Islamic Radicals and Moderates Not All That Different Says Poll

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A Bush Administration foreign policy shibboleth is that the US must encourage moderate Muslims. For example, in 2002, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz declared "To win the war against terrorism and, in so doing, help shape a more peaceful world, we must speak to the hundreds of millions of moderate and tolerant people in the Muslim world, regardless of where they live, who aspire to enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy and free enterprise. These are sometimes described as "Western values," but, in fact, they are universal." In September, President George W. Bush spoke of empowering the "voices of moderation" in the Middle East.

Foreign Policy
is reporting a poll of 9000 Muslims in 9 countries that finds that distinguishing moderates from radicals is not going to be easy. The poll identified moderates and radicals using a 5 point scale in which participants were asked if the 9/11 atrocities were justified or not. Moderates scored 1 to 2 points and radicals 4 to 5 points. The poll found that 92 percent of radicals and 91 percent of moderates said that religion was really important in their lives. Also, moderates were slighly more likely to have attended religious services in the past week. In addition, radicals were more highly educated and richer than moderates. Radicals were more hopeful about the future. Both admire the West for its technology (top response), but most surprisingly, both equally esteemed the West for its liberty (second most frequent response). What do they think the West should do to improve relations? Both moderates and radicals first choice was respect Islam. However, radicals next choice was for the West  to avoid imposing its policies and beliefs, while moderates yearned for economic development and jobs.

Respecting Islam is all fine and good, but respect is a two-way street. Muslim moderates must call on their governments to stop outlawing and persecuting believers in other faiths. While both moderates and radicals profess a love of liberty, it is not at all clear to me that they understand that liberty entails things like tolerance for those who differ from them, democratic elections, and an unfettered press that can criticize even their most deeply cherished beliefs. As far as I can tell from this poll, "moderate" does not equal "liberal" and that's a problem for both the Islamic world and the rest of us.


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  1. The poll found that 92 percent of radicals and 91 percent of moderates said that religion was really important in their live.

    Wouldn’t one think that 100 percent of radical muslims would say that religion is important in their lives. If it isn’t, can you really call yourself a radical Muslim?

  2. Wouldn’t one think that 100 percent of radical muslims would say that religion is important in their lives. If it isn’t, can you really call yourself a radical Muslim?

    Probably not. I imagine you’d have to chalk up that 8% discrepancy to either 1) people who are radical muslims but are defensive about it or 2) people who are not really radical muslims, but like thinking of themselves as radical “somethings”.

  3. “In addition, radicals were more highly educated and richer than moderates.”

    So much for Islamic terrorism being the result of poverty.

    “While both moderates and radicals profess of love of liberty, it is not at all clear to me that they understand that liberty entails things like tolerance for those who differ from them, democratic elections, and an unfettered press that can criticize even their most deeply cherished beliefs.”

    OH come on Ronald be fair. These people just want the liberty to behead proselytizing infidels, drop stone walls on homosexuals and put stone to death women who disgrace their families by allowing themselves to be raped.

  4. Look at how the poll defined whose radical and whose moderate:
    The poll identified moderates and radicals using a 5 point scale in which participants were asked if the 9/11 atrocities were justified or not. Moderates scored 1 to 2 points and radicals 4 to 5 points.

    Given their definition, it’s easy to see how a ‘radical’ might not also be religious.

  5. Ryo – Ah, yeah, good point.

  6. In an only slightly related note, has anyone seen the claims that the widely reported “burning of Sunni civilians” during Thanksgiving may have been bogus? Seriously… media frenzy I suppose.

    Michelle Malkin (def: sometimes tolerable often infuriating conservative) over at Townhall.com (def: Occasionaly interesting echo chamber) posted on it, and I’m interested to see if this story about a non-story gets any play.

    Fair warning: rest of the article is the standard rant on the media, which everyone has already heard, so only the first page is worth it, but by all means, if you want to hear the same thing said in a different way, read on.

  7. Still, one must distinguish between Muslim extremists and moderates.

    The one group wants to nuke America’s cities, kill all the men, sow its fields with salt, and sell the women and children into slavery.

    The extremists, on the other hand…

  8. The extremists, on the other hand…

    …are the ones who’ve convinced themselves that they have a shot at it.

  9. Both moderates and radicals first choice was respect Islam.

    I hereby declare that I will gice Islam the same amount of “respect” I give Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, Druids, Shinto followers, Wiccans, etc.

    That would be, hmmm, NONE AT ALL. That should make them happy.

  10. Make that give vice gice.

  11. J sub D

    I hope you will respect us Solipsists. [hmm – should that be plural?]

  12. Aresen, if I can’t prove you exist, how can I respect you?

  13. The poll found that 92 percent of radicals and 91 percent of moderates said that religion was really important in their lives. Also, moderates were slighly more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.

    Holy smokes!

    Ronald, you present this as though ‘religion being important’ and ‘practicing faith’ is somehow consonant with people who think blowing up civilians is consistent with their faith. Most do not. It’s not significant to your point.

    Religion isnt the point. It’s people who use their religion to provide cover for their radical political agenda (death to joos & crusaders). Two equally ‘faithful’ people can believe entirely opposite things.

    You just encourage people like the above J sub D, who has more in common with fundamentalists than average faithful people of any creed.
    JG

  14. J sub D.

    I don’t exist, so why are you arguing with me?

  15. Everyday, my dog farts Allah.

  16. You just encourage people like the above J sub D, who has more in common with fundamentalists than average faithful people of any creed.

    In that I am convinced there is no God, no intelligent designer, and that astrology is B/S, I guess I am a fundamentalist.

    Every religious sect/cult believs that the majority of the human race is wrong about God. On that point, I agree, but I also include them. I used to believe in God, Santa Claus too. I grew up. If it sounds condescending, too bad. I don’t walk up to strangers and try to convert them. Amazingly enough, strangers walk up to me and attempt to convert me, save my soul, whatever, on a fairly regular basis. I’m polite, but quickly end the conversation. I don’t have a need to reinforce my ego by converting others. And truly, I have no respect for any religion. It’s ALL bunk.

  17. J sub D: “Every religious sect/cult believs that the majority of the human race is wrong about God.”

    I think every human being believes the majority of the human race is wrong about most things.

    Seems like human nature to think we know something the rest of the idiots don’t.

  18. Gilmore: “Religion isnt the point. It’s people who use their religion to provide cover for their radical political agenda…”

    I would respectfully disagree with you there. I realize that such may be the prevailing opinion but if you think about it the only device that could possibly allow an otherwise sane person to, say, blow himself up in the middle of a crowded marketplace is that person’s willing abrogation of critical thought…something which is fostered (even demanded) by religion.

    “Two equally ‘faithful’ people can believe entirely opposite things.”

    Ah, you see my point then.

  19. I think every human being believes the majority of the human race is wrong about most things.

    I’ll go with that. Let me add that only a minority of the human race ever considers that they might be wrong themselves. I’m sometimes guilty of that.

  20. Religion isnt the point. It’s people who use their religion to provide cover for their radical political agenda (death to joos & crusaders).

    Since “death to Jews” is exactly what Islam prescribes, how is it “cover for a political agenda” for a Muslim to demand the death of Jews? First, Islam doesn’t admit any division between the religious and political realms. In Islam, they are unified. Second, religion isn’t a cover for anything, it’s the entire point of the thing. Failure to understand that point is why the Western powers have been ineffective at dealing with Islam.

  21. Bob: “Failure to understand that point is why the Western powers have been ineffective at dealing with Islam.”

    I don’t think it’s so much a failure to “understand” as it is an inability to speak the truth publicly. I’m sure that when Bush and Putin and Chirac are lying in bed with their wives (or, in Chirac’s case, with de Villepin) they don’t refer to Islam “one of the world’s great religions”.

  22. Lets try a poll with a 5 point scale for Christians and Jews in America: “Do you think that the Iraq war is justified?” If they answer 1 or 2, they’e a moderate American. If 4 or 5, then they’re a radical American. Sounds kinda silly, huh?

  23. Rick Barton

    Where does that leave us who give it a -1,000?

  24. Aresen,

    Then you’re a smart and principled American. Unless of course you’re a lefty, in which case smart is called into question and principled is out of the question

  25. As a former muslim, I’ve spent a lot of time in the company of moderates and still do.

    I remember the year after the september 11th attacks, my 10 yo cousin offered me his prize poster of the trade center towers burning, which he’d gotten from his uncle who lives in NYC… And he came from a quite moderate family… no headscarves, no beards…

    I think a previous poster pegged it right, the problem is not finding moderates, it’s finding liberals (small l)

    The article also gets right another thing about moderate muslims: they have very little understanding of how religion should operate in a mulit-religious democracy. They also have little understanding of the free press.

    I remember how many moderate muslims were outraged over the danish cartoon and said that “The West” should never have allowed their publication.

    unfortunately, liberal muslims have a voice as small as America’s liberal christians.

  26. “Then you’re a smart and principled American.”

    Actually, I’m Canadian. But I’ll take that as the compliment it was intended to be.

  27. Aresen,

    Oops. Kudos to you anyway, Eh! (I’m so multilingual.)

  28. religion isn’t a cover for anything, it’s the entire point of the thing. Failure to understand that point is why the Western powers have been ineffective at dealing with Islam.

    Relligion is important but not the entire thing. Look at mUslims in the US, for example. There is the little matter of blowback from continuing to occupy so much of the Middle East and not allowing them to make their own decisions about their destinies. Then there is the little problem of how easily all that oil wealth can be misused by leaders.

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