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Furnish on Pew findings re: Islam

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

[ Charles Cameron presenting guest-blogger Timothy Furnish ]
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I’m delighted to welcome Dr Timothy Furnish as a guest-blogger here on Zenpundit. Dr Furnish has served as an Arabic linguist with the 101st Airborne and as an Army chaplain, holds a PhD in Islamic history from Ohio State, is the author of Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden (2005), and blogs at MahdiWatch. His extended piece for the History News Network, The Ideology Behind the Boston Marathon Bombing, recently received “top billing” in Zen’s Recommended Reading of April 24th.

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Does This Paint It Black, or Am I A Fool to Cry? Breaking Down the New Pew Study of Muslims
by Timothy R. Furnish, PhD
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Pew has released another massive installment of data from its research, 2008-2012, into Muslim attitudes, entitled “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society.” Over 38,000 Muslims in almost 40 countries were surveyed, thus constituting a survey both statistically sound and geographically expansive. Herewith is an analysis of that information and what seem to be its major ramifications.

The first section deals with shari`a, usually rendered simply as “Islamic law” but more accurately defined as “the rules of correct practice” which “cover every possible human contingency, social and individual, from birth to death” and based upon the Qur’an and hadiths (sayings and practices attributed to Muhammad) as interpreted by Islamic religious scholars (Marshal G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Vol 1: The Classical Age of Islam, p. 74). Asked “should sharia [as Pew anglicizes it] be the law of the land,” 57% of Muslims across 38 countries answered “yes” — including, most problematically for the US: 99% of Afghans, 91% of Iraqis, 89% of Palestinians, 84% of Pakistanis and even 74% of Egyptians. Should sharia apply to non-Muslims as well as Muslims? Across 21 countries surveyed on this question, 40% answered affirmatively — with the highest positive response coming from Egypt (its 74% exceeding even Afghanistan’s 61%). And on the question whether sharia punishments — such as whippings and cutting off of thieves’ hands — should be enacted, the 20-country average was 52%, led by Pakistan (88%), Afghanistan (81%), the Palestinian Territories [PT] (76%) and Egypt (70-%). On the specific penalty of stoning for adultery, the 20-country average was 51% — with, again, Pakistan (89%), Afghanistan (85%), the PT (84%) and Egypt (71%) highest in approval. Finally, 38% of Muslims, across those same 20 nations, support the death penalty for those leaving Islam for another religion.

Huge majorities of Muslims across most of these surveyed nations say that “it’s good others can practice their faith” — but Pew’s imprecise terminology on this topic makes possible that this simply mean many Muslims are willing to grant non-Muslims the tolerated, but second-class, ancient status of the dhimmi. Majorities, too, in most countries say that “democracy is better than a powerful leader;” however, the latter was actually preferred by most surveyed in Russia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as by 42% of Iraqis, 40% of Palestinians and 36% of Egyptians. Most Afghans, Egyptians and Tunisians (and even 1/3 of Turks) believe that “Islamic political parties” are better than other ones, although 53% of Indonesians and 45% of Iraqis are also worried about “Muslim extremists.” (Curiously, 31% of Malaysians are, on the other hand, worried about “Christian extremists” — although evidence of such existing in that country is practically non-existent.) There is good news on the question of suicide bombing, however: across 20 countries, only 13.5% think it is ever justified — although the support is much higher in the PT (40%), Afghanistan (39%) and Egypt (29%).

In terms of morality, large majorities in most Muslim countries (especially outside Sub-Saharan Africa) think drinking alcohol is morally repugnant, notably in Malaysia (93%), Pakistan and Indonesia (both 91%). Most Muslims in most countries surveyed consider abortion wrong, as well as pre- and extra-marital sex and, almost needless to say, homosexuality. (Although one wishes Pew had asked about mu`tah, or “temporary marriage” — a practice originally Twelver Shi`i which has increasingly become used by Sunnis.) Yet, simultaneously — following Qur’anic rubrics — some 30% of Muslims in 21 countries support polygamy, including almost half of Palestinians, 46% of Iraqis and 41% of Egyptians. There is also significant support for honor killings in not just Afghanistan and Iraq but also Egypt and the PT. Over ¾ of Muslims across 23 countries says that “wives must always obey their husbands:” an average of 77%. And Pew notes that there is a statistically very significant correlation between sharia-support and believing women have few(er) rights.

Asked whether they believed they were “following Muhammad’s example,” 75% of Afghans and 55% of Iraqis answered affirmatively — although most Muslims were not nearly so confident. On the question “are Sunni-Shi`i tensions a problem,” 38% of Lebanese, 34% of Pakistanis, 23% of Iraqis and 20% of Afghans said “yes.”

It is no surprise that huge majorities of Muslims in most surveyed countries believe that Islam is the only path to salvation, nor that most also say “it’s a duty to convert others” to Islam. It is somewhat counterintuitive, however, that many Muslims say they “know little about Christianity” — even in places with large Christian minorities, such as Egypt. Muslims in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most likely to agree that “Islam and Christianity have a lot in common,” and so are 42% of Palestianians, as well as some 1/3 of Lebanese and Egyptians. But only 10% of Pakistanis agree. Asked whether they ever engaged in “interfaith meetings,” many Muslims in Sub-Saharan Africa said that they did (with Christians), and a majority of Thais said likewise (albeit with Buddhists). But only 8% of Palestinians, 5% of Iraqis, and 4% of Egyptians said they ever do so—despite substantial Christian populations in each of those areas.

Regarding the question “are religion and science in conflict,” most Muslims said “no” — with the exceptions of Lebanon, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Turkey where over 40% in each country (and, actually, a majority in Lebanon) said that they were at loggerheads. Most Muslims also say they have no problems with believing in Allah and evolution — the exceptions being the majority of Afghans and Indonesians. Regarding popular culture, clear majorities of Muslims in many countries say they like Western music, TV and movies—but, at the same time, similar majorities say that such things undermine morality (although Bollywood less so than Hollywood).

Observations:

1) The high degree of support for sharia is the red flag here. Contra media and adminstration (both Obama and Bush) assurances that most Muslims are “moderate,” empirical data now exists that clearly shows most Muslims, in point of fact, support not just sharia in general but its brutal punishments. Perhaps just as disturbing, almost four in ten Muslims are in favor of killing those who choose to follow another religion. And countries in which the US is heavily involved either diplomatically or militarily (or both) are the very ones where such sentiments run most high: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories. So are the “extremists” these very Muslims who want to follow, literally, the Qur’an and hadiths? Messers Brennan, Holder and Obama have some explaining to do.

2) Afghanistan would appear to be a lost cause. Afghans are at the top of almost every list in support for not just sharia, suicide bombing, honor killing and — ironically (or perhaps not) — confidence that they are emulating Islam’s founder, as well as dislike for democracy. In light of this clear data, two points about Afghanistan become clear: tactically, ostensible American befuddlement as to the causes of “green on blue” attacks and the continuing popularity of the Taliban in Afghanistan appears as willful ignorance; strategically, the US decision to stay there after taking out the al-Qa`ida [AQ] staging, post-9/11, and attempt to modernize Afghanistan was a huge, neo-Wilsonian mistake. 2014 cannot come soon enough.

3) In some ways Islam in Southeastern Europe, and to a lesser extent in Central Asia, seems to be a more tolerant brand of the faith than the Middle Eastern variety. For example, the SE European and Central Asian Muslims are the least likely to support the death penalty for “apostasy,” and the most supportive of letting women decide for themselves whether to veil. And Muslims in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most likely to know about Christianity, and to interact with Christians. On the other hand, African Muslims are among the most enamored of sharia, and Central Asian ones fond of letting qadis (Islamic judges) decide family and property disputes. So there does not seem to be a direct link between Westernization and moderation; in fact, the influence of Sufism — Islamic mysticism — in the regard needs to be correlated and studied (beyond what Pew did on the topic in last year’s analysis).

4) One bit of prognostication based on this data: Malaysia may be the next breeding ground of Islamic terrorism. It’s home to some 17 million Muslims (61% of its 28 million people), who hold a congeries of unsettling views: 86% want sharia the law of the land; 67% favor the death penalty for apostasy; 66% like sharia-compliant corporal punishments; 60% support stoning for adultery; and 18% think suicide bombing is justified. PACOM, SOCOM and the intelligence agencies need to ramp up hiring of Malay linguists and analysts.

5) Finally, some words for those — like FNC’s Megyn Kelly and Julie Roginsky (on the former’s show “American Live,” 4/30/13) — who pose a sociopolitical and moral equivalence between Muslim support for sharia and Evangelical Protestant Christian support for wives’ obedience to husbands: that’s a bit too much sympathy for the devil. Yes, Evangelical Christian pastors hold some pretty conservative views of the family, as per a 2011 Pew study of them; for example, 55% of them do agree that “a wife must always obey her husband” (compared to 77% of Muslims). And, ironically, many such Evangelicals agree in large measure with Muslims on issues such as the immorality of alcohol, abortion and homosexuality. However, one searches in vain for any Evangelical (or other) Christian support for whippings, stonings, amputation of thieves’ limbs, polygamy or suicide bombing.

Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, numbering some 1.6 billion humans (behind only Christianity’s 2.2 billion). There is, thus, enormous diversity of opinion on many issues of doctrine and practice, and essentializing Islam as either “peaceful” or “violent” is fraught with peril. Nonetheless, this latest Pew study provides empirical evidence that many — far too many — Muslims cling to a literalist, supremacist and indeed brutal view of their religion. Insha’allah, this will change eventually — but time is not necessarily on our side.

Three from the avatar… Aaron Zelin

Friday, November 16th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — keeping up with Aaron Zelin on a good day can be quite a feat — this post has taken me a few days to write! ]
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Let’s start with this avatar business. I picked it up from Gregory Johnsen, who applied the term in a tweet a few days ago to Aaron Zelin:

I chuckled at the description and RT’d Johnsen’s tweet at the time — but a day later the full force of the words “more than just a high producing avatar” came back to me, when I took a look at the things I wanted to pass along here on Zenpundit from that day’s haul, and found that three of them came via Aaron.

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First up on the 14th: Aaron’s own post on Foreign Policy‘s Middle East Channel, Maqdisi’s disciples in Libya and Tunisia.

This featured the Benghazi and Tunisian groups that share the name Ansar al-Sharia (ASB and AST), and points to the idea that:

much of the scope of their activities lies outside violence. A large-portion of the activities of these groups is local social service provision under their particular dawa (missionary) offices. This broader picture is crucial to better understanding emerging trends in societies transitioning from authoritarian to democratic rule.

This emphasis, Aaron suggests, derives from the writings of Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi:

One of the main critiques Maqdisi presents, and hopes to create a course correction within the jihadi movement, is his differentiation between the idea of qital al-nikayya (fighting to hurt or damage the enemy) and qital al-tamkin (fighting to consolidate ones power), which he expounds upon in his book Waqafat ma’ Thamrat al-Jihad (Stances on the Fruit of Jihad) in 2004. Maqdisi argues the former provides only short-term tactical victories that in many cases do not amount to much in the long-term whereas the latter provides a framework for consolidating an Islamic state. In this way, Maqdisi highlights the importance of planning, organization, education, as well as dawa (calling individuals to Islam) activities.

Finally, Aaron places ASB (Benghazi) and AST (Tunisia) in the wider context of Islamist movements, both Sunni and Shia, writing:

By providing charity, care, and aid ASB and AST are acting similarly in their operations (though should not be confused for allies with or having ideological connections) to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Providing social services has provided leverage for these groups to gain wider popularity and support within the local community.

For more detailed discussion of Maqdisi, Aaron points us to Joas Wagemaker‘s essay, Protecting Jihad: The Sharia Council of the Minbar al-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad.

By my count, therefore, we now have at least five tendencies to think about: (i) politically engaged Islamists, such as the Brotherhood and the Ennahda movement, (ii) jihadists who hope to topple the “near” enemy, ie local despotic rulers of Muslim-majority states, (iii) jihadists who hope first to cripple the “far” enemy, following bin Laden‘s doctrine, (iv) jihadists in the wake of Abu Musab al-Suri‘s nizam, la tanzim (system, not organization), with its implication of decentralized jihad and leaderless resistance, and (v) the distinctive approach to jihad that Aaron discusses, in which al-Maqdisi’s theories are implemented:

ASB and AST do not buy into the democratic process and in spite of it are attempting to consolidate their future Islamic State one small act of charity at a time.

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Second, Aaron’s Jihadology blog the same day hosted a fascinating piece by Jack Roche, a former member of Jama’ah Islamiyyah, titled The Indonesian Jama’ah Islamiyyah’s Constitution (PUPJI).

One point of interest to me here was a version of the well-known “saved sect” hadith, which has been specifically viewed as referring to al-Qaida on occasion:

It was narrated from ‘Awf bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah said: “The Jews split into seventy-one sects, one of which will be in Paradise and seventy in Hell. The Christians split into seventy-two sects, seventy-one of which will be in Hell and one in Paradise. I swear by the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad, my nation will split into seventy-three sects, one of which will be in Paradise and seventy-two in Hell.” It was said: “O Messenger of Allah who are they?” He said: “Al Jama‘ah – The main body.” (Sunan Ibnu Majah 3992).

I’d seen versions of the hadith in which it is promised that one Islamic sect will endure to the end and be worthy of paradise, but I’m not sure I’d ever seen this version, with one Jewish and one Christian sect similarly treated.

I imagine the “three” sects are in fact the “one” sect of those who, in the different Abrahamic traditions, have remained faithful to the one truth taught by all the prophets from Moses via Jesus to Muhammad – but might there be some Christians faithful to this day, as is perhaps suggested by Qur’an 5.82 —

The nearest to the faithful are those who say “We are Christians.” That is because there are priests and monks among them and because they are free of pride.

The first part of that verse, be it noted, is less than flattering regarding the Jews…

Again, this post of Roche’s lead me to another source, in this case Nasir Abas‘ book, Exposing Jama’ah Islamiyah. This presumably belongs on the mental shelkf next to Muhammad Haniff Hassan‘s Unlicensed to Kill: Countering Imam Samudra’s Justification for the Bali Bombing [both links are to free, downloadable e-books].

There is much reading to be done…

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Last, to return to the matter of Twitter, there was Aaron’s response to an FBI announcement —

The FBI tweet actually came after they had made the announcement Aaron was responding to, but his critique still stands…

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There may be some flattery in this post, but if so, it’s not Aaron’s fault; there’s certainly a sincere compliment intended from my side. But what this post really is — and the length of time it’s taken me to write this has made the timing right — is a “Follow Friday” #FF for @azelin on Twitter, and the articles and resources his twitter feed will lead you to.

consider Aaron a friend in the digital way of things, but my point here is point you towards him if you do not already follow him, and to raise just a few of the issues that struck me in reading just one day’s worth of his output.


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