The Stinginess of Islam?

In the previous post, Maximus Swift alleges that Islam has caused Arab nations to be stingy in their response to the tsunami crises. I did some research, and the data paints a much different picture.

The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has a tremendous section on the tsunami relief effort. After doing a good bit of Google-research, I found no reason not to believe Wikipedia's data the best, most recent, and broadest available. Their listed sources include reports by news agencies and the UN.

As most people know, Australia was the biggest donor ($914 million) and the biggest per-GDP donor. I can only imagine how this tragically nearby disaster has affected Aussies, especially for those in Perth on the Indian Ocean.

In second place on the per-GDP list is - *gasp* - a stingy, tightfisted, scheming Arab nation: Qatar anted up $25 million. Must be an anomaly; Arabs aren't generous people.

Norway gets the bronze, with $245 million (and comes in first on the per-capita list). Then, another Arab country, Saudi Arabia, with $97.5 million. I'll be charitable and assume Maximus' data ($30 mil) was out of date, not simply made up.

Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates round out the top 10. Kuwait, a fourth Arab country, comes in 12th.

The United States of America is 19th.

Israel has sent doctors and supplies, plus $100,000 for each country. With a GDP of $121 billion (CIA World Factbook), Israel has a bigger economy than three of the four Arab donors. Generously estimating their contribution at $1 million total, that comes to .000083% of GDP, compared to .052% for Saudi Arabia and .0067% for the U.S. Americans contributed 100 times more per dollar; Saudis 1000 times more per dollar.

Since the numbers are based on percentage of GDP, a cynic cannot complain that richer countries are overrepresented, as they are in the per-capita tables.

If I were a biased polemical, I would use the data to paint a familiar picture of Jews as stingy and uncharitable, and I would accuse the United States of being aloof and using this as a photo-op without actually putting much money down. However, the truth is that there are most likely good explanations for every country's contributions. The U.S. numbers, for instance, compare poorly with Europe, but would look comparable if calculated as a percentage of the government budget, since we have lower taxes. Israel gets off the hook because of its tanking economy and budget crisis.

Countries gave what they gave. Some cared more than others - if their own citizens died, for instance. Some sent soldiers and civilians into the muck to alleviate the human suffering; others paid the bill for the materials these good folks delivered. Both aspects are indispensible.

I think people of all religions can take to heart Jesus Christ's teaching on charitable giving, from Luke 21:1-4:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on."

It's the heart that counts. And the follow-through:

Following last year's Bam, Iran earthquake, which killed 26,000 people, Iranian officials claim to have received just $17.5 million of the $1 billion originally pledged.
Posted by Chops at January 7, 2005 12:27 PM