Extremism and Politics

Dan Wolf | Virginia Christian Alliance

In About that 1% on Extremists, we started to look what extremism means and some general attitudes within the Islamic world. This article will turn that discussion to focus on extremism and politics. Law and culture will be covered in the next article. We will use the same source information as before. First we are going to look at another general question asked of Muslims.

  • Do you consider yourself a national citizen first or a Muslim first.

Responses from six countries representing most of the regions in the survey are shown below.

Article12_Fig01Figure 1: Percentage of Muslims who consider themselves[1]

Not a single country in this survey put national citizenship ahead of being a Muslim. This should not be surprising. Muhammad’s teachings put the ties of religion above those of blood in tribal Arabia. Muslims are called to be followers of Islam first, and that is why Islam’s tenets matter. Within an Islamic country, there is little if any difference between being a Muslim or a national citizen as governance is based on Islamic principles. These matter, however, if you extrapolate this position to non-Muslim countries as Islamic governance is not only contrary to, but incompatible with, all other governance forms. For those who want to know more about this topic, please see Islam and Form of Governance and US Law and Shari’a.

Islam and Politics

Relevant survey results related to politics include:

  • Median % of Muslims who believe religious leaders should have a political influence.
  • % of Muslims who say religious leaders should have a large or some influence.
  • Median % of Muslims who prefer democracy over a strong leader.

The results are shown in the table below.

Article12_Fig02Even though not all regions were surveyed, the results still represent roughly 50 – 70% of the population. This should not be surprising. Within Islam the church and state are one. All is Islam, therefore religious leaders should have an influence over all society’s aspects; including not only politics, but law, governance, civics, culture, the military, etc. as well. More about this later with culture.

The democracy result is interesting. Generally, when I have had a political discussion with a Muslim, the line of reasoning goes something like this: they do not have freedom in (insert a country here) because the leader at the top is corrupt, we need to replace the leader with someone who is not corrupt, then that country will have freedom. We use the same word, freedom, but it does not have the same meaning. It does not represent the same idea.

Islam and Freedom

Within Judeo-Christian beliefs, freedom is a gift from God and necessary in fulfilling our purpose. We cannot be put into motion like inanimate objects and still fulfill our purpose of becoming good – like our God. Within Islam, the concept of Allah is built upon the works of Plotinus, particularly his Enneads. Allah has no being, no essence, no nature, but is instead nothing but pure will. Within this framework, there is no relationship possible between man and his Creator as He is inscrutable – unknowable.

According to Plotinus, freedom is the negation of a negative. It is what you have when you are not being coerced, because your normal state is not to be free but instead to be coerced.  Coerced by your Creator, His representatives on earth (the state and/or church), or whoever’s power you lie under – a slave. Verses from the Qur’an support this position, and two of those are shown below. This same notion of freedom is similar to all other forms of collectivism, the only difference is that with these other forms (communism, fascism, progressivism, or socialism) freedom comes solely from the state.

‘I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.’ (S 52.56)

‘There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes unto the Beneficent as a slave.’ (S19.93)

Both of the above are Meccan surahs, indicating that this view was a part of Islam from early on.

In western culture, in places like America which rely on a Judeo-Christian governance philosophy, our freedom comes from within – it does not come from the state. Within Islamic culture, freedom comes from without. This is one reason why creating a republic within an Islamic country will never work, its ideology is incompatible with freedom as we know it. It is also one reason why western culture is viewed as a threat to Islam. The morals expressed by much of today’s music, television programming, etc. in the west are also a threat to Islamic culture, as these same sources are a threat to us who live in the west; these cultural artistic expressions have become perversions of what should reflect our core values.

Religious Freedom

Another example on this last point comes from the survey. The median % of Muslims who say religious freedom is a good thing is shown in the table below.

Article12_Fig03The survey goes further to say ‘Medians {percentages) show Muslims who say non-Muslims in their country are very free to practice their religion and consider this a good thing.’[2] The numbers are very high across all regions. But is this true? Consider, non-Muslims are not free to build new churches/synagogues, repair existing ones, ring bells, or perform other overt acts of worship within these countries. In some instances it is even illegal to possess a Bible. Non-Muslim populations have dwindled to non-existence in many of these countries, and continue to grow smaller. In addition, non-Muslims do not share the same legal status as Muslims.

Instead, they are subjected to laws and cultural norms intended to humiliate them in an effort to force them to convert. Think this is not true? You might want to see the following video from an Islamic cleric on Islamic conversions. But the idea he expresses is not new, it comes from the dhimmitude practices that have been developed over the last thousand years (See The Abbasid Dynasty Part III, Dhimmitude). The non-Muslims who live in these countries must possess a level of devotion that we can only imagine.

Islam and Other Faiths

What is more correct to say is that within western culture, religious freedom means one is free to choose what religion they will follow – even if their choice is no religion at all. Within Islam, religious freedom is synonymous with any non-Muslim being free to choose Islam at any time they wish. To support that point, we can look at one final result from these surveys. The table below contains the % of Muslims who say they would be very/somewhat comfortable with a son or daughter marrying a Christian.

Article12_Fig04While over 90% of Muslims say religious freedom is a good thing, only a little over 10% would be comfortable with a son marrying someone from outside of Islam – specifically a Christian – and less than half of that figure would be comfortable if it were a daughter. In this case, freedom is not the freedom to choose from all things, but instead the freedom to choose one thing alone.

We will pick up the next article with law.

SOURCE: Extremism, Islam, and Politics

[1] Pew Research Center, How Muslims See Themselves and Islam’s Role, July 14, 2005. Other Pew Research Center surveys used in this article include Most Embrace a Role for Islam in Politics: Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah (December 2, 2010) and The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics, and Society (April 30, 2013).

[2] Pew Research Center, The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics, and Society, p.32, April 30, 2013..

About that 1% Being Extremists

Dan Wolf | Virginia Christian Alliance

We hear it repeatedly from the media, and also from some of our leaders. Extremists are a very small part of Islam, and the figure is normally put at about 1%. We further hear from some analysts that there are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today, so even 1% of that population is about 16 million people – and while that is a lot, it is still less than 5% of the entire US population.

But there are at least a couple of things missing from this conversation. First, what exactly is meant by extremist? Is it action or belief? Attitude or thought? Second, what is the 1% figure based upon? Is that assertion supported? Toward the first question, being an extremist is a relative term. There are likely some issues where I could view you as an extremist, and there are undoubtedly others where you could view me as an extremist as well. This label really doesn’t help very much in even determining what is extreme, let alone a solution. So let’s start with a definition. According to the dictionary an extremist is someone who carries something to excess. Seen from a Westerner’s perspective, that could be interpreted as adhering to a very literal meaning of Islam and its doctrines. For more information on Islam’s tenets and their development, see The First Caliphs and the Umayyad Dynasty and The Abbasid Dynasty – Part II.

What is Extremism?

The Pew Research Center asked Muslims ‘What is Islamic extremism?’ and obtained the following responses.[1]

Article11_Fig01Muslims themselves interpret this term differently. In the Middle East/North African countries it generally meant the violent removal of non-Muslim influences, but within non-Arabic countries it generally meant the imposition of Shari’ah law upon other Muslims. In addition, a large percentage in all of the countries above, except Jordan, declined to even respond to this question. From a Western perspective, both of these responses would likely be interpreted as Islamic extremism.

The Approach

This and the next article are going to take an initial step at providing some information relevant to both the initial questions posed above. My hope is that it will spark conversations for you with your friends, your families, and your co-workers. It is, after all, okay to disagree, but at least you should understand what it is that you agree or disagree about. Otherwise, how can we effectively ever solve a problem?

Pew Research Center survey results, whose subjects were Muslims from several parts of the world, will be used and extrapolated to Muslim populations in several regions. The specific topics incorporated are:

  • General Attitudes (This article)
  • Politics
  • Law
  • Culture, with a focus on women’s rights

Information on the last three topics will be presented in the next two articles. The Pew Research Center has been performing surveys of Muslim populations across the globe for over fifteen years. They have the experience to ask relevant questions, and have done it long enough to have some trend information available.

Our Common Humanity

Before we begin, there is one point that is critical to this discussion. The contents of these articles are not to say that Muslims are good or bad. It is the decisions that each one of us makes that determines our character and who we are. Instead their purpose is to examine Muslim opinion relevant to several aspects of Islam and society; it is Islam’s tenets that matter. Muslim opinion is shaped by Islam, so how consistent are those opinions with the foundations of our society? This is the discussion need to have. In the end the results of those discussions should determine what is extreme and what is not, and therefore how many people make up what is called the ‘1%’, and what our response as a people needs to be. Currently, it is a discussion we have yet to take up, and many of our leaders do not even want us to have.

We only need to use a couple of foundational principles for a baseline in these discussions to begin to understand the gulf that exists. These can be used to determine consistency or difference, and include:

  • We have a common ancestry, a common nature, and therefore the same rights. We are not equal in all ways, but as concerns our nature and rights – we are all unequivocally the same.
  • The institutions of the church and state, along with the family, were implemented by our Creator. The Church and State have separate domains, but both – just like the family – are to be oriented toward our Creator. This does not mean the State should be directly connected to any religion, but rather the belief and morality that underlie religion should carry over as an influence on those who govern. If not, man is only accountable to himself.

The Global Islamic Population

Let’s start by looking at the general Muslim population. We often assume that it is primarily Arabic, but that is not the case. If we look at the top 10 countries in terms of a Muslim population, they are:

Article11_Fig02The top five countries in this list account for about 48% of the world’s Muslim population, and only one of them is in North Africa or the Middle East. Further, only two of those ten are countries whose primary language is Arabic (Egypt and Algeria). In all only about 22% of the world’s Muslim population lives in countries within the Middle East or North Africa. Finally, with the exceptions of India and Ethiopia, the non-Muslim populations are the minority in these countries.

The surveys were all conducted in the Eastern Hemisphere and were broken into the following six regions:

  • Southern-Eastern Europe – including Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Russia.
  • Middle East – North Africa – the countries of the Arabian Peninsula and on the African continent along the Mediterranean Sea. These include Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa – all countries on the African continent, except those bordering the Mediterranean Sea. These include: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania.
  • Central Asia – including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Turkey.
  • South Asia – including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
  • Southeast Asia – including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The countries with the largest Muslim populations within each region were included in the surveys, which are The World’s Muslim Population: Religion, and Politics, and Society[2] and Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah.[3] The percentages are the median from a region or countries within the region. These percentages are applied to the Muslim population within the region, using 2010 Pew Research Center Muslim population estimates. Pew’s population estimates were compared to the 2008 CIA Handbook figures. Where significant population differences existed, the Pew Research Center population figures were consistently lower. The numbers are in millions. Dashes indicate a particular question was not asked in a region. Remember that 1% of the current Muslim population is about 16 million.

General Islamic Attitudes


The relevant questions asked in the survey were:

  • Is it necessary to believe in God to be a moral person?
  • How many faiths lead to heaven?
  • Converting others is a religious duty.

Article11_Fig03The above results should not be a surprise. Most Muslims believe that: (1) you need to believe in God to be moral, (2) that Islam is the only way of being obedient to God, and (3) you have a responsibility to reach out to others. These thoughts are typically held by any religion.

Faith and Culture

These next survey results concern Islam and things outside it. These are:

  • Percentage of Muslims who say Islam and Christianity are very different.
  • Percentage of Muslims who say all or most of their close friends are Muslims.
  • Percentage of Muslims who say Western music, movies, and TV hurt morality in their country.

Article11_Fig04It is interesting that the regions with the largest percentages saying that Islam and Christianity are different are those where a significant non-Muslim segment still exists (Indonesia in Southeast Asia and Bangladesh and India in South Asia). Those who see much less difference between the two religions are places where either: (1) there are almost no Christians (or other minority religions), or (2) a communist state has controlled the church for the last one hundred years.

It is not surprising that people living in areas where there are few non-Muslims have Muslims for most of their close friends. What is more interesting is that this trend continues in places where there other religions (Southern-Eastern Europe, South Asia, and Southeast Asia). A fair number of Muslims also view Western culture as a moral threat. The responses to all three of these questions all approach 1 billion people – out of 1.6 billion.

Terrorism Support

The final panel in this article looks at Muslim support for institutions and actions that are generally looked upon as terrorism in the West.

  • Percentage that view Hezbollah favorably.
  • Percentage that view Hamas favorably.
  • Percentage that say support for suicide bombing is often/sometimes justified.

Article11_Fig05While the support for these items is less, they still approach a half billion people for Hezbollah and Hamas, and a quarter billion people for suicide bombings – considerably more than 1%. I think that there is a common thread through these three items. Within the Muslim world Hezbollah and Hamas are viewed as charitable organizations. Islamic charitable organizations are not like their Western counterparts in some respects. Islamic charities can only expend funds in the support of Muslims, and then only in a few areas that include: (1) supporting the person collecting the funds, (2) supporting travelers – particularly those on the hajj, (3) supporting those in need – the poor, widows, and orphans, (4) payment of individual’s debts, and (5) jihad.

Jihad is much broader than we typically think of it in the West. It does include warfare (jihad of the sword), but also the more non-violent means of the hand (piety), mind (teaching), pen (writing), tongue (speaking), and wealth (resource use). Wealth in many Muslim majority countries is relatively concentrated in the hands of a few elite. Witness the building of mosques in the US financed by Saudi Arabia. This is no different than in any other collectivist society. It is just within Muslim majority countries that the elite are defined a little differently.

It is interesting to note that those places expressing the greatest support for Hezbollah and Hamas also express the largest support for suicide bombings. These are regions where there is generally a high concentration of Muslims in the general population, or where there is civil unrest or open warfare. Examples include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, and the Sudan.

The next article will pick up with looking at politics, law, and culture. Peace.

SOURCE: About That 1 Percent on Extremists

[1] The Pew Research Center, How Muslims See Themselves and Islam’s Role, July, 2005.

[2] The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics, and Society, April, 2013, .

[3] Pew Research Center, Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah: Most Embrace a Role for Islam in Politics, December, 2010.