Muslims More Religious Than Others?

Proclamation of faith in Arabic

According to CNN and a survey by Ipos-Mori, Muslims overall tend to be more committed to their faith  than any other religious group and consider Islam to be a more significant part of their daily lives. The survey was carried out in 24 countries, of which three (Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Turkey) have Muslim majorities.

According to the CNN piece, one reason for this stronger commitment stems from the current global political atmosphere. Increasingly, Muslims are defining themselves against a negative perception of the West. Thus, they view Islam as the only viable path towards salvation. Moreover, the article maintains that this sentiment has increased in a post-9/11 world.

Secondly, Islam is linked to state institutions, namely the education system. The argument is that religion is ingrained early on through education. Two countries that the survey identifies as having a strong link between religion and state institutions are Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

A final reason is that Muslims feel a deep personal relationship with the Prophet Muhammad. He is not just a figure, he is the main role model that all Muslims try to emulate, no matter where they are in the world. They also harbor an intense love and admiration for him.

Even though this survey suggests that Muslims are more religious, it does not say that this is something to be feared or that Muslims cannot be loyal citizens. On the contrary, the survey found that Muslims are more likely to say that religion motivates them to do good works. Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York argues that Muslims who are more thoroughly grounded in their religion are more informed and thus able to recognize deviations in interpretations. In other words, increased religious commitment does not lead to violence but may in fact act as a deterrent.

In regards to national commitment, another recent poll conducted in the United Kingdom by Demos, actually found that British Muslims have a greater sense of national pride than their non-Muslim counterparts. Moreover, it found that British Muslims are more optimistic about Britain’s future than other British citizens. Moreover, a recent Gallup poll found that Muslims in America are among the most patriotic religious groups, if not the most patriotic.

The problem with this kind of survey, which seeks to determine the level of adherence to a faith, is that in the context of Western nations this often carries with it the implicit assumption that increased religious commitment means less loyalty to the nation. This is especially true when it relates to Muslims. Furthermore, this assumption does not extend to other groups so that increased Christian religious commitment, for example, means they are less patriotic, even though a study by the Pew Research Center found that in fact American Christians are more likely than European Christians to identify themselves with their faith before their nationality. Even with results like this, the question on patriotism is not posed like it is for Muslims. The fact that a question on Muslim patriotism lingers in the background makes the results of the Ipsos-Mori survey problematic.

On the other hand, while there are problems with these kinds of surveys, they do offer some insight into how Muslims identify themselves. Of course, the survey conducted by Ispos-Mori is not representative of the worldwide Muslim population; but it at least asks Muslims to talk about their own religious commitment rather than having others speak for them. With increasing Islamophobia, just hearing Muslims’ voices about their own understanding of their identity and faith can be important.

What do you think about the Ipsos-Mori survey? Do you agree with the results? Do these kinds of surveys provide useful information? Do you think increased religious commitment is something to be feared? Is it more fearful for Muslims as opposed to other groups? Please share your thoughts below.

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