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.
American Muslim women who cover explain their choice
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.
plus, the eyewitnesses of Jesus chose death by torture rather than recant their testimony.
Did they....? Very little is authenticated about the legendary apostles and disciples, not to mention the unnamed and unferified "witnesses".
(dang it)... *unverified
Yeah, I'm not sure that's going to hold up in a court of law.
Easier to believe He never existed rather than the truth of the Gospel...its a lot easier to turn your back than to submit to His sovereignty. However, the Bible says that there is a destination for those who do turn there back, and trust me, I don't want to be on THAT train!
@Jackinlondon, I'm sure god will appreciate you hedging your bets on him... just in case.
Think about the logic (or lack thereof).
“I believe the Bible is inspired.” “Why?” “Because it says so.” Would your
anyone let that logic pass if it came from the followers of any other book
or person? “I believe x is inspired because x says so.” Fill in the blanks:
x=the ayatolloah Sistani (sp?)
“I believe there is One God Jehovah because He is revealed in the infallible
Bible. I believe the Bible is infallible because it is the Word of the One God Jehovah.”
Muslims are more religious because they don't have any science in their culture to get in the way of the brain-washing.
Maybe they're more faithful because Muslims generally live in countries (and households) where people have their hands cut off or are stoned to death for showing a lack of commitment to their culture. Being more indoctrinated into an organized theology may make a person more committed, but not necessarily more religious.
It is a religion of murderers, liars, and thieves!
Death to Islam!
culture? a men made thing .
our religion is all about science who needs culture ?? recommend you to read about ismaic history
Islam is the religion of murderers, liars, thieves and rapists!
There is nothing but hate for all the world who does not agree with their murderous ways!
Islam must be destroyed!
Death to Islam!
theres a vast diif btw a couple of dudes saying they took a ride on the mother ship and hundreds of christians seeing Jesus after the resserection...
rockey1 i think you are sleeping/ woke up untill it late. i would just say one sentence which muslim have been taught by islam/ that donot make fun of other religion even if they are wrong. think
the qu'ran calls jews and christians deluded. is that not making fun of them?
ari, your life must be really sad. replying all these comments at this time of day? why don't you just go back to the basement of your mom's house and go to bed? it'd be better than just mumbling all of your theoretical nonsense here.
It's facinating how all of the subjects dealing with religion attract the nut cases. Religion is tremendously powerful and compeletly evil.
Why Islam is the true religion. Lets look at its founder.
The history from Muhammad times is fresh and can be traced back to reliable sources. :
-Is it possible for a person to one day just decide and tell his wife that he is a prophet. And his wife believe in him and then spreads the message.
– Why was Muhammad so firm in his belief? What he was to gain from it?
– Why was his message in line with the messege of Judaism and Christianity?
– Since He was parts of the same ignorant Arab culture, why was he so different? Who taught him to be different? Were there people similar to Muhammed in the world before and after who changed the history of their people at the same magnitude Muhammed did? Michael Hart in his book "The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History" ranks Muhammed #1.
– What Muhammad gained from introducing fasting, five times prayer, Haj ritual and paying alms to the poor? Who taught him all those things?
-He was tested numerous times by his people to see if he was truly a prophet and he passed all those test. Otherwise, Islam would not have made it this far.
– Why his religion so different than what the Arabs practiced?
– Why is Quran so beautifully written, specially coming from an illiterate Arab.
– Can a person lie for 23 years of his life and get away with it?
– Did Muhammed get lucky to escape assassinations?
– How did he get almost everything right almost all of the time?
– Why early Arabs cherished the Quran to a point that we have a copy of it until now.
– Why there is no dispute between Muslims about Quran? Why it never changed?
– Khalid Iban Walid who was a fierce opponent of Muhammad, said just before converting to Islam that " We cannot fight someone who is being protected from above"
– What did Muhammed gain from this adventure? He didn't like worldly goods anyway? What was he after?
It's also important to note that through Muhammad someone can find god. If Muhammad is right, then there must be god who relay the message to him and if there is god, then there is life after death, reward and punishment.
"-Is it possible for a person to one day just decide and tell his wife that he is a prophet. And his wife believe in him and then spreads the message."
yes? have you never heard of cults? go research them. mohammed wasn't the only one.
"- Why was Muhammad so firm in his belief? What he was to gain from it?"
he collected 10% of war booty. he grew rich and famous and conquered many lands. he was revered as a prophet. he had dozens of wives to himself. what DIDN'T he gain from it?
"- Why was his message in line with the messege of Judaism and Christianity?"
it isn't. which is why the qu'ran says that judaism and christianity are wrong and corrupted.
"Since He was parts of the same ignorant Arab culture, why was he so different?"
you hate your own history. not all 7th century arabs were "ignorant". many contributed to philosophy, math, and science.
"What Muhammad gained from introducing fasting, five times prayer, Haj ritual and paying alms to the poor? Who taught him all those things? "
re: the hajj, the kabah was the center of meccan polytheism. he declared it the holy site in islam later in his life (it was previously jerusalem!) to take it from the polytheists.
i'm too bored to carry on with the rest, but you get my drift.
"Can a person lie for 23 years of his life and get away with it? "
Politicians in the US do this all throughout their careers and get away with it (most of the time).
"-He was tested numerous times by his people to see if he was truly a prophet and he passed all those test. Otherwise, Islam would not have made it this far. "
oh? did his people say "give us uncontroversial proof that god speaks to you" and he gave proof? no? then he didn't pass any tests at all.
"Why his religion so different than what the Arabs practiced? "
it's not. most arabs were polytheists but around 1/3 were christians or jews.
"Why is Quran so beautifully written, specially coming from an illiterate Arab. "
the qu'ran was written by his wife, who was not illiterate. and it has gramatical errors.
"Can a person lie for 23 years of his life and get away with it? "
"- Did Muhammed get lucky to escape assassinations?"
"- How did he get almost everything right almost all of the time?"
he didn't. the qu'ran is filled with nonsensical pseudo-science, from the flat earth to the garden of eden.
The West could solve its financial problems by confiscating Jew gold.
I like jebb suggestion better and it is the best thing to do.. Lets write a letter to Obama... may be we need Bush.
Bush? Not a good idea. Anyone who claims that some "god" told him to kill is dead wrong, regardless of who the people were that he claims "god" told him to kill.
n00k the entire ME now!
arabs are a threat to every person on earth!
n00k them all!
open the n a z i gas chambers and bake those arabs now!nuke the entire ME now!
That is the best thing that can be done to Muslims.
also may i add, Jesus followers not only had visions, they actually saw, touched and even had dinner with the resserected Christ, not to mention the several hundred that saw him ascend into heaven after the ressurection.
Hundreds of people have reported being taken onto alien ships and probed too. For reality though we require verifiable evidence.
The several hundred? As if several hundred individuals wrote down several hundred independent accounts of this event? Ha ha!
Muslims could be classified as being "more religious" than others are because of the illiteracy rate and the education amongst their members. Those who attach themselves, with fervor, to any given philosophy, are primarily sub-100 on the IQ chart. Morons, imbeciles, idiots are what we would label them as, years ago, but now they are just deficient. The Muslims have just cornered the market on attracting those who lose arguments to inanimate objects.
You didn't read the article carefully. The survey was done online, the illiterates or the poor were surely not the respondents as they don't have access to the internet. I'm sure you're an idiot. Your mom's ass probably is smarter than you.
How is it ill-informed? You must imagine it's really a giant gamble if you are religious to assume that you are right and every one of the other thousands of religions is wrong isn't it? How do you know Islam isn't the right religion or buddhism, or hindi? Picking one with absolutely certainty and assuming that God gives a hoot what a tiny single individual human does is just optimistic at best. Im a christian bcause 1st, i had a supernatural vision (no kidding), 2nd i was miraculously healed of a physical ailment after praying to the Father (of Jesus) (again, no kidding), but i learned that my faith is indeed reasonable after reading the new testament re the eyewitnesses that also had visions and died martyrs' deaths rather than recant their eyewitness testimony.
Hinduism does not teach you to be narrow-minded like some other religions, on the other hand it promotes respecting your religion & letting others respect theirs...while on the other hand Islam preaches the opposite & the followers are stuck in the time of beliefs that were existing when the religion was formed....
more & more people are following not because they find it easy to follow but because they are either forced or do not want to waste their time being minorities...
Then along came the Paki katuwas and started killing people in India.
According to Islam "Education is must for Men and Women"
...where "education" is defined as reading the qu'ran until you memorize it.
we typically call that "indoctrination" in today's parlance.
you don't waste time and energy in replying to any comment in order to give us an ugly picture about anything that has to do with Islam. You are a relentless, tireless warrior of darkness. You remind me of the army of Sauron and Saruman combined. But guess what. In few years from now, you'll return to dust and Islam will just continue placidly on its way. Isn't that depressing for you?
@yes everything i said is true. it's quite amusing that you think that i'm sauron, though. i take it as a compliment.
correction:" I've said you don't waste time and energy" actually you waste both your time and energy...
@ari, Yeah... you tireless warrior of darkness. Keep up the good work!
All of Islam must die! The religion of madness must be wiped out to the very last piece of burned Quran!
The hate will not stop until all of Islam is destroyed from the face of the earth!
Now I am really going to sleep. So far, I did read your posts, but now that you're saying you're speaking the truth, you're not serious anymore.Usually, when I utter the word truth, I start to laugh at myself...
Now really, Good night.
@Yes. good arguments, unfortunately you didn't actually give any valid ones but just personal attacks. Thanks for proving his point, lol. Religion is silly no matter how you spin it, but of course average people become firm believers in times of crisis, this is just a fact. Doesn't make religion more true where there's war or crisis, just a human evolutionary flaw in my eyes. If none was promised eternal life (lol) none would risk their life to kill others.
I could care less I wish they would all leave
Only their deaths will make them leave others in peace!
We have many declarations of war from Islam.
It is time to answer them with death and wipe out the Islamic madness once and for all!
In general, how religious a person is.... is inversely proportional to their education and intelligence.
How does anyone disprove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? You can't see Him, but His presence and effects on Creation are undeniable. He exists because I say so. Prove me wrong!
Muslims in the mid-east don't have much of life. And what life they do have is a product of cultural intimidation and depravity. So they're into religion. They do it all the time. They are obsessed by it. They live for the afterlife, promise of virgins and the like. They are taught to hate and kill anyone who disagrees with them. So much for allah. There is only on son of God who sits to His right side and that is Jesus Christ. There is only one messiah who rose from the dead: Jesus Christ. There is only one Prince of Peace: Jesus Christ.
Just goes to show.... we have plenty of ignorant and pious simple folks... we call red necks.. in USA too.
My father once said. "There is no god, just small minded people who think they are." I have found that to be true. And those people are condescending control freaks with inferiority complexes. People in general are religious because of there upbringing. And their parents for the same reason. It's something like blind obedience. People need something to believe in. If you do believe, please, can't you do it quietly and leave the rest of us who know the truth alone. Especially you muslims who follow the word of mohammed. Really getting tired of your shi*.
The answer to the question is because you are comparing the to as if they are the same they are not
Don my boy. Where the hell did you learn English?
The muslim cleric Anjem Choudary said that U.S. President Barack Obama must embrace Islam as a way of life or face the consequences of a trial under the Shariah Islamic court system.
Muslims don’t want democracy and freedom. Democracy and freedom are anathema to Islam and the Sharia.”
Choudary also said that he is planning a protest in front of the White House on Thursday in which he will call on American Muslims to revolt against the country and implement Sharia law.
Choudary has often praised Muslim terrorists, referring to the September 11 terrorists as “magnificent martyrs.” In 2003 he endorsed terrorist attacks by British Muslims and said that al-Muhajiroun, one of the groups he founded, would “encourage people to fulfill their Islamic duties and responsibilities.” He praised the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai and he has called for assassinating the Pope.
During Sunday’s interview , Choudary repeated his contention that the flag of Islam will fly over the White House.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/03/honour-crimes-uk-rising Religion of brutality and ignorance. At some point, the rest of us will have had enough with this nonsense.