December 3rd, 2011
10:00 PM ET
Conflict, theology and history make Muslims more religious than others, experts say
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
(CNN) - Every religion has its true believers and its doubters, its pious and its pragmatists, but new evidence suggests that Muslims tend to be more committed to their faith than other believers.
Muslims are much more likely than Christians and Hindus to say that their own faith is the only true path to paradise, according to a recent global survey, and they are more inclined to say their religion is an important part of their daily lives.
Muslims also have a much greater tendency to say their religion motivates them to do good works, said the survey, released over the summer by Ipsos-Mori, a British research company that polls around the world.
Islam is the world's second-largest religion - behind Christianity and ahead of Hinduism, the third largest. With some 1.5 billion followers and rising, Islam's influence may be growing even faster than its numbers as the Arab Spring topples long-reigning secular rulers and opens the way to religiously inspired political parties.
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But while there's no doubt about the importance of Islam, experts have different theories about why Muslims appear to be more religious than members of other global faiths - and contrasting views on whether to fear the depth of Muslims' commitment to their faith.
One explanation lies in current affairs, says Azyumardi Azra, an expert on Islam in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim majority country.
Many Muslims increasingly define themselves in contrast with what they see as the Christian West, says Azra, the director of the graduate school at the State Islamic University in Jakarta.
"When they confront the West that they perceive or misperceive as morally in decline, many Muslims feel that Islam is the best way of life. Islam for them is the only salvation," he says.
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That feeling has become stronger since the September 11 attacks, as many Muslims believe there is a "growing conflict between Islam and the so-called West," he says.
"Unfortunately this growing attachment to Islam among Muslims in general has been used and abused by literal-minded Muslims and the jihadists for their own purposes," he says.
But other experts say that deep religious commitment doesn't necessarily lead to violence.
"Being more religious doesn't necessarily mean that they will become suicide bombers," says Ed Husain, a former radical Islamist who is now a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
In fact, Husain argues that religious upbringing "could be an antidote" to radicalism.
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The people most likely to become Islamist radicals, he says, are those who were raised without a religious education and came to Islam later, as "born-agains."
Muslims raised with a grounding in their religion are better able to resist the distortions of Islam peddled by recruiters to radical causes, some experts like Husain argue, making them less likely to turn to violence.
But he agrees that Muslims are strongly attached to their faith, and says the reason lies in the religion itself.
"Muslims have this mindset that we alone possess the final truth," Husain says.
Muslims believe "Jews and Christians went before us and Mohammed was the last prophet," says Husain, whose book "The Islamist" chronicles his experiences with radicals. "Our prophet aimed to nullify the message of the previous prophets."
The depth of the Muslim commitment to Islam is not only a matter of theology and current events, but of education and history, as well, other experts say.
"Where religion is linked into the state institutions, where religion is deeply ingrained from childhood, you are getting this feeling that 'My way is the only way,'" says Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters, a conflict-resolution organization in London.
The Ipsos-Mori survey results included two countries with a strong link between religion and the state: Legally Muslim Saudi Arabia, which calls itself the guardian of Islam's two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina; and Indonesia, home of the world's largest Muslim population.
The third majority Muslim country in the study is Turkey, which has a very different relationship with religion. It was founded after World War I as a legally secular country. But despite generations of trying to separate mosque and state, Turkey is now governed by an Islam-inspired party, the AKP.
Turkey's experience shows how difficult it can be to untangle government and religion in Muslim majority countries and helps explain the Muslim commitment to their religion, says Azyumardi Azra, the Indonesia expert.
He notes that there has been no "Enlightenment" in Islam as there was in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, weakening the link between church and state in many Christian countries.
"Muslim communities have never experienced intense secularization that took place in Europe and the West in general," says Azra. "So Islam is still adhered to very strongly."
But it's not only the link between mosque and state in many Muslim majority countries that ties followers to their faith, says professor Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani diplomat who has written a book about Islam around the world.
Like Christians who wear "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets, many Muslims feel a deep personal connection to the founder of their faith, the prophet Muhammad, he says.
Muhammad isn't simply a historical figure to them, but rather a personal inspiration to hundreds of millions of people around the world today.
"When a Muslim is fasting or is asked to give charity or behave in a certain way, he is constantly reminded of the example set by the prophet many centuries ago," argues Ahmed, the author of "Journey Into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization."
His book is based on interviews with Muslims around the world, and one thing he found wherever he traveled was admiration for Muhammad.
"One of the questions was, 'Who is your role model?' From Morocco to Indonesia, it was the prophet, the prophet, the prophet," says Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington.
But while Ahmed sees similar patterns across the Islamic world, Ed Husain, the former radical, said it was important to understand its diversity, as well.
"There is no monolithic religiosity - Muslims in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are following different versions of Islam," says Husain. "All we're seeing (in the survey) is an adherence to a faith."
Political scientist Farid Senzai, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, raised questions about the survey's findings.
"Look at the countries that are surveyed - Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Turkey," he says. "There are about 300 million Muslims in those three countries, (who make up) about 20% of Muslims globally."
Islam is "incredibly important" in Saudi Arabia, he says.
"But in Tunisia or Morocco you could have had a different result. It would have been nice if they had picked a few more Arab countries and had a bit more diversity," says Senzai.
The pollster, Ipsos-Mori, does monthly surveys in 24 countries, three of which are majority Muslim – Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The other countries range from India to the United States, and Mexico to South Korea, and are the same each month, regardless of the subject the pollsters are investigating.
In the survey released in July, about six in 10 Muslims in the survey said their religion was the only way to salvation, while only a quarter of Hindus and two out of 10 Christians made that claim about their own faiths.
More than nine out of 10 Muslims said their faith was important in their lives, while the figure was 86% for Hindus and 66% for Christians.
Ipsos-Mori surveyed 18,473 adults via an online panel in April and released the findings in July. Results were weighted to make the results as representative as possible, but the pollster cautioned that because the survey was conducted online, it was harder to get representative results in poorer countries where internet access is not widespread.
CNN polling director Keating Holland also warns that in an "opt-in" survey, where respondents actively choose to participate, results tend to come from "people who are confident in their opinions and express them openly... not good for intensely private matters like faith or income or sex."
Online surveys in countries that are not entirely free are also open to the possibility that pollsters get "the approved response" in those nations, "where the people who are most likely to be willing to talk about such matters are the ones who hold, or at least verbalize, opinions that won't get them in trouble if they are expressed," Holland says.
That may have been an issue in Saudi Arabia, where respondents were given the choice of not answering questions on religion due to their potential sensitivity in the kingdom. The Saudi sample was the smallest, with 354 participants, meaning "findings for Saudi Arabia must be treated with caution," Ipsos-Mori said.
About 1,000 people participated in most countries, but sample sizes were smaller in the three majority Muslim countries and in eight other countries.
The survey participants did not reflect the true percentage of Christians and Muslims in the world. Christians were over-represented – as were people who said they had no religion – and Muslims were under-represented.
Nearly half the respondents identified themselves as Christian. Eleven percent were Muslim, 4% were Buddhist, 3% were Hindu and 3% were "other." A quarter said they had no religion and 6% refused to say.
Fiyaz Mughal, the interfaith expert, argues that even though the countries surveyed might not be representative of the entire Muslim world, the findings about Muslims rang broadly true. Muslims in different countries were committed to their faith for different reasons, he says.
"Saudi Arabia is an institutionally religious state. Indonesia has religion tied into its culture," says Mughal.
But Muslim immigrants to Europe also show strong ties to their religion, either as a defense mechanism in the face of a perceived threat, or because of an effort to cling to identity, he contends.
He detects a link between insular communities and commitment to faith regardless of what religion is involved. It is prevalent in Muslim Saudi Arabia, but he has seen it among Israeli Jews as well, he says.
"The Israeli Jewish perspective is that (the dispute with the Palestinians) is a conflict of land and religion which are integrally linked," Mughal says.
"What does play a role in that scenario is a sense of isolationism and seclusion in Israeli Jewish religious communities, a growing trend to say, 'Our way is the only way,'" he says.
Religious leaders of all faiths need to combat those kinds of attitudes because of the greater diversity people encounter in the world today, he argues.
They have a responsibility to teach their congregations "that if they are following a religion, it is not as brutal or exclusive as possible," Mughal says. "Things are changing. The world is a different place from what it was even 20 years ago."
Politicians, too, "need to take these issues quite seriously," he says.
"In the Middle East there are countries - the Saudi Arabias - where you need to be saying that diversity, while it may not be a part of the country, is something they have to deal with when moving in a globalized area," he says.
But Senzai, the political scientist, says that it's also important for the West to take the Muslim world on its own terms.
"Many Muslims want religion to play a role in politics," he says. "To assume that everyone around the world wants to be like the West - that they want liberal secular democracy - is an absurd idea."
- CNN's Nima Elbagir and Atika Shubert contributed to this report.
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About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
The West has lost their faith in god and are more concerned with wealth. The bible says be plentiful and have faith in god but they practice adultery, abortion and gay rights but there are a few christians whom the West love to call racist, bigots and hypocrities and that is why we are losing everything from the economy to the war itself
Your religion and your thinking are as twisted as your grammar. Nice run-on sentence, stupid.
It would be a great thing if the west lost its faith in your BOMITS.
Sue@ Unfortunately your grammar is worse than mine but it doesn't matter because we are all humans
This article is marred by assumptions and inacuracies . The of editors of this article are probably mixing faith with conventional intellectualism . Faith cannot be measured by the number of rituals one perfoms .
Faith cannot be measured at all because it is a type of hallucination and can be lied about with impunity.
How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?:
Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror
One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.
Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.
Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.
Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!i.e. No Easter, no Christianity.
The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.
Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
Abraham and Moses probably never existed.
Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.
All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.
Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!
(Note: the globe already has one billion agnostics/atheists on board)
Other religions can have less devout followers because they don't murder people for failing to show faith or leaving their faith. Muslims do many good things in the name of religion... the behead people, they stone women, they refuse to allow women to get an education still in many places and target the schools in places that do. Yeah, great religion if you long to be back in the medieval ages.
Muslims are terrorist.... they are redicals because their religion still doesn't allow to look for science and education. see the muslim women.... they are devoid of education still.... their religion describes others as Kafirs....
How would you know what the Qur'an says. Based upon your assertions, you obviously haven't read it.
There is only One Way, One Truth and One Life. That is the Son of the Eternal Almighty Yah Shua Messiah aka Jesus Christ. When resting in Him works are at an end. Being "committed" through works is no longer a requirement, it is replaced by trust. "The just shall live by trust". amen.
The only people to receive the grace of trust are the regenerate. Those that have been justified by trust, live by it. Just as oxygen is vital to the body to live, trust is vital and maintains eternal life.
So Muslim religion motivates Muslims to do good works. What good works? Never heard of them doing good works. I think their main "works" are killing folks that do not smell bad and answer to the name of Muhammad!
There are many errors in the article. Prophet Mohammad was not sent to nulify other prophets teachings rather than to continue with their messages because all prophets came from the same God. There is only one God in the Heavens and the Universe. When I read some of the comments- I imagine how ignorant these commentators are they need to be educated. I request them to read the right material and get informed. Stop hating and start loving everybody even if they harm you. Get educated and be civil.
Thankfully getting educated and being civil are not prerequisites for eternal life through the salvation that is in Yah Shua Messiah.
When they come to the US to go to college do they assemble prey to mecca in the middle of English 101? No – they only love America and assimilate while they are visiting here and then return to to their countries to throw us under the bus.
If you are Amish, I am Jakob Ammann.
If all Christians were true to the bible then they would also be viewed as terrorists. Stoneing women and children who misbehave, praying constantly and converting or killing everyone they see.
The only difference between Muslims and Christians are that Muslims are better at following their religion.
Religion in and of itself is terrible and should be forgotten to make this world a better place.
You are at best an atheist to the core, Plz leave this forum as this is a place for christians and muslims alike who are the believers of one god..
This is the belief blog. And I believe both the Christians and Muslims are wrong. If you believe my as.sertions to be false then please refute them and don't just ask me to leave.
This is an open blog where anyone may come and post whatever they like.
If you want exclusive religious blogging, go to a religious website where you can find others who agree with you about your lies and hallucinations.
If those surveys were done of Christian 200 years ago, I'm sure the results would be as high in terms of faith as the Muslim results today. As the article mentions, these people are growing up in countries that have a high population of Muslims, so they don't have a lot of opportunity to experience anything else. To further cement the situation, the governments are usually a Muslim-based party so that means the education system and legal system will be Muslim. So it makes sense they're going to feel strongly about their religion. When you introduce science with its notion of questioning everything and excepting nothing at face value then religion starts to fall apart. When questions start coming up such as the rights of woman, or the freedoms of individuals, that is when the basic parts of the religion start to fall apart. If a religion suggests that women have less rights, or that non-believers of a religion need to be killed, then people that question those suggestions realize that maybe the whole religion is bogus.
Born a Muslim is not enogh so whatever you mentioned that a Muslim does not go through is exactly opposite. A Muslim must understand the belief before practicing it. What you are mentioning had been a propaganda by the media and mixed with politics and current situation of the world. Brother, it is a power struggle and natural resource fight which will increase day by day and we must start looking at all issues according to its merit. I request you to review unbiased material available on the internet that will give you more information and you can judge the issue in a better life. Thanks.
These comment show how much these guys hate us muslims......
Dosent matter to be honest. You guys can shout abuse at your loudest voice but we have our religion and you have yours (or may be you have none) The article is about what we as muslims believe in and the personal comments are what you all believe in. So go on, the whole world is watching... keep abusing us and the people who have brains and good heart will come and join us and you will show them the way towards the right path and be part of muslim bothers and sisters
You are very correct. I would love some time to meet you behind the strip mall, pull up your dress while we kiss and jerk your balony roll while taking a pee down your leg.
In year 3000 AD few Ideals would have survived,one would be Islam.
pathetic people like the africans.
I think the heading should have read " Are Muzzies more evil(or promitive) than others?" Being devout is a +ve virtue which we do not see in them. Devout to behead??? Nonsense!
muslims and terrorism like fish and water.
I do hope that the comments here are not written by Christians. As a true Christian, I may not believe the same as these people, but I respect their beliefs. Who are we to say that these people are bad? I applaud these people for their devotion to their beliefs. I only wish that more people in the world had such a deeply routed committment to their religion. What a wonderful world this would be if we all strived to better ourselves?! I am amazed at the devotion that the muslim people have and the pride in their beliefs to wear it (literally) and show the world what they believe.
To my fellow Christians: would Christ himself talk in such a degrading way about others? I can assure you that he would not. God Bless.
Shut up you Nig Ger.
Good thing that I am a white mormon girl, huh? Try some class buddy.
I appreciate your kind thought.
Finally, a decent comment. Thank you <3 We muslims see other muslims as brothers. Christians are our closest cousins. We never have and never will hate you because of your religion. Peace 🙂
Jesus would have called for their extermination and called them worse than dogs. But you don't read your Bible too closely I guess.
Toez: "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." -1 John 4:7
That's all I have to say. Christ loved all. He may not have agreed with all, but he loved all. Maybe you should read the Bible for what it truely is. Read the Book of Mormon while you're at it. Both are filled with messages of hope and love.
Meg, I guess you don't care about the truth but would rather ignore the reality of your situation and your religion.
This is not surprising but very typical of religious believers. I have read enough of the Mormon fakery-book and the bible. They are both without value or merit, having so many contradictions that it is a wonder they aren't burned more often.
This seems to be a very flawed survey. I don't think you can make the assumptions the author is trying to make with the small sample size, particularly from Saudi Arabia of all places. I was stationed there back in the 90's and the only significant difference between the Taliban and the Saudis is that the Saudis tend to bathe more and have lots of oil. And for all you liberals who love to lament "hating" in the name of religion, lumping in Christians with muslims, you are obviously ignorant. In 43 years of attending various Churches in 6 states and 4 foreign countries, I have never heard any Christian advocate hating anyone, nor blowing up innocent people to get on tv.
Your world-view is very narrow. Years of narrow-mindedness is not a virtue nor does it confer wisdom or much knowledge.
Plenty of hateful Christians have killed others in the name of their religion in the past 43 years. Perhaps your head is too far up your ass to have heard of them during those years.
Ishmael, the father of muslimism was a basturd.
And Mohammed was lower than dog vomit. Yes. There is nothing holy about Muslims. They hear a buzzing noise and think it is their god but it is only the flies swarming around them. Hi Muslims!
Not more religious, more radical/crazy!
Same thing. More religious equals more crazy.
When I read these comments feel like animals are better than us – I am scarred of a human, not a polar bear – shame on us that we hate from each other so much, shame on us that we raise our kids also full of hate as well in the name of God, Allah, Jesus.... who do not agree: shame you that you were lucky enough born with an iq above 100 but still use it to hate each other in the name of religion – be Muslim , Christian or Jew
What a world that our kids are born into.... Is there any gene that we can inject and get immunity to hate and all crimes will disappear?
I applaud you Sara. It's good to know there are still people like you in our society. Thanks.
Jusr recognize ALL religions for the shams they are, treat the stories like you would any other story from the annals of mythology, and just live a quiet happy life. Help those in need, and live within the laws of the land. And know that you do NOT need a Bible or Qu'ran to justify love for anyone. But no greater tools have ever been invented to justify someone's hate.
I couln't say it better than you. Thank you, proud muslim.
Sarah, what is your phone number. I feel we have a real connection and want to speak with you while jerking my meatStick.
All religions were created by the same God, but came in sequence as guiding principle for human maturity. Fundamentally each religion instils humanity in human beings, as they are born without it.
Take religion out of a man, and he becomes an animal.
Sara your views are of a pure human, who fears God, and loves humanity, as only such a , person who fears or respects God, is capable of loving and respecting fellow human beings.
Any person, be it a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew, is not fit to be classified as human, as long as she or he hates it's same kind
Thanks for the sane post, Sara
The vast majority of humans have had an impulse or instinct to acknowledge, and worship, Someone higher than ourselves. I think that Aldous Huxley would have called this the "perennial philosophy." Atheists might think of this as a pathology to be outgrown in time. But the awareness of this Being does not come from observations, calculations, and deductions. It comes from our intuitive depths. And it must be expressed. We can only express a devotion using the tools at our disposal: culture, world view, our own rational/emotional make-up, etc. The expressions come out looking different; Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc. If we can just acknowledge that underlying source of religion, we can talk to each other.
Post by catholic engineer has multiple instances of the Argumentum ad Ignorantiam fallacy.
Is that the one where someone uses lots of words but no facts to defend the status quo, in this case to continue to believe in childish superst!tions?
To our Falacy Spotter 101: I suggest you keep on with the spotting. It will keep you from having to look at yourself. If your like any other human, you think one thing in the morning and unthink it in the afternoon. You "reason" a good course of action, then your gut feel emotions take you the other way. You think you want something. When you get it, is doesn't satisy. A mass of conflicting emotions and thoughts. Theoretical fallicies are interesting, but its the real ones that cause problems.
HotAirAce: I think Huxley was an atheist. This should help you pay more attention to him.
I guess that catholic liar didn't like being uncovered as a filthy catholic liar. How typical.
Huxley was into many things including drugs, mysticism and Hinduism. If he ended up an atheist, invalidating his earlier beliefs (that you seem to agree with), that just means less stock should be put into them. All in all, I see no reason to worship at his feet, or even take much notice of his personal views in the 21st century