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Polling the Jihad
November 20, 2006 11:00 AM   Subscribe

What Makes a Muslim Radical? Gallup polls 9000 Muslims in 9 countries and separates the Moderates from the Radicals. Most of the results are counter to "Conventional Wisdom". The most important stuff is on the last page of 5, including the methodology for deciding who was radical and who was moderate (in small print). Let's all get out our copies of How to Lie With Statistics and see if this survey is fatally flawed, shall we?
posted by wendell (42 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
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.

Hmmm...
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on November 20, 2006


IMO, basing the definitions on one "Was 9/11 Justified?" question was probably not enough and it would've been a lot more useful if they showed all the responses to "What can the West do?" (Were they given "Convert to Islam" and "Die" as response choices?) The Education and Income distributions on Page 2 are interesting, but too oversimplified to be really useful. And does the fact that "radicals" are more optimistic than "moderates" mean what the pollster thinks it means? Needs more detail. Per HtLWS, these results conceal as much as they reveal.
posted by wendell at 11:14 AM on November 20, 2006


There appears to be very little difference in response to any of the questions.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 11:16 AM on November 20, 2006


...which appears to be the poll's most relevant conclusion.

(Must. Resist. Urge. To. Self-Moderate.)
posted by wendell at 11:24 AM on November 20, 2006


Gallup polls 9000 Muslims in 9 countries and separates the Moderates from the Radicals.

exactly what are the odds that ANY of the 9000 people that were called would be actual participants in terrorist groups? ... and if they were, why would they answer the questions honestly?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:52 AM on November 20, 2006


Since when does the discovery of no statistically significant difference between two populations constitute news? I guess it is when a researcher wants to demonstrate homogeneity between those populations. Color me unimpressed.

Now, if they'd focused less on variables like education and general attitudes toward the west and more on things that really matter to Muslims, like, say the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the war in Iraq or the relationship between shariah and civil law, this might have been a story worth reading.
posted by felix betachat at 11:52 AM on November 20, 2006


What Makes a Muslim Radical?

Street luge.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:59 AM on November 20, 2006 [6 favorites]


Street luge

Sorry man, in my hood, it seems to be tight black tee-shirts with English writing on them. The other day, I was passed on the street by a very grim looking fellow with the words "Soft and Tender Lover" in faux-spray paint across his chest. Now that's radical.
posted by felix betachat at 12:03 PM on November 20, 2006


What Makes a Muslim Radical?

Sweet shades, cool threads and a way with the ladies. Awwwwwww yeah.
posted by owenkun at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2006


So, you split a population into two groups and ask them a bunch of questions. The answers are largely the same (unless the sample size is a pretty good size, those differences are mostly insignificant). So you have to ask, was the split incorrect or do the two groups hold the same opinions and background? They did not seem to address that question. I'd say either they are either fantasically bad at surveys, intentionally misleading us or did a bum survey and refuse to "lost" the investment on it. All bad.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:17 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


err, "lose"
posted by Bovine Love at 12:18 PM on November 20, 2006


I think the question was a relatively good one for distinguishing the two groups. The results suggest that religiosity, income and feelings of hopelessness are not the causes of radicalization. Which is significant, because it is indeed contrary to conventional wisdom.
posted by jimmy76 at 12:35 PM on November 20, 2006


Ham.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:38 PM on November 20, 2006


things that really matter to Muslims, like, say the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the war in Iraq or the relationship between shariah and civil law, this might have been a story worth reading.

I gotta agree with felix on this. The survey was interesting, as far as it went, which was really not very far at all. Other question might have actually said something, I think the shariah one in particular would have been fascinating.
posted by OmieWise at 12:41 PM on November 20, 2006


Could you design one question that would characterise a Christian radical?
posted by dangerousdan at 12:51 PM on November 20, 2006


jimmy76 : "I think the question was a relatively good one for distinguishing the two groups."

Depends very, very much on what you think "moderates" and "radicals" are. If you are going to classify as "moderate" only those Muslims completely pro-West, then the question makes sense. On the other hand, one can probably be a moderate in some senses (supporting separation of Church and State in Muslim countries, for instance) but being against the US and in favor of hurting it and its citizens in every way possible. If you look at the situation in Iraq, you can't really equate "moderate" and "pro-US" (actually, since the collaborator executing and kidnapping business seems to be going wholesale now, soon you will be able to equate "pro-US" and "dead"). I bet the resistance is full of religiously moderate Muslims.
posted by nkyad at 1:14 PM on November 20, 2006 [2 favorites]


I wonder how well this kind of thing would go with Christians in 9 different nations and whether or not the invasion of Iraq was justified?
posted by srboisvert at 1:18 PM on November 20, 2006


What Makes a Muslim Radical?

Unpaired koranic electrons?
posted by lalochezia at 1:26 PM on November 20, 2006 [5 favorites]


lalochezia wins.
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on November 20, 2006


lalochezia wins.
(Sorry. I honestly TRIED to stop Self-Moderating this thread.)
posted by wendell at 1:41 PM on November 20, 2006


lalochezia :
"What Makes a Muslim Radical?
"Unpaired koranic electrons?"


Does this mean that a well-orchestrated health campaign to increase consumption of vitamins C and E by Muslims would eventually lead to peace?
posted by nkyad at 1:46 PM on November 20, 2006


> What Makes a Muslim Radical?
Unpaired koranic electrons?


But are they free radicals?
posted by mystyk at 1:58 PM on November 20, 2006


What Makes a Muslim Radical?

Two parts date wine to one part orange juice with a dash of bitters.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:01 PM on November 20, 2006


Someone try the veal. Please.
posted by Fupped Duck at 2:20 PM on November 20, 2006


Dear Mr. Bush,

I have grown concerned with rumors regarding 'free radicals' in our country. Why are they still free, if they are so radical? Please dispatch the DHS to kill and/or torture them.

Thanks,
me
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:24 PM on November 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


BMX bikes
posted by b1tr0t at 2:50 PM on November 20, 2006


I tried the veal. Don't do it.
posted by wendell at 2:58 PM on November 20, 2006


Does it say anywhere how high the percentage of "radicals" is among the respondents?
posted by sour cream at 3:07 PM on November 20, 2006


Ali Eteraz argues against the term "moderate muslim" on his often-interesting blog.
posted by edlundart at 3:26 PM on November 20, 2006


Jose Padilla also rules Iraq
posted by homunculus at 5:23 PM on November 20, 2006


John L. Esposito, one of the authors of the study is a phenomenally smart guy and balanced unlike many of the anti-Arab/pro-Israel professors that get covered in the media these days.
posted by bhouston at 5:39 PM on November 20, 2006


Since when does the discovery of no statistically significant difference between two populations constitute news?

Heck, there's a whole journal dedicated to discoveries like that.
posted by moss at 5:59 PM on November 20, 2006


Self-honesty.
posted by HTuttle at 8:10 PM on November 20, 2006


worst pseudo-poll ever. 100% meaningless. no offense to the OP, maybe that was the point.
posted by facetious at 8:15 PM on November 20, 2006


I'm not surprised for two reasons : people are people, and their ain't much diffrence between the christianity/islam built up & maintained by the good people, and the christianity/islam exploited for power by the evil.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:20 PM on November 20, 2006


Could you design one question that would characterise a Christian radical?

Sure:

Please choose the answer that best reflects your beliefs.

Jesus is:
a) the Son of God, who died to redeem humanity of sin.
b) just another iteration of the deity-made-flesh and scapegoat archetypes.
c) back, pissed, and currently sitting out on the sun porch cleaning the guns.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:16 AM on November 21, 2006


His or her knowledge of square roots?
posted by muppetboy at 7:49 AM on November 21, 2006


Wait a second, so the sqrt of a Muslin must be positive, right? Or else that Muslim is imaginary?
posted by Talanvor at 8:02 AM on November 21, 2006


Needs more detail

What a misleading essay.

I find it bold that the authors would write, "But those theories are wrong" instead of something less leading. It seems we shouldn't trust these authors from the first paragraph. Or at least be wary of what they are about to show us.

Way to waste all that time interviewing 9000 muslims Gallup. The effort could have produced something useful, but I don't see it in this essay.
posted by wiggles at 8:27 AM on November 21, 2006


Since when does the discovery of no statistically significant difference between two populations constitute news?

It's called affirming the null hypothesis. Affirming a null hypothesis can be newsworthy if it overturns conventional wisdom. For example, conventional wisdom says that Muslim radicals should have more religiosity than Muslim moderates, but the Gallup study shows that there is no statistically significant difference. Thus, religiosity cannot explain Muslim radicalism. This is a newsworthy finding in and of itself.
posted by jonp72 at 8:28 AM on November 21, 2006


I don't have enough information either to praise or to bury this survey. The Foreign Policy article appears to based on a Gallup study summarized in the press release here, but the press release does not go into as much depth about methodology as I would like.

Unfortunately, the Foreign Policy seems to have mischaracterized how the Gallup study defined "radical." According to the press release, "Classified as political radicals were those who met the following criteria: 1) they felt the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were "completely justified," and 2) they indicate that they have an "unfavorable" or "very unfavorable" opinion of the United States. Those who did not say the attacks were completely justified were termed
moderates." The Foreign Policy article states that approximately 1000 Muslims were surveyed in nine different countries, which means a total sample of about 9000. Unfortunately, the press release states that ten countries were surveyed. Since the percentages quoted in the Foreign Policy article and the Gallup press release are different, it appears that the Foreign Policy article excludes one of the "ten countries" that were generically referred to in the press release.

The press release states that about 7% of the sample were classified as radical Muslims. That would make approximately 630, if we assume that 9000 Muslims are in the sample as a whole. In order to make comparisons between radicals and moderates, we need to calculate margins of error for both subgroups. Using this handy-dandy applet for calculating sampling error, I get 3.9% for the radical Muslim group (assuming 630 Muslims with a 95% confidence interval) and 1.1% for the 8370 moderate Muslims left over. If we add the two sampling errors, we get 3.9%+1.1% =5.0%. (If we assume a sample of 10,000 Muslims, the sum of the sampling errors only drops to 4.7%.) Based on this crude back-of-the-envelope calculation, it's probably best to focus on differences between radicals and moderates only if they exceed 5%. I may have erred in calculating this, but if you check my math and reasoning, my errors are generally on the side of being more conservative in making inferences.

So what is the implication of the margins of error for what we can conclude about Muslim radicals vs. moderates:

*We have no statistically significant differences in religiosity between radicals and moderates. And if there are significant differences, they are too small to be of substantive factual significance. In other words, religiosity can't explain Muslim radicalism.

*Moderates are more likely than radicals to have only a primary school education. Thus, lack of education cannot be the cause of Muslim radicalism.

*Radicals are less likely to have low or very low income than moderates. Thus, individual exposure to poverty is not the cause of Muslim radicalism, even though some Muslim radicals might be motivated by poverty among the Muslim masses. (Note: A low income can be just as easily the consequence of radical beliefs instead of its cause. Radicals may be too uncompromising to be gainfully employed, but instead prefer to work full-time for the cause.)

*Radicals are more likely to say they will be "better off" in the next five years. Thus, hopelessness or pessimism cannot be used to explain Muslim radicalism.

*Radicals and moderates are equally likely to say that they admire the West for its liberty and freedom of speech. In addition, radicals were more likely than moderates to agree with the statement, "moving toward greater democracy will help Arab/Muslim societies’ progress." Thus, Muslim radicalism cannot be explained by how "they hate our freedom."

Unfortunately, the Foreign Policy article isn't as enlightening as the press release in explaining where the real differences between Muslim radicals and moderates lie. Here's the section of the press release that I found most interesting:

Overall, residents of the Muslim countries studied tended to mistrust the intentions of the United States toward their region -- but the radical group was somewhat more likely to do so than the moderate masses. The radicals were more likely to feel that the U.S. invasion of Iraq did more harm than good, less likely to agree that the United States was serious about supporting democracy in the region, and less likely to trust that the United States will allow people in the region to fashion their own political futures.

Perhaps most telling is the fact that, in response to the open-ended question, "What is your greatest fear?", the most frequent response among political radicals was "occupation/U.S. domination," while among moderates, it was concern about economic issues.


This suggests to me that the main difference between Islamic radicals and moderates is not ignorance, lack of education, poverty, hopelessness, religious zeal, or hatred of Western freedoms, but that the radicals are more likely to be bothered by the role of the United States in the Middle East. How strange that the article in Foreign Policy magazine focused so little attention on actual Muslim views about foreign policy!
posted by jonp72 at 9:23 AM on November 21, 2006


I don't see how page 5 reveals anything noteworthy. If the Radicals are defined as those who thought 9/11 attacks were "completely justified", then it's not surprising that they also believe that the US should "refrain from interfering or imposing its beliefs and policies".
posted by Chomskyfied at 11:33 AM on November 21, 2006


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