The late spate of piracy off the coast of Somalia has been analyzed so far almost entirely in political and economic terms: Somalia is lawless and impoverished, so Somali men are taking world trade for a ride. Religion comes up in this analysis only in terms of fears about potential ties between Somali pirates and Islamist groups such as al Qaeda and al Shabab.
But according to Boston University's World Religion Database, the Somali population is 99% Muslim, and the last time the U.S. was menaced by piracy, in the late 18th century, the so-called Barbary pirates of north Africa also operated out of Muslim havens. For those who know something about Muhammad and the origins of Islam, more than coincidence is at work: Religion, it turns out, should be factored into the piracy problem.
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