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.
ALL religions on earth - with the exception of Islam - have adapted. Religion and ordinary life are not the same. So why do we have to kow-tow to Islam?
Obviously the sword makes you believe whatever they say and tell you to do. When you use corporal punishment for not believing , everyone will obey .
What a joke. They are more religious because they come from places where their tribal warlords, imams, and governments ground them all in the dirt so far that their only hope is some mystical god that will save them.
That is a false generalization. Most muslims arent even arab. An even smaller percentage of Arab Muslims live in a tribal setting. I respect your opinions, but it angers me when people make claims like this that arent based in facts.
I think they meant to say more "radicalized" in this article and not more religious. Silly National Media.
Will somebody tell Okal that its alright to come out as a Muslim now? Don't hide behind your logic.
Silly AC. I hope you'll learn to read and comprehend 🙂
BRANTICUS : Whats your education level and did you ever went farther than 50 miles from your home ? ever seen any big city and been friends to non KKJ folks ?
BRANTICUS, I proudly AM a Muslim
And why do i keep confusing your name with Bronchitis? Oh maybe because I'm a doctor..
Islam is a horror. They have to live in fear and oppression. My God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is a God of love, and He shows me that love for me every day.
Sooo your God commanded priests to molest little boys?
Tony Blair's sister-in-law converted to Islam. Do you think she lives in fear?
Quit an accomplishment to bring justice to the perverts that defile women, children, and religion.
Just how possible is that with Islamist; especially when abuse is the norm? Are you not aware of the subjugation of women and children in Islamist circles?
Here you are comparing preachers of christianity (priests) who molest little boys, with muslims. If you were to look at the Quran, it condemns such pervert acts. But if you look at the bible, it tells you to do whatever the flip that pleases you – you're forgiven anyways! so keep smacking them little boys, yeah?
Okal – That's no more the case than Osama Bin Laden being told by Allah to kill Muslims in the twin towers. There are perverts, opportunist, and perversions in any organization. One or more bad apple does not spoil the whole orchard.
Exactly – thank you!
Christianity didn't command Anders Behring Breivik (the norwegian mass murderer) to kill 73 people, just like Islam didn't command Bin Laden to be such a terrorist, just like Judaism didn't command Berard Madoff to commit the biggest fraud in history.
Its very, VERY unfortunate that spotlights are always placed on the worst example.
Faith-Isn't-A-Preacher : Usama never said Allah told him to do something but Bush did said he was asked by his god to attach Iraq ? Just youtube and find it.
Osama was a US agent , worked for US for long time against russians but later came against US agents. He was working for political objectives ...
We are not really going to discuss the nature of human beings are we? – I mean we are still back on religion. I thought that perhaps the 1/3 of the population that knows something about this personally would one day educate the rest of you that religion has not one thing to do with inappropriate touching. Well complete transparency is still a bit away isn't it? and marrying someone in childhood does not mean that they do it. it means that when they are old enough they will. the age of marriage in Libya was 22. in the deep south until they got electricity in the 1940s it was 14. so –
When one is stripped of their freedom of personal expression, individualism, ambition, etc ... there is nothing left to do but indulge in what ever solus or rational that appeases one's torment.
There are very famous and wealthy characters who converted to Islam. Now what?
Many of whom are no longer significant contributors to civil society or humanity.
I enjoyed Cat Stephen's musical contributes before he was lost. Where is his voice for tolerance and diversity now?
"many of whom are of no significance" so all non-muslims, ALL OF THEM, are of significance 😀
The list goes from singers to astronauts.
But you must be very significant. You and lady Gaga are of utmost significance to humanity and society.
Okal – It's better to be slaves to one's own imperfections that be a slave to the imperfections of tyrants.
Faith-Isn't-A-Preacher : Your God Michael Jackson also converted before he was killed by his Christian doctor.
Ahmad – You are being presumptuous. You have highlight the arrogance of assigning a 'God' to others. Which reveals your vitriol for others not consider your own.
Are we not all 'Children' of Allah or God? If so, then why are so many justifying their theft of other's life experiences to come to understand and accept Allah or God?
I respect you and your opinions, but I absolutely hate when people make sweeping generalizations based on faulty information. The fact of the matter is, most muslims are from indonesia, which wasnt a radical and oppresive regime last time i checked.
Ahmed Shaaban – That's my point. Too many have politicized Islam and Christianity for political gain and 'control'. For tolerance and mutual respect; governance must remain secular and not be controlled by men or women who answer to a 'Supreme' leader of any one religion.
The article is a piece of propaganda as usual with "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" blatantly ignoring that Muslims were fighting for human right, freedom, and democracy.
Truly spoken Amanda. More true than readers want to know.
Having known and worked with Muslims, my impression is that they are not truly more religious. Just better at faking it. And they have good reason to fake it. They can be punished or killed if they don't appear to be sufficiently religious. Allah forbid they should try to disavow Islam or convert to another religion.
I agree, and I also say that the current falling away from Christianity in the United States is not a true falling away, but a falling away of those who have never really believed. When a religious group has power and uses it against nonbeliever, everyone becomes a liar for safety purposes.
My friend is a country like United States where you don't have to fake even when your know your daughter slept with whole campus, why a muslim will fake his relegion. No one is US is coming to kill them. You probably are a republican, semi or non-qualified, now experience of world other than watching Fox kind of guys.
I think I agree with the article to the most part. Like Christianity, which was a correction sent to Jewish; Islam was sent as correction to Christians. All three are relegion of God and this a reality. As a muslim I respect every relegion and won't say people who go to church "fake their relegion". May Allah (God) will guide all of us to correct path.
Religion and politics do not belong together. I can love a candidate and when he or she says my god. they loose me right there. Separation of church and state means that you can keep your fantasy to yourself and practice reality for your fellow man and woman. I'm done, you are scaring me...time to go mine the driveway, again.
Islam believe in one God and only ONE God.On the other hand Christians believe in the multiple Gods: God the original and his son Jesus who became God like his dad and the holy ghost. The Christians they can do anything : killing, mascaras, wars and their God Jesus will forgive them and will go to heaven.
You are one ignorant man.
Trisha, you really can't come up with better reasoning :)?
Thank you Alex.
Islam and Christianity believes in same God. Its was a few business man like relegious leaders who made Jesus a god for their own reasons and keep leadership in their hand (Have you seen scandels .. more are coming from top of that food chain). They were and they are nothing but similar fanatics who exisit in Islam too. Like muslim maulvis, their christians have their followers and they attach functional counties like Iraq ( knowing their no weapon .. or anything) just because god came down and told them to attack a county and put that country in civil war .. ultimately kill millions. I believe US Govt and all people who backed Iraq war should be tried in court for crimes against humanity. Use same stick. Its not different !!
Alex, are you posing as Okal?
Yeah right Alex.
You are simply ignorant. Christians believe in one and only one God.
God is one and unique Father, Son, and Holly spirit. I repeat we believe in one God. The Father Son and Holly Spirit are one.
You will never see in any Christian prayers or in the Bible where it is said there are 3 gods.
One God who is Father, Son , Holly Spirit. This is the mystery of faith and only the chosen one can accept it.
BoyDkr : Did you paid you chruch dues ? they need people like you
Islam tends to shut it followers away from other beliefs and different ways of thinking, and the constant prayers and obligations of their faith keep many of them from thinking or acting outside the normal boundaries of their lives. This is probably why they are more dangerous when they feel threatened of offended. They are also supposed to bring you to THEIR way of thinking, or be obligated to kill you. This makes for rather poor neighbor relations, and a level of Zeal that is way over the top. Narrow minds can be quite deadly. The most troubling thing about Islam is it's intolerance of competing or contrasting beliefs, and as long as SOME feel this way,
There will be no peace in the lands where Islam got it's start, and those of us not with them have to wonder when they will turn on US.
Can you please put references to what you just said? Oh, and your rectum doesn't count, please.
Egypt is soon to be run by the Muslim Brotherhood with US weapons, this administration does not standby Isreal, and Iran is buying ballistic missles from China & Russia while developing nuclear missles and not for use on a City, but for an EMP.
Propaganda that Egypt will soon be run by Muslims Brotherhood party. What else should be expected by ignorant Americans fed by us' biased media?
AC, did you know that President Sadat, who signed the peace treaty with Israel, was part of the muslim brotherhood?
Knowledge is light.
Wow. All this makes me even happier that I am an atheist! Here's to reason and thinking for yourself.
Give me the Tao.
Relgious people are legally insane.
Arab Spring = Caliphate
You know your stuff, AC. Anyone who does would say the same thing about the "Arab Spring" orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
I'd be serious too if every consequence of disobedience is losing body parts or death.
If you lost your "special part" while being molested by a priest, that's not the muslims' fault.
“Whoever does any work on a holy day: put to death”
“anyone who blasphemes: stone him.”
“worship other gods: stone the guilty ones to death”
“stubborn and rebellious son: stone him to death.”
“man is found lying with a married woman: both of them shall die”
“virgin engaged to another man and he lies with her: stone them to death”
“Whoever strikes his father or his mother: put to death”
"Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother: put to death.”
“anyone who curses his father or his mother: put to death”
“man who commits adultery with another man's wife: they shall be put to death.”
"man or woman who is a medium or a fortune-teller: stone them to death"
From the Quran? Nope. From the Bible
I don't recall Christians stoning each other in recent memory. Do you?
"Kill all who don't follow Allah" Quran Surah 5 and 9. Eat it bud.
@Playful drummer: No, but they've been molesting little boys.
They only drop dombs who don't follow their "way of life" no big deal.
"I don't recall Christians stoning each other in recent memory. Do you?"
Nope. That was how God himself wanted the world run until Jesus convinced God he was wrong and got God to change all the rules.
You're a Muslim, aren't you, "Observer?" I know quite a bit about your Sharia Law.
@brandticus: The whole chapter is one verse huh? You just have no response and trying to make something up. And you $uck at that too LOL
"You're a Muslim, aren't you, "Observer?" I know quite a bit about your Sharia Law."
I'm not and you're wrong.
What about the gays and their persecution? Followers of Bachmann would certainly stone them if they wouldn't be put in jail. Theocracy is a danger game... it does not create believers, it creates liars. Check out the Republican slate and look at whether they believe or are just talking trash. Cain is the poster boy for trash talk this week, but the rest are the same. You shall know them by their fruits. Fruitcake supreme on that stage.
Here's my response, Poser.
A true Christian will love everyone.
A true Muslim will kill everyone. Period. Who sucks now?
Another ingnorant man.
We are in the 21 century, aren't we!???
Trisha, are you the same Trisha from Napoleon Dynamite?
Cuz if I were you, I would be mad too about the sketch that napoleon drew you. And this is why you're mad 🙂
Nah just kiddin'. You're plain ignorant.
Yeah the old testament was pretty fraught with peril. I am looking at who I am calling "the Elvis people" who have now decided that Gadaffi's death was faked. I can see how the Jesus thing got started. And of course psych ops would have been easier then to achieve. How about we do something for someone else today and get off the computer? or is that too radical an idea?
"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet."
– Napoleon Bonaparte
Threaten me with stoning and I'll believe anything you tell me to.
Because they are two hundred years behind the civilized world and the barbarians know they will be killed by their own if they don't do as they are told. Fortunately the civilized world has make great strides in putting the christian cult in its place so hopefully they will eventually do the same.
Neil Armstrong converted to Islam. Cat Stevens converted to Islam. And the list keeps going
While your IQ is hovering somewhere near room temperature.
your definition of civilization is $$$$, kill,and master ......go get civilized dude
Muslims were civilized after Romans and Persians.This part of the world that is called united States today was animal when columbus came here .. remember all the stories ? Anyways, for me, being Muslims in US is like being Jewish in Germandy before second world war. US already finished a almost finishing a Holocaust is Iraq and another is Afghanistan. I hope and wish it woudl stop here. I have no idea why US invaded Iraq .. jsut because SAddam refused to use US $ ? Smart prople understand that establishment is using islam as a "fear factor" to continue to rule average american mind .. and this will continue until we have people like you.
Faith = 1 / IQ. The higher the intelligence, the lower the faith.
That is very true and easily explained. The smarter one is, the less likely they are to accept appeals to magic as the root cause of things.
....and if you're someone who truly believes in science and fact over faith where is your proof good sir? some of the most intelligent men of all time were religious. Most scientists today, much to your dismay I'm sure, are men and women of faith. That is a fact. So please, just because you want something to be true and can type it on the Internet, does not make it so. Good day
Try reading "Evidence demands a verdict" by Josh McDowell. You might retract your statement.
Thats because Muslims dont have priests that molest little boys
They will have 72 virgin boys in paradise.
Okal or should I saw Akmad, you've already shown your true colors with your silly statements. Why don't you go update your radical website.
Not true in my country every day there are case of maitre coranique molesting children.
Parents now are reporting to police these coranique teacher who molested their child.
@ Boy: oh yeah and I also saw a cat that was playing against a squirrel in the french tennis open. Tom and Jerry were cheering in the audience, too!
See how easy it is to make stuff up :)? fun huh?