December 3rd, 2011
10:00 PM ET
Conflict, theology and history make Muslims more religious than others, experts say
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
(CNN) - Every religion has its true believers and its doubters, its pious and its pragmatists, but new evidence suggests that Muslims tend to be more committed to their faith than other believers.
Muslims are much more likely than Christians and Hindus to say that their own faith is the only true path to paradise, according to a recent global survey, and they are more inclined to say their religion is an important part of their daily lives.
Muslims also have a much greater tendency to say their religion motivates them to do good works, said the survey, released over the summer by Ipsos-Mori, a British research company that polls around the world.
Islam is the world's second-largest religion - behind Christianity and ahead of Hinduism, the third largest. With some 1.5 billion followers and rising, Islam's influence may be growing even faster than its numbers as the Arab Spring topples long-reigning secular rulers and opens the way to religiously inspired political parties.
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But while there's no doubt about the importance of Islam, experts have different theories about why Muslims appear to be more religious than members of other global faiths - and contrasting views on whether to fear the depth of Muslims' commitment to their faith.
One explanation lies in current affairs, says Azyumardi Azra, an expert on Islam in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim majority country.
Many Muslims increasingly define themselves in contrast with what they see as the Christian West, says Azra, the director of the graduate school at the State Islamic University in Jakarta.
"When they confront the West that they perceive or misperceive as morally in decline, many Muslims feel that Islam is the best way of life. Islam for them is the only salvation," he says.
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That feeling has become stronger since the September 11 attacks, as many Muslims believe there is a "growing conflict between Islam and the so-called West," he says.
"Unfortunately this growing attachment to Islam among Muslims in general has been used and abused by literal-minded Muslims and the jihadists for their own purposes," he says.
But other experts say that deep religious commitment doesn't necessarily lead to violence.
"Being more religious doesn't necessarily mean that they will become suicide bombers," says Ed Husain, a former radical Islamist who is now a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
In fact, Husain argues that religious upbringing "could be an antidote" to radicalism.
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The people most likely to become Islamist radicals, he says, are those who were raised without a religious education and came to Islam later, as "born-agains."
Muslims raised with a grounding in their religion are better able to resist the distortions of Islam peddled by recruiters to radical causes, some experts like Husain argue, making them less likely to turn to violence.
But he agrees that Muslims are strongly attached to their faith, and says the reason lies in the religion itself.
"Muslims have this mindset that we alone possess the final truth," Husain says.
Muslims believe "Jews and Christians went before us and Mohammed was the last prophet," says Husain, whose book "The Islamist" chronicles his experiences with radicals. "Our prophet aimed to nullify the message of the previous prophets."
The depth of the Muslim commitment to Islam is not only a matter of theology and current events, but of education and history, as well, other experts say.
"Where religion is linked into the state institutions, where religion is deeply ingrained from childhood, you are getting this feeling that 'My way is the only way,'" says Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters, a conflict-resolution organization in London.
The Ipsos-Mori survey results included two countries with a strong link between religion and the state: Legally Muslim Saudi Arabia, which calls itself the guardian of Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina; and Indonesia, home of the world's largest Muslim population.
The third majority Muslim country in the study is Turkey, which has a very different relationship with religion. It was founded after World War I as a legally secular country. But despite generations of trying to separate mosque and state, Turkey is now governed by an Islam-inspired party, the AKP.
Turkey's experience shows how difficult it can be to untangle government and religion in Muslim majority countries and helps explain the Muslim commitment to their religion, says Azyumardi Azra, the Indonesia expert.
He notes that there has been no "Enlightenment" in Islam as there was in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, weakening the link between church and state in many Christian countries.
"Muslim communities have never experienced intense secularization that took place in Europe and the West in general," says Azra. "So Islam is still adhered to very strongly."
But it's not only the link between mosque and state in many Muslim majority countries that ties followers to their faith, says professor Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani diplomat who has written a book about Islam around the world.
Like Christians who wear "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets, many Muslims feel a deep personal connection to the founder of their faith, the prophet Muhammad, he says.
Muhammad isn't simply a historical figure to them, but rather a personal inspiration to hundreds of millions of people around the world today.
"When a Muslim is fasting or is asked to give charity or behave in a certain way, he is constantly reminded of the example set by the prophet many centuries ago," argues Ahmed, the author of "Journey Into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization."
His book is based on interviews with Muslims around the world, and one thing he found wherever he traveled was admiration for Muhammad.
"One of the questions was, 'Who is your role model?' From Morocco to Indonesia, it was the prophet, the prophet, the prophet," says Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington.
But while Ahmed sees similar patterns across the Islamic world, Ed Husain, the former radical, said it was important to understand its diversity, as well.
"There is no monolithic religiosity - Muslims in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are following different versions of Islam," says Husain. "All we're seeing (in the survey) is an adherence to a faith."
Political scientist Farid Senzai, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, raised questions about the survey's findings.
"Look at the countries that are surveyed - Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Turkey," he says. "There are about 300 million Muslims in those three countries, (who make up) about 20% of Muslims globally."
Islam is "incredibly important" in Saudi Arabia, he says.
"But in Tunisia or Morocco you could have had a different result. It would have been nice if they had picked a few more Arab countries and had a bit more diversity," says Senzai.
The pollster, Ipsos-Mori, does monthly surveys in 24 countries, three of which are majority Muslim – Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The other countries range from India to the United States, and Mexico to South Korea, and are the same each month, regardless of the subject the pollsters are investigating.
In the survey released in July, about six in 10 Muslims in the survey said their religion was the only way to salvation, while only a quarter of Hindus and two out of 10 Christians made that claim about their own faiths.
More than nine out of 10 Muslims said their faith was important in their lives, while the figure was 86% for Hindus and 66% for Christians.
Ipsos-Mori surveyed 18,473 adults via an online panel in April and released the findings in July. Results were weighted to make the results as representative as possible, but the pollster cautioned that because the survey was conducted online, it was harder to get representative results in poorer countries where internet access is not widespread.
CNN polling director Keating Holland also warns that in an "opt-in" survey, where respondents actively choose to participate, results tend to come from "people who are confident in their opinions and express them openly... not good for intensely private matters like faith or income or sex."
Online surveys in countries that are not entirely free are also open to the possibility that pollsters get "the approved response" in those nations, "where the people who are most likely to be willing to talk about such matters are the ones who hold, or at least verbalize, opinions that won't get them in trouble if they are expressed," Holland says.
That may have been an issue in Saudi Arabia, where respondents were given the choice of not answering questions on religion due to their potential sensitivity in the kingdom. The Saudi sample was the smallest, with 354 participants, meaning "findings for Saudi Arabia must be treated with caution," Ipsos-Mori said.
About 1,000 people participated in most countries, but sample sizes were smaller in the three majority Muslim countries and in eight other countries.
The survey participants did not reflect the true percentage of Christians and Muslims in the world. Christians were over-represented – as were people who said they had no religion – and Muslims were under-represented.
Nearly half the respondents identified themselves as Christian. Eleven percent were Muslim, 4% were Buddhist, 3% were Hindu and 3% were "other." A quarter said they had no religion and 6% refused to say.
Fiyaz Mughal, the interfaith expert, argues that even though the countries surveyed might not be representative of the entire Muslim world, the findings about Muslims rang broadly true. Muslims in different countries were committed to their faith for different reasons, he says.
"Saudi Arabia is an institutionally religious state. Indonesia has religion tied into its culture," says Mughal.
But Muslim immigrants to Europe also show strong ties to their religion, either as a defense mechanism in the face of a perceived threat, or because of an effort to cling to identity, he contends.
He detects a link between insular communities and commitment to faith regardless of what religion is involved. It is prevalent in Muslim Saudi Arabia, but he has seen it among Israeli Jews as well, he says.
"The Israeli Jewish perspective is that (the dispute with the Palestinians) is a conflict of land and religion which are integrally linked," Mughal says.
"What does play a role in that scenario is a sense of isolationism and seclusion in Israeli Jewish religious communities, a growing trend to say, 'Our way is the only way,'" he says.
Religious leaders of all faiths need to combat those kinds of attitudes because of the greater diversity people encounter in the world today, he argues.
They have a responsibility to teach their congregations "that if they are following a religion, it is not as brutal or exclusive as possible," Mughal says. "Things are changing. The world is a different place from what it was even 20 years ago."
Politicians, too, "need to take these issues quite seriously," he says.
"In the Middle East there are countries - the Saudi Arabias - where you need to be saying that diversity, while it may not be a part of the country, is something they have to deal with when moving in a globalized area," he says.
But Senzai, the political scientist, says that it's also important for the West to take the Muslim world on its own terms.
"Many Muslims want religion to play a role in politics," he says. "To assume that everyone around the world wants to be like the West - that they want liberal secular democracy - is an absurd idea."
- CNN's Nima Elbagir and Atika Shubert contributed to this report.
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About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
The reason why Islam is so psychologically powerful is that it is a stronger meme – it absorbs more brains into its mindspace through psychological intimidation, fear of eternal damnation, tapping into the innate sense of purity and hygiene we are wired for by evolution, and of course, most importantly, creating a fear-male dominated society that subjugates female power. Thus there is no chance for the more nurturing, female energy to thrive and this maintains the memes powerful hold on minds.
Another nut case.
that and poverty..
so your telling me that Christianity does not contain hell in it, get real. the reason why so many people in the west are so not religious is because the bible is proven to be distorted by man and many of its claims are untrue such the age of the earth
So zero FACTS, just juvenile name-calling?
It's not psychologically more powerful than any other religion beyond the use of violence and hate to retain "believers" who are just as likely to lie about believing in order to protect themselves.
Actually your answer more than any other I've read makes the most sense
muslims basically hate fun. they think any form of fun is evil. that's why they are such a downer at the party of humanity.
one of the dumbest, yet funniest, comments I've ever read...
You've clearly never been exposed to a Muslim wedding.
It's physically impossible to have more fun than what takes place at those events.
Seriously. And christians are the d-bag at the party who thinks he's so great but creeps out all the ladies and never apologizes for puking all over the carpet.
Where did you ever get the idea that Christians were invited to the party?
I'm not prejudice of anybody but I can't stand any religion on this planet, mostly the Abrahamic ones. The reason why is because there isn't 1 shred of evidence that proves anything that's in the Torah, Kabbala, Bible, Koran or the Book of Mormons is actual fact, in fact all evidence points out the exact opposite no matter how much the believers don't want to listen. The only reason why I am a zealot for atheism is because not only are these texts have obscure morals but they also end with a happy ending only after Armageddon. We non-believers need to explain what self full filling prophecy means before WW3 with nuclear firearms strike because people think that's what the man in the sky wants. Millions of people getting killed over different beliefs over books written before public education system came into plaxe is pretty Israel becoming a country again is an example of self full filling prophecy also.
Israel came to be after the worst crime in history was committed. It was the only way that the Jewish people who up until that time were always discriminated against no matter where they were could find some sense of security, but of course the wonderful religion of Islam decided that it was sacrilage for any muslim to live in a Jewish society, and so all the arabs attacked trying to destroy the only country with a Jewish majority which didn't work out too well for them. Islam is the reason why there is no peace in the middle east
Chimo, you are correct.
But I would not call the Holocaust the worst crime in history. Other than that I agree.
Chimo is right
When I see a woman with a hijab, I experience the same reaction I get to seeing someone wearing a t-shirt with "Jesus Freak" on it. I just think, "Oh great".
Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me." He did not say "I am one of many ways, one of many truths, and one of many lives, you can come to the Father by any way you choose." A Christian, by definition, is someone who believes in Christ. If you believe in Christ, you believe that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life because he said so. You believe that no one "comes to" the Father except through Jesus because he said so. A so-called Christian who thinks that "there are many paths up the mountain" is not a Christian at all because you can't rationally say that you believe in Jesus, and then deny what he explicitly stated.
Then thank goodness that most Christians aren't real Christians! Religious zealots ruin everything!
"You believe that no one "comes to" the Father except through Jesus"
Tough luck to those who never heard of Jesus even if they are the nicest people on the face of the earth. Tough luck to all the American Indians, etc. no matter what kind of people they were.
Sure a lot of love there.
There is a difference between never learning about Jesus, and learning about him and then rejecting his message. That's why it is the duty of every Christian to allow people to see Christ through them and spread his word.
Could this be because Hinduism is the oldest (2500BC), then came christianity and Jewism ( 33 the latest is Islam (600AD).
It is very true that they are more charitable and almost all those I have known are devout mulims.
Radicalism might be an offshoot of this fervor and the radicalist leaders are making sure that they remain in the forefront- lest they lose their grip. there had been no religion since 600AD only cults.
I must admit that as an ultraconservative Christian, I do admire Muslims for their piety. I dispise them for their violence, but they don't tolerate the moral decay that is happening in America right now. However, I pray for them because they don't know Jesus as their Savior.
How telling and expected.
All I have to say is... Peace be upon you... This is what I learned from my religion.
no, you're only supposed to say salaam to fellow muslims. the rest of us are supposed to be held at knifepoint, forced to give you money, and then killed if we refuse, remember?
Qur'an (9:29) – "Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled."
Calm down Ari. We all know you want that land and you hate Muslims.
ari, nice job showing them who they are with their own words
". . .experts say that deep religious commitment doesn't necessarily lead to violence." If followed as intended, unless the "religion" is a cult, adherance to any faith will lead to nonviolence. Some people need a highly structured system of rites and prayers to maintain a sense of faith, while others carry their faith entirely within. Just because one is highly visible doesn't make it more spiritual. I have never heard any Muslim express that his faith was intended to "nullify" previous faiths and prophets. Where did that come from? Of course, Christ clearly stated that what He established would never be destroyed, and I trust His message. Obviously so do a lot of other folks.
No religious group in existence scares me more than Muslims. If I was a woman, I would be terrified beyond belief. Every single religion brings problems and NO solutions to anything based on proven reality, but nothing like this group. If they start taking over politics/major business/banking here in the U.S., I will cross into Canada so fast that most Mexicans would be impressed. For the record, I'm agnostic; not an atheist. And if Mohammed appears and provides solid proof muslims are right, so be it. But until then I'm sticking with being agnostic. I'll probably have some muslim try and kill me for saying this or maybe not. Who knows what sets them off. I admit being agnostic doesn't really provide any answers to life's big problems (where we came from/where we're going), but at least my belief won't kill you for saying the wrong thing. Being agnostic isn't about a belief structure; it's about ideas. And we're not afraid to face the possibility that are assumptions about life may be all wrong; and that's OK.
Answer is simple, its because the media & schools around the world are too frightened to chip away and destroy their religion like they do Christianity.
You are at least partly correct. The media would never treat Muslims as they have treated Christians over the past forty years. Can you imagine South Park shying away from insulting Christians for fear that they might offend someone?
So your religion is no match for the media now? Figures.
Muslims are more religious because they live under religious governments. There is no separation between church or state in Muslim countries and religion has become their culture. American culture is "Disney Land," "Music Concerts," "Fashion Clothing," "McDonalds," "Video Games," "Sports Events" etc. etc. In Middle Eastern cultures which are predominantly poor, the only major pass time is praying in a mosque and learning Sharia Law so they don't get their hands or heads chopped off.
even under secular government they still religious
Thats because they're immigrating from countries under religious rule. Give them some time and they'll be just like the Irish Catholics are now
david, shh the libs will hear you
My question is in response to your statement regarding the “deportation of Muslims i.e. US.” How many Muslims immigrate or are allowed to immigrate to the US? What also makes no sense is the failure of Muslims in the US to show loyalty or a sense of patriotism to a country which allows them to practice freely.
Carrie I always wonder that!!
For the record: I can respect Christians. As an atheist, they don't want to kill me, we debate. Why is it that in Islamic countries most Muslims believe atheists (or those who leave Islam) deserve to be killed?
the hadith (which chronicle the life and sayings of mohammed) state that apostates must be killed. the qu'ran says that apostates are not only going to have a hard lot of it in life, but will also be thrown in hell forever (3:86-88). this is why apostasy is such a crime in islam.
Because they are animals that need to be exterminated ASAP
What makes you think that they don't want to kill you?
I know that since i am an apostate (esp. since I was "born" a Muslim) but I wanted to see the reply from the Muslims that have been commenting on here. That's the problem with Islam – take your holy books like the Christians – as allegories. Until you do so, Islam will forever remain a retarding force upon your cultures and upon humanity. Hence why Islamicists blame Jews for all their problems when their real problem is the retarding force of their culture and religion. Fortunately as Iranians, we have given up religion as Iranians are non-religious and have experienced the evils of Islamic rule under the most brutal of manners the last 30+ years
Christians are peaceful people. The teaching of Christ is about love and forgiveness. The teaching of Muhammad is about violence and genocide.
Christians? Peaceful? LOL
"Christians are peaceful people. The teaching of Christ is about love and forgiveness."
So why do they ignor the Golden Rule when trashing gays and pro-choice Americans?
Because, Sassan, aheists are devil spawn. The real answer is that they try to force others to believe what they believe so that that what they believe seems more real to them. Humans seek existential integration into meaningful systems (religions, ideologies, etc.) in order to give an ultimately meaningless existence some meaning, and to make a process self seem "whole" and unitary.
Their holy book of peace, love and good works literally commands them to kill those who leave and subjugate/kill everyone else.
They are 300 years behind intelligent views of reality.
They need total re education.
Just wanted to say I appreciated your posts over at RFI. I am a fellow green supporter who happens to date an Iranian atheist! It was quite humorous how you had all the cyber basiji twisting their panties knots. I have not posted in awhile but I do so under the name Wilbur. Keep up the good work and one day Iran will be free.
Mag bar dictator
Agent smith, coming to us from Bellevue Mental ward.
"Because, Sassan, aheists are devil spawn. The real answer is that they try to force others to believe what they believe"
Let's think about this. Do Christians try to force their beliefs onto others in schools and public buildings? Do atheists try to put up signs in schools saying "God is dead".
GodofLunaticsCreation: You obviously didn't understand my post. Or are you defending religious people now? Let me break it down for you: The "devil spawn" comment was sarcasm, and then I explained why religious people need others to share their beliefs and punish those who do not.
Merci Wilbur joon,
IT is amazing the number of fascists on that site. It is quite disgusting, it truly is. Thank you for your comments and history tells us that tyrants and despots can not hold on to power once the populace has risen beyond a certain level. The best they can do is delay the inevitable. The end is near for these despots. I appreciate your comments brother.
As the great American physicist and Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg has said, "With or without religion you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion".
Observer: Do Christians annoy me on Sunday morning my ringing my doorbell as they hand out tracts? Yes. You can deny reality if you please, but your delusions are ultimately based on a childlike need to "make sense" of it all. Your problem is that more and more people are refusing to indulge your existential immaturity.
you are so ignorant islam states that if you want to prove the religion false then bring a surrah similar to a quranic one. their is a reason islams message is powerful and persuasive because it is the word of god
I just read that rant from Dan Cooper posted to you. I think I a now going to have to kindly tell him to remove his head from his a$$ despite it being 1:30am in Chicago. Yes they are fascists simply because they believe they follow a religion that gives them no choice but to do so.
lol I am studying I will respond to him later tonight when I get a chance but Wilbur!!! THe crazy thing is that most of the fascist supporters of that site are not Muslims but extreme leftist self-hating westerners!!!! They provide every excuse in the book for totalitarian and fascist regimes. Take care my friend. Keep in touch...if you like, email me at my alternative email addy wisemanw51@gmail and I will give you my facebook and we can keep in touch
It's so cute and fluffy how people say "PRO COICE". Pro choice to WHAT? TO KILL A BABY! Please stop with the feel good fluff. You are choosing to KILL. Kill an innocent child. Wow whatver makes you sleep at night I guess. Free choice. How would you have eflt if your mother CHOSE to kill you? I wonder how free choice to murder a baby you'd be then. But this will fall on deaf ears, because if anyone is selfish enough to murder a baby they certainly are too hardened to think twice about it now.
muslim liars trying to kill the american way of life.
You sound paranold you should move to another country.
and they'll smile at us here until they outnumber us the way they do in France and other countries in the UK
Mohammed was a prophet? The last one? I must have missed that memo. What if God, Allah, the Prime Mover, changes his/her/its mind? Are Muslims deaf to any other musings from God? After all, he is all powerful and who is Mohammed to limit God's authority? The cause and effect is this: Be faithful or we will cut off your head. Muslims do not believe in, or allow, freedom of conscience. Free will is God given and Islam denies what is God given by denying individual people the choice to be something other Muslim. Therefore, Islam is against Allah, God, by denying the exercise of a God given right. Islam is a curse, a cancer, on humanity. It is designed to intimidate, and, if that does not work, then to brutalize non-believers into submission. The example of a segment of humanity brutalized is a great motivator to stay faithful while helping to maintain the possession of all of one's limbs. Islam is brainwashing and is based on humanity's fears. It is even worse than other religions that control followers by fear of eternal consequences in that it is so delusional.
mohammed was not a prophet. He was a pedophile
Quite an interesting twist on the Islamic belief of god as being perfect, all knowing, and beyond critique. Especially so, as you noted, if this all powerful being decided he wanted another prophet. Brilliant and it will have all the Muslims tying their panties in knots trying to figure out this conundrum. You just made my night!
If there would ever appear another "prophet", I'm sure he or she would be immediately put to death for blasphemy. And, if it were to be a woman... OH BOY what an uproar THAT would cause!!
In the name of allah.who never got cradled and necer have a son and no equivelant to him.peace upon you all.the general answer is that we know our good by mind and reason.we always know that every end has a start and everyconclusiin has an introduction and accountability is a face of equaliy and satisfactiion. Ibraham wasway ahead of jesus.he was not hew or christian.he was a muslim-submitting to allah..jeasus. peace upon him he time he was born,the time he died.and when he gets back alive. Marry answered the god'angel when he came down to her telling her the gods decision. She answered gow how would i be havibg a son. Though no man ever touch me. Angel answered. This is what god wants. And he says be and it is ..to those who disbelieve in mohammed. Try to pull out some clips. Or ask someone to that for u. Let him combine some clips in arabic.mmake sure to put quraan reading clip on or more among others not quraan. Even thougg u dont know arabic .. u ll say this and that are quran and the others not.yah. uneducatd wrote that?!my friends. Who studies hard will succeed.and who doessnt will not. Who revives and recreat the ground after it is dead by sending rain on it.will be able to get us alive back to hold us accountable.yah. hell or paradise.unluckuly no other choice.lol.
Pick a practicing Muslim, deeply religous. Just hang out with him/her for a while. Perhaps that is the best way to understand this religion, rather than just going by the sound bytes and headlines in the media.
it's pretty hard for many of us to hang out with "deeply religious" muslims or "deeply religious" anything else when they believe that we disbelievers will spend eternity in hell, where we will have our skin ripped off daily for disobeying mohammed and friends. (quran 4:56)
No thanks Ahmed
In other words....They're stupider
Thats exactly what the Quran says sinner will go to hell and burn forever and those who believe and God divine law will have eternal heaven. Is there a problem with that?
and again the beliefblog publishes anti-semitic crap that is completely at odds with reality. go look up any poll from the past decade–over 4 in 10 israelis are atheists, but CNN would have us believe that israel is akin to saudi arabia in terms of religiosity. lovely.