I just had to share with you Mark Steyn’s brilliant insight into the economic nature of Islamic conquest:
The jizya is the poll tax paid by non-Muslims to their Muslim betters. One cause of the lack of economic innovation in the Islamic world is that they’ve always placed the main funding burden of society on infidels. This goes back to Mohammed’s day. If you take a bunch of warring Arab tribes and unite them as one umma under Allah, one drawback is that you close off a prime source of revenue — fighting each other and then stealing each other’s stuff. That’s why the Prophet, while hardly in a position to deny Islam to those who wished to sign up, was relatively relaxed about the presence of non-Muslim peoples within Muslim lands: they were a revenue stream. If one looks at the comparative dissemination patterns, Christianity spread by acquiring believers and then land; Islam spread by acquiring land and then believers. When Islam conquered infidel territory, it set in motion a massive transfer of wealth, enacting punitive taxation to transfer money from non-believers to Muslims — or from the productive part of the economy to the non-productive. It was, in its way, a prototype welfare society. When admirers talk up Islam and the great innovations and rich culture of its heyday, they forget that even at its height Muslims were never more than a minority of the Muslim world, and they were in large part living off the energy of others. That’s still a useful rule of thumb: if you take the least worst Muslim societies, the reason for the dynamism often lies with whichever group they share the turf with — the Chinese in Malaysia, for example.
Mark Steyn, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, p. 164.
Of course, Steyn doesn’t end with that factual observation. There are a few things that flow from it: first, the minions paing jizya wise up and either leave Arab countries or themselves convert to Islam, leaving the economy utterly lifeless. Second, it creates in Islam an endless craving for conquest, because that’s the only way to revitalize a moribund economy. And, third, Steyn also points out that the endless subsidies flowing into Muslim countries from the West (whether Western, including Israeli, payments to the Palestinians; or weapons subsidies to Saudis and Egyptians) are all seen as the Muslims’ due and, in their collective minds, are converted into appropriate payments of subservient religions to the master race.