tension quickly escalates. This is especially so in societies where the women, although hidden away, are encouraged to have children, and where the quantity rather than the quality of children is the most important sign of status. Just to consider one of the many flashpoints, the median age in Gaza is 18, compared with a world-wide figure of 28 and a European average of 40. We see the result on our televisions. When conflict erupts in an Islamic country and people come out into the streets we witness vast crowds of young men. In Turkey there are women too among them. But Turkey is the exception that proves the rule. The norm is young men without women, their anger fuelled by the anger of those around them, gesturing towards something that as often as not they are unable to describe except in vast, vague and metaphysical terms – the reign of God, the death of the infidel, the destruction of the Other who stands in their way.

There are few political analysts who seem to have noticed what is really happening in these places. Of course there are grievances. But those who make use of them do not want a solution. They want a fight. And they want a fight in the first instance because they are young, male, and womanless. Sure, there are women around at home. But they are forbidden women, and the whole idea of womanhood is shrouded for them in mystery. They are taught that real women are untouchable until marriage. But they have been provoked by Western licentiousness into thinking that women in our societies are another thing altogether, and this both excites and enrages them, with devastating effects on young Muslim men who live in the West, as we have seen recently in England. (See my post on the Rotherham case.) The spectacle of emancipated women is, for these young men, an existential threat – the forbidden thing that tempts and destroys. They are an existential threat to us because that is what we are to them, even though our intentions are peaceful, and even though we long for a negotiated end to their violence.