Even if the Islamic world set such goals and committed the material resources and individual efforts required, they could not expect to pull abreast of the West for generations, even if the West stood still. More realistically, it would take centuries, as it took the West centuries to catch up to them.
What will happen in the meantime? Are millions of proud human beings supposed to quietly accept inferiority for themselves and their children, and perhaps their children's children?
Or are they more likely to listen to demagogues, whether political or religious, who tell them that their lowly place in the world is due to the evils of others -- the West, the Americans, the Jews?
If the peoples of the Islamic world disregarded such demagogues, they would be the exceptions, rather than the rule, among people who lag painfully far behind others. Even in the West, there have been powerful political movements based on the notion that the rich have gotten rich by keeping others poor -- and that things need to be set right "by all means necessary."
These means seldom include concentration on self-improvement, with 19th-century Japan being one of the rare exceptions. Lashing out at others is far more immediately satisfying -- and modern communications, transportation, and weaponry make it far easier to lash out destructively across great distances.
Against this background, we may want to consider the question asked by hand-wringers in the West: Why do they hate us? Maybe it is because the alternative to hating us is to hate themselves.
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