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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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.
I don't understand the unquestioned respect for Mohammed by pretty much all muslims. If you learn about his life from a critical perspective, you will find he was a reprehensible character. Why are muslims so willing to kill folks who express a dislike the Mohammed as represented by muslim lore? No other religion is so prone to enforce defacto blasphemy laws by violence or threat of violence as muslims are when dealing with unbelieving skeptics.
Jesus had a hell of a temper, but no one complains about that.
Spoken like a true village idiot.
If you care to read Mohammad's biography (pick any reputable scholarly book, not by self-proclaimed scholars), you will find these:
Edward Gibbon: ""The greatest success of Mohammad’s life was effected by sheer moral force."
Reverend Bosworth Smith: ""Head of the State as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without the Pope's pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a police force, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man ruled by a right divine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the powers without their supports. He cared not for the dressings of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life."
W. Montgomery Watt: "His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as a leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement – all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems that it solves. "
Amanda : Thank YOU !!
Amanda, try the hadith by Bukhari or Muslim. Plenty of islamically condoned nastiness there. You don't need to read the works you described to have a good understanding of what Mohammed was about.
There is non accurate statement in this article:
Muhammed is NOT the founder of Islam, he's the messenger of Allah.
Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
I find it interesting that atheists are the first to swarm a story on religion. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy. Putting this much energy into hating religion just means deep down you want to believe in something, but religion has turned you off of G-d. If your feelings about G-d were feelings of ambivalence and disbelief, you wouldn't have clicked on the link to this story.
You're right ABC123. These so called experts don't know anything about Islam or about the majority of Muslims.
One of them said this, "Our prophet aimed to nullify the message of the previous prophets."
If that is so, then why is the Prophet Muhamed's name only mentioned 4 times in the Qur'an.
Whereas these names are listed numerous times.:
Adam – 25 times
Prophet Noah – 47 times
Prophet Abraham – 69 times
Prophet Lot – 28 times
Prophet David – 16 times
Prophet Solomon – 19 times
Prophet Moses – 167 times
Prophet Aaron – 24 times
Mary the mother of Jesus – 32 times
Jesus the son of Mary – 28 times
We all worship same God (Allah) and will be going back to same God. May Allah make us better person not by words but by our actions and words we say about others.
Could it be that the penalty for apostasy is death? Ya think?
How is Mohammad an inspiration? Does anyone know how he died? He was drunk or high or poisoned.. Not very holy. Not to mention marrying a 4-year-old. I understand society plays a role in the way perceive things, especially in today's modern world, but FOUR-YEAR-OLD? He married around 99 women, in 4's. And heaven is a land full of virgins where man can get their ways and drink wine.. I don't know, but if I was someone who didn't know better, I'd follow that religion too. It sounds fun. Except if I was a woman... It's unknown if they go to heaven or not
stopp bs dude you should enlight yourself with some free education of the google.. thank you
??!!?? Am shocked from your words of hatred...! Has any thing changed since last few months...?
there is one life, one decision, one earth, one moon, one sun, one universe and one Lord!
Yes sir, thank you Jesus! He is KING!
I am actually from a Muslim country pal.. I know my stuff.. Maybe you should too! I am not here to cause trouble; just voicing my opinion as everyone else. Peace
There is more than one moon and one sun – just depends on where you look. There may even be more than on universe according to recent studies. What then?
Because it's the worst religion in the world. All religion is inherently evil but none so vile and evil as Islam.
very good Sassan very proud of you that a boy your parents must be proud of you call them and tell them what you have then good job
Yes they are. The belief in religion, particularly an evil religion like Islam, is against human dignity. If you need religion, at least be a Christian. The teaching of Jesus is actually peaceful compared to Muhammad. If all the Muslims of the world became Christian tomorrow, the world would be a much better and more peaceful place.
agree with you on the fact that world need one relegion to live in peace but to get there you shouldnt quit to search just dont believe in what you hear on the media or from others because out of this world you will pay for your deeds as you will enjoy the benefits of heaven all by yourself
I am atheist, I don't believe in fairy stories. I believe in science, reason, and rationality. All I said was that if people need religion to fulfill whatever weakness in their life, it would be better to be a Christian than Muslim. "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." – American physicist and Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg.
Muslims fly planes into buildings and have no problem sacrificing themselves via suicide bomb. And all this is done in the name of their God. I didn't need a CNN article to tell me that they are "more religious."
we did that airplane into building thing, not them. wake up....its morning in the USA!
If their (your) god thinks that killing thousands of innocent people is OK, then this "god" is as screwed up as anyone who believes in it.
The article headline aims to make Muslims some sort of monolith that is not there. The religion does not allow for conversion, so that may make it appear like their are greater religious links than may actually exist.
Many people who put themselves forward as leaders of the religion refuse to allow proselytization of other religions in their nations, forcing other religions underground and enforcing Islam as the religion that must be abided by. This is mostly seen in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan, where it is very difficult for other faiths to gain a foothold due to these oppressive policies.
Its absurd to assume the convivtion of one's faith. How is it measered fairly? Only God knows. What a stupid article.
Muslims = BOOM!!!!!
In the 70's when airplanes were first hijacked I was always a curious person so I researched it and found out that the UK and the USA gave Palestine to the Jews as a consultation prize out of guilt for not getting Hitler before he killed 6 million. Since they had no other voice this was the extreme that they felt they had to go to for the world to know that they had been robbed! It took the media 40 years to catch up to that fact. 40 years. I think we all become ham radio operators and screw the media and very soon the internet. "Freedom's Just another word for nothing left to loose." – no kidding. Like your handle but it tells me all I need to know.
Islam isn't a religion, it's a violent and evil political movement
Well, if you're going to paint a religion with such a broad brush, you could say the same thing about evangelical christianity. The american taliban.
Please Please Please read the Quran first, before leaving any hatred or stupid comment about Islam. Everybody is saying something bad about the Prophet Mohammad, Islam or Quran here, while they even never in there whole life have seen the cover of Quran. Names of Jesus, and Moses is mentioned tens of times in Quran. Did you even know there is a whole chapter about virgin Mary in Quran?
You are correct, but Jesus is demoted from Son of God to a prophet.
Yes, I did know all that. I also know that Mohammed was a stinking pedophile who married an 8 year old.
Congratulations – you have purchased a big lie. I hate to inform you that in the end, you will be much devastated to learn the truth. There is only one name by which all people can be saved. Just because that name is written in a false book does not give that book credibility.
Jesus Christ is the savior and Judge of all mankind – no one else. Not a false god nor a false prophet.
kevin you cannot possibly be serious. excuse me, but please, before you paint me out to be something that i am not as a Muslim, know that i served my country in the USAF for 9 years (98-07), was a Staff Sergeant stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq supervising young, Christian troops, am in college on my GI Bill studying to be an Ethnomusicologist, produce music, love record digging, and travel to other, different countries whenever i get the chance. i practice yoga (though some Muslims would object to it)and have friends from every religion out there.....ranging from Buddhism, to Hindu, to Christian, to Baha'i. My Mother raised me to accept all peoples, and though my voice cannot speak for every Muslim out there (esp. those who are bent on destruction) know that I strive every single day to exhibit the best of my faith. if you don't like me simply because of what i believe, fine. i really don't mind.....but please know that there are those of us out there who are NOT cut from the same clothe as those that get the negative press are. the only brainwashing that i see from people of ALL religions is a healthy fear of acceptance of what is different....
No one anywhere has answered this question: WHY are most religious acts of killing done by Muslims?
Where are you getting your facts from? Without any sources to back up you're statement, it has no legitimacy and comes off as a broad generalization. Let's just say, however, that more Muslims who kill people, kill in the name of God (Allah) than Christians who kill people. Doesn't that just follow along with what was said in the article? Some Muslims who aren't raised religiously and who are "reborn" as Muslims by the teachings of extremists may very well kill in the name of God and their religion, but that is not representative of all Muslims. On top of that, if there are more Muslims killing in the name of God and their faith, it is because, as has already been proven, their religion plays a larger part in everything they do. The proportion of Muslim killers to Christian killers (which, to be honest, makes no sense seeing as both religions condemn murder) is most likely equal. The only difference is the latter tends to vocalize their faith more in the process. That doesn't make them any worse or the Christians who commit murder any better and there was no reason to point that out in the article.
Yusuf : very well said sir.
@Yusef All over the middle east Muslims are blowing themselves up by the boat load. It seems where you mix Muslims with other religions the inevitable result is conflict. That's all I need to know about Islam and Muslims to form a negative opinion of them as a class.
Because most Muslim countries force religion on people. People have no choice. Believe or be out cast, even killed depending the location. To further this belief system the Muslim religion has made women subservient to men. If you are a woman you really have no choice. Since women are forbidden an education, again depending on location. A large portion of the population more than likely has never been introduced to other religious beliefs. If this same comparison holds true on Catholic religions several hundred years ago.
I can see why you are sooooooo stupid!!!!!
Why? They have been 'brain-washed' since birth! Muslims are intimidated and brain-washed totally!. They know that should they believe the truth that Muhammad was a faker, a thief, a child molestor (had se-x 9 yr old A'isha win his 50's), and a lover of 'booty' they could be killed 'legally' by other Muslims if they leave Islam. It is no mystery? Satan created Islam over 500 years after Jesus/Isa – because way too many people were believing in the Truth and the way – as followers of Jesus. Satan did whisper in Muhammad's ear in that Hira cave in the 7th century. Just as He spoke to Eve! Listen up! God is not Allah! Muhammad never once suggested that he even ever knew the true name of God (Jesus/Yeshua/I Am/Jehovah). Allah was Muhammad's ancient 'moon god' with a little 'g'. And more than twice in the Islamic Koran (Qur'an) Muhammad admits that he can do no miracles to tie him to any connection with a Divine Deity. There is only ONE way to the Father God. That is by believing in His only Son, Jesus (Isa) Christ, and accepting that Jesus too our sins upon Himself. If you do not believe that, you will die in your sins. Wake up!
excuse me, but please, before you paint me out to be something that i am not as a Muslim, know that i served my country in the USAF for 9 years (98-07), was a Staff Sergeant stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq supervising young, Christian troops, am in college on my GI Bill studying to be an Ethnomusicologist, produce music, love record digging, and travel to other, different countries whenever i get the chance. i practice yoga (though some Muslims would object to it)and have friends from every religion out there.....ranging from Buddhism, to Hindu, to Christian, to Baha'i. My Mother raised me to accept all peoples, and though my voice cannot speak for every Muslim out there (esp. those who are bent on destruction) know that I strive every single day to exhibit the best of my faith. if you don't like me simply because of what i believe, fine. i really don't mind.....but please know that there are those of us out there who are NOT cut from the same clothe as those that get the negative press are. the only brainwashing that i see from people of ALL religions is a healthy fear of acceptance of what is different....
another Steve with his stupidity....man they are soo many stupid people in the USA. Whats sad is that US is the greatest place for one to educate themselves and it is still full of stupid people like you....man...what a waste....!!!!
They like to keep people ignorant and uneducated....so they are more easily manipulated/controlled.....kind of like the Obama administration!
You seem to be living proof.
That awkward moment when adults still believe in fairy tales...
That wasn't meant to be a replay to you, just a general comment, don't know how that happened.
It's simple, ONE WORD: FEAR
Well who ever wrote this must be a mUSLIM, who believes in a book that was written in the year 600? N I know for a fact that Muhammad used the Bible as a blue print to spread his evil thoughts, if you don't believe it than you must not have common sense. Of course they are more religious than others because if they don't follow their guidelines from that book they get killed by Muslims. They are straight to the path of Hell and they will burn like the rest of the unsaved people that love to sin. Can you imagine being a Christian and getting killed for not praying? They force their woman to hide their faces or else they cut off their heads. Yeah that is really religious if you as me. In order to prove that the Quran has taken most of the words from the Bible I have attached a link to my video where I'm burning the quran with passion for our Lord and Saviour. http://www.youtube.com/user/huttidub?feature=mhee#p/a/u/2/uRG5QV_dbAQ
may God enlight you to the rightous path
"Of course they are more religious than others because if they don't follow their guidelines from that book they get killed by Muslims. They are straight to the path of Hell and they will burn like the rest of the unsaved people that love to sin."
And, of course you are a religious zealot because if you aren't you are straight to the path of Hell and will burn like... Oh wait. That's right. There is no Hell, as there is no God.
You know, for a religion who claims only God can judge them, you sure do an awful lot of judging of others.
You mean adhere more closely to their religious texts?
Isn't that pretty straightforward? Our culture is a product of the (secular) enlightenment. We DO NOT adhere to the irrational portions of our holy books. Indeed, many of us no longer care about any portion of those near factless books.
Why do they continue to do so? Well,you try being an apostate in Pakistan and see how long you last.
Muslims are more "religious" than other religions.. That is commical.. How about reading the darn Quran and you will see it is not about being religious.. It is about following an intolerant madman.. Why do we continue to lie to eachother?? What ever happened to the truth??!!