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 would be super-religious too if I lived in a community where I would be stoned to death if I wasn't percieved to be super-religious. Yessiree! I'd be a koran-thumpin fool for Mo if a free thought was the last thought of my own I'd be allowed.
More Jew propaganda.
The more educated, the less religious, the more rational; the future of humanity depends upon this. Otherwise we dissolve in religious war...
Be part of the future; reject all fundamentalism, be tolerant except for intolerance itself.
I find it both sad and interesting how it's so common for those practicing Islam to be so easily led to feel it is OK to use violence and oppression against those "infidels" who don't subscribe to Islam.
It's certainly not uncommon for those practicing a given religion to feel that theirs is the "true faith" superior to others. But of all the major religions, Islam seems to be the only one that characterizes those outside their faith with such disdain and aggression. Such characterization provides its followers with tacit license to treat others differently. It's such a foundation of the faith, a basic mindset And it instills an "us-versus-them" point of view in the minds of followers that so often distorts into the radicalized "death to (fill-in-the blank)" chants and ideologies we so often see.
Such thinking is no more than intolerance. Intolerance leads to hatred and aggression - and on the larger scale fascistic movements and governments.
This has got to be Islam's key flaw. No other "major" religion seems to have this path of intolerance.
The article should actually read 'Muslims are more fanatic than others'.
While Muslims in genral are fanatic, their extremists are lunatic!
oo waoo Mr sampsonite...what a great reason because they are uneducated ..hahaha...looks like you are uneducated and mentally poor too mr.
Islamic Paradise described by a Muslim Cleric... that explains why Muslims are more religious!!! 😉
Just more evidence of insanity.
Who cares why they are more religious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
they are more religious bc they are dumber and dont think for themselves
like christians-they do what they are told or read in the koran
this is not a surprise-they are dumb people
nuke the ME and get it over with now!
Just like, guns don't kill people, people kill people. As such, Islam is NOT a religion of hate and/or intolerance, people who have a wrong understanding of Islam do and give it a bad name. American's being a highly educated society should and must understand that fine difference.
Then why do your excecute people who have a different faith in the name of apostasy?
EXACTLY! COULD NOT HAVE SAID IT BETTER
Wrong understanding again. People execute people and statistically 99% of time for wrong reasons.
The ideas are much, much more powerful than any metal or wooden artifact, gun or not.
Our policy with radicals should be to make sure all they have are sticks to waive in the air in insanity-fueled hatred of us.
Any discussion about Islam degenerates quickly into attacks on other religions, with an emphasis on the faults of Christianity and a genocidal obsession about the Jews. Every religion has its mentally-ill adherents, but we don't read about worldwide attacks on the members of every religion except for Jihadists who claim to have "true" Islam. When and if Muslims themselves defeat this faction there will be some stability in the world.
the koran is for mentally disturbed people
only those stupid enough to believe it should be massacred!
we need a modern day version of the holocaust to eliminate these retards
the koran is for mentally disturbed people
only those stupid enough to believe it should be massacred!
we need a modern day version of the holocaust to eliminate these retards!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Radicalism and extremism are not exclusive to Islam, there are Hindu extremists in India who attack both Christians and
Muslims there. Same with extremist Jews in the settlements who see nothing wrong with attacking Palestinians after stealing their land because it is written in their book as their land. In the U.S.A. there is a disconnect wherby many call themselves Christians but act anything but Christlike...would Jesus Christ support the killing of over 500,000 Iraqis under trumped up accustions of WMD which was pure and simple greed to be close to the oilfields of the Middle East. If you believe what goes around comes around, karma ,whatever then believe this....America is now getting theirs.
You missed the point. Islam is the only religion which wants to rule entire nations, and the world, as LAW.
That is what makes Iran, run by mullahs, far, far more dangerous even than Pakistan, a military dictatorship (almost).
you are mistaken in both statements my friend, Pakistan is definitely not a military dictatorship. I dont even know what it is All i know is that if elections are fair in 2013 PTI-Imran Khan will be elected. And In Islam it is not a law....you sir have no credible information I doubt you have even read the Quran......
In the meantime, today Iran shot down an unmanned US RQ-170 drone plane. All over the European news, but no mention of it in America. Small detail: Iran just declared war on America.
Just saw it on the ABC news site as of 3:11
Tends to happen when someone flys a drone into your airspace
unwilling to accept that Iran virtually controlled their little toy and brought it down without shooting at it. Same with NATO attacks on PAk. UNwillingness to report mistakes/shortcomings.
I wish they would declare war on the USA. At least we could just end them as a result.
When you say "Please don't argue with me. Check out the Koran and SEE FOR YOURSELF", all you are accomplishing is showing that you live up to your monicker.
HWR: you and yer mama can kiss after eating my dung. Go make a HWR Jr.
Most religious = most benighted and, indeed, least spiritual. If muslims are #1, born again Christians gotta be a close second!
All religions went through a violent phase, the difference is that all but Islam evolved and left the violence centuries ago. Today Islam is just as violent as they were when it was created.
I don't know that muslims are more religious, but they are more arrogant about it.
It's difficult to call a set of beliefs religion when it espouses "jihad", talk of "infidels", and beheading because someone drew a cartoon or made a joke. That's fanaticism, not belief in a loving god.
To my opinion, radical Muslims are just as creepy as radical Evangelists or Buddhists or Mormons. Every religion which forces vulnerable people , like kids and women, to obey whatever it is, should be forbidden. Right now. Actually , in most Western countries it is forbidden to abuse people, but because of the fact that even Presidents, CEO's or Judges are just as freaky and dangerous means that any abuse is tolerated. I would not call that more or less religious, I would call that sinister and wrong and the course of almost any created Hell on Earth. By the way, most Muslims I knew, if not all, were very respectful and friendly hard working people. Dedicated and well respected. They believe in a God , yes, but in a descent way and without pushing others to do the same. I respect them all.
" They believe in a God , yes, but in a descent way..."
You've got that about right.
The ignorance and hate in the comments is appalling.
In the case of muslim extremism, murder and genocide... it is justified
I agree. Some of the comments may be spot on but sometimes it's about HOW you say things. But we have to keep in mind that here on the world of the internet people can safely hide behind the veil of anonymity and get away with saying just about anything and nobody has to know who they are.
Actually, it is quite a refreshing change from the usual rhetoric of accepting blindly that Islam is not a problem.
That system oppresses half a billion people, women, every single day. Every progressive liberal should be flipping-out over Islam every day, but, they don't. Why?
We now know that radical Islamic Jihad is our enemy, and we know which groups and countries back it, so, maybe, just maybe, we'll reach the point where we (again) have the courage to call our enemies an enemy, and treat them accordingly.
They chose to pick a fight with the biggest nation ever to exist on the planet. They deserve their fate.
Every human is born as a Muslim. The upbringing directs us to the different faiths. A practicing Muslim believes in eeman (belief), consists of 6 things: 1. Believe in Allah as one God, 2. in His books, 3. in His prophets, 4. the unseen, 5. Qadar and Qodho (prescribed destiny), and 6. The Judgement Day. To increase eeman, a Muslim must exercise: 1. Syahadat (declaration of one God and Muhammad is the last messenger of Allah. 2. shalat (5 times prayer), 3. zakat (charity), 4. Fasting and 5. Hajj. The good and bad things occurred in our lives are due to Almighty God. All the terrible things happened are too given by Allah within human's capacity to resolve them, and never beyond our strength. Only Allah knows best. May Lord grants all of us the understanding and the right path.
So every human was born a Muslim? In your dreams habibi.. tell the billions of Buddhists, Chistians, Hindus and Jews who are determined to NOT submit.
finally! At least someone posts a sensible comment. Lets see how these people respond now. Let the show begin.
Every human being is born as a Muslim? Even before a mere 1300 years ago? Gee, I don't think Islam even existed then. Better check your history, chief.
what he means is your are born a Muslim but you are whatever religion you follow. You are no longer a Muslim after birth if you are brought up by Christians, Jews etc. When you are brought into this earth Muslim but what you choose as your religion is your business and it cancels out the first thing seee?
Religionis4Dolts: before christinaity judaism islam there were Prophets and they delivered the word of God, but there was no name to a religion. When people continually did not listen then actual religion came. Ex. Noah was a prophet who brought thte word of God. THe big 3 religions were supposed to be the same, but when people rewrote the bible and Torah it created a problem....its hard to tell all in a comment...might want to research yourself.
If I was born a Muslim, I would rather be a stillbirth.
PTI: But fossil records show that modern humans have existed on this planet for roughly 30,000 years, and before that there were Neanderthals, etc. We know for a fact that these prehistoric creatures did not have written language, which obviously only came into existence a mere 9-10,000 years ago. Referencing Noah is pointless since he only lived probably 4,000 years ago. Jeez!
That is why I disagree with this religion, Muslims are always disconected with the real world. All they think about is Ala, Mohammed and the Koran.
If you are born a muslim & try converting...You can assure yourself dead. No matter how hard it becomes to stay in that fait. Additionally, what do they mean by they forgive easily...explain all the backlash. They are born fools & will remain that all their lives.
I BELIEVE WHAT U ARE SAYING IS ABRAHAM WAS FOLLOWING ISLAM TOO – AS ISLAM MEANS BELIEVING IN ONE GOD! CHRISTIANS & JEWS TOO BELIEVED IN ONE GOD UNTIL BIBLE WAS MESSED-UP. ANYWAY THE ISSUE IS WHICH ERA ARE WE IN AND WHICH PROPHET SHOULD WE FOLLOW AT THIS TIME. AM I RIGHT? THESE WERE THE TEACHING WHICH MY MUSLIM FRIEND TRANSFERED TO ME. MUSLIMS SAY JEWS WERE RIGHT IN FOLLOWING MOSSOS IN HIS ERA. CHRISTIANS WE RIGHT IN FOLLOWING CHRIST IN HIS ERA. ITS MOHAMMED`S ERA FROM HIS ARRIVAL UNTIL THE LAST DAY.
Furthermore the fossil record shows that this planet has been around for MILLIONS of years WITHOUT humans or any precursor to humans, so explain that. Is "god" just trying to fool everyone by planting fossils deep in the ground? What an evil S O B!
Religionis4Dolts: we have what is written in our religious texts and you believe in science. I can not say who is right or wrong as I am just another human and have no right to judge others beliefs. So you with your beliefs and I with mine. We will find who is correct eventually.
The fossil record was written WAY before any humans existed! Don't you get it? D@mn, stupid humans have such problems with temporal logic.
I do actually get it.....just way too difficult to explain anything on a stupid comment board.
@ HARIS International Caps Lock Day is not until 28 June or 22 October
That's as bloody stupid as the concept of original sin.
We are all born atheists and then the cult programming begins, largely based on geography and parents.
Whether you believe the Earth came into existence 6,000 years ago or millions/billions of years ago, it is fact that not one of the major religions today existed then (especially in the cases of "Christian Science", Mormonism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc.). So you who follow such tripe must ask yourselves, "Why did it take so long for such a vital message as 'How to live your life correctly' to get transmitted via whatever 'prophet' you believe in?" Once you allow yourself to ask that question (and a number of other questions which belief in a religion precludes), then you will be on your way to true enlightenment. Wake up!
there were prophets before Judaism. Adam was a prophet same with Noah and Abraham. None of them brought "religion" but they all brought the same word of God. The reason for multiple prophets was: people continued to lapse into ignorance and updates were continually made based on time period. Then we come to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad they brought the "big 3"/ Judaism Christianity and Islam were supposed to be the same thing...all prophets were of the same faith. However the rewrtiing by others of the Bible and Torah created the differences....
What is it with this "6000 years ago myth"?? What are your sources? Which religion states that, and in what texts?
Historians who have pieced together the timeline of Judeo-Christianity, for instance. This is a well-accepted fact. For example, based on the explicit genealogy written down by Jews. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a dinosaur in real life. And I would bet that a freakin' huge brontosaurus would have had a much better chance of catching my attention if it had existed when the alleged "garden of Eden" existed. Certainly would have been more noticeable than a tiny snake or an apple tree, don't you think? Or do you think?