Thursday, November 30, 2006

Moderate Muslims

[posted by Callimachus]

Courtesy of Ali Eteraz, I learn of this fascinating survey of Muslims.

They sorted them out into "moderates" and "radicals" using a crude, but probably effective, fork:

Respondents who said 9/11 was unjustified (1 or 2 on a 5-point scale, where 1 is totally unjustified and 5 is completely justified) are classified as moderates. Respondents who said 9/11 was justified (4 or 5 on the same scale) are classified as radicals. The data for this poll were obtained during 2005-06 from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. Approximately 1,000 in-home interviews were conducted in each country. The sampling mix of urban and rural areas is the statistical equivalent of surveying each nation’s adult population, with a statistical sampling error rate of +/- 3 percent.

The survey also asked whether "Religion [is] an important part of your daily life" and whether you "Attended religious service in last 7 days."

To both questions, slightly more moderates than radicals answered "yes." Surprised? I was.

Radicals had better education (44% secondary school-through-university, opposed to 38% for moderates). They reported more likely to have "above average or very high" incomes. And they were more optimistic: 53% thought they would be "better off" in 5 years, as opposed to 44% of moderates.

But it's also possible to look at the survey's margin of error and see that most of the differences of opinion and behavior between radicals and non-radicals fall within it. Moderates and radicals seem to view the West about the same, both in what they find to admire (technology, followed by democracy) and what they think it needs to do better ("respect Islam," "refrain from imposing beliefs").

What does it mean? The difference between Islamic radicals and moderates -- except that the radicals are richer and better-educated -- seems to lie outside the scope of the questions asked, which were the ones I generally assumed separated one class from the other.

Or else there's really not important distinction between them except how they choose, or are compelled by quirks of personality, to act on their faith.