god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Christopher Hitchens is a good polemicist and it shows in his book. This is not a book presenting research or theological discussion, but it does present forceful arguments against religion and the religious.

First of all, I like the title god is not Great which alludes to the Arabic Allahu Akbar (God is Great).

Secondly, Christopher Hitchens is a polemicist by his own admission and one should keep that in mind while reading this book. This is not an analysis of religion (going over its evolutionary origins for example) or even a high-minded atheist response to religion like The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

Keeping that in mind, I actually liked god is not Great. Hitchens is a good writer. He knows how to turn a phrase and his allusions to literature references were also clever and interesting.

His case against religion is flawed but not completely wrong. There are lots of bad and evil things the religious and organized religion have done or condoned. Despite all those issues, I think we can only say that religion does not make one better or worse. This in itself is a major indictment of religion.

However, as discussed in Religion Explained, religion and religious beliefs have natural evolutionary origins and arise out of how our mind works. So religion is here to stay. Even people who do not consider themselves religious usually have beliefs that can be classified as religion.

You can read some excerpts from the book on Slate.

When I was reading god is not Great, I decided to live-blog (or live-forum) it at UrduWeb.

عید مبارک

آپ سب کو عید مبارک۔

کہیں کل عید تھی۔ کچھ جگہوں پر آج عید ہے۔ کہیں کل ہو گی اور کہیں شاید اتوار کو بھی ہو۔ اس ساری کنفیوژن میں میں یہ بھول ہی گیا ہوں کہ ہم عید کب منا رہے ہیں۔ خیر عید اسی ویک‌اینڈ پر ہے۔ سو آپ سب کو عید مبارک۔

اس بار عنبر نے عید پر مشیل کے لئے غرارہ بنایا ہے اور اسے مہندی بھی لگائی ہے۔ میشل نے چوڑیاں بھی لی ہیں اپنے فیورٹ جامنی رنگ کی۔

اتوار کو ہم نے دوست یاروں کو دعوت پر بلایا ہوا ہے۔ امید ہے اچھا شغل رہے گا۔

کچھ روابط: اسلامی کیلنڈر اور چاند دیکھنا ، چاند نظر آنے سے متعلق دنیا کا نقشہ ، چاند نظر آنے سے متعلق ایک اور سائٹ ۔

It’s Eid today in some areas while others will celebrate it tomorrow. There might even be Eid on Sunday somewhere while Nigeria celebrated Eid yesterday. In all this confusion, I have forgotten when we are celebrating it. Anyway, it’s this weekend. So, a Happy Eid to everyone!

For the occasion, Amber has sewn a gharara for Michelle and done some henna designs on her hands. Michelle also bought some bangles, in purple of course since that’s her favorite color.

On Sunday, we are having some friends over for an Eid dinner.

UPDATE: Some links related to the Islamic calendar and moonsighting: US Naval Observatory’s page on the topic, Moonsighting curves on world map and another moonsighting calculation site. Also, see Robert Van Gent’s page on lunar visibility.

رمضان اور روش ہشانا مبارک

آج سے روزے شروع ہو گئے ہیں۔ رمضان مبارک۔ اور روش ہشانا یعنی نیا سال بھی مبارک۔

آج یہاں پہلا روزہ تھا۔ آپ سب کو رمضان مبارک ہو۔

ساتھ ہی آج عبرانی کیلنڈر کے نئے سال کا آغاز ہوا۔ آپ کو روش ہشانا بھی مبارک ہو۔ Shana Tova!

Angry Arab in Pakistan

The Angry Arab visits Pakistan and writes about lizards in his inimitable style. All his posts about Pakistan are worth reading.

The Angry Arab went to Pakistan a couple of months ago as a speaker at the International Islamic University. His blog posts about the visit were amusing and interesting. His experience of running scared from the lizards so common in Pakistan was especially funny.

Here is a list of his posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.

Here are some of his concluding remarks about Pakistan:

Prior to my departure to Islamabad, my kind host called me from Pakistan and strongly urged me (for my own safety) to refrain from ever using the words “atheist” or “secular” or “communist.” Just to make sure I get the point, he always wrote to me making the same point. The political climate there was more liberalized than I expected: it is not that I met people who were critical of Musharraf. I did not meet any one who was NOT critical of Musharraf. But the liberalized political climate did not extend to the Islam question. I strongly felt that there was excessive obsession with Islam in a country that is overwhelmingly Islamic in religious affiliation. The term of reference was so Islamic in conversations and media that I was ready to embrace the secularism of the Turkish generals. It was always assumed that everybody was Islamic. After one talk, which coincided with the prayer time, my host quickly whisked me away because he did want the audience to notice that I don’t pray. I was quite bothered with the too many headlines and news items in Urdu newspapers about Salman Rushdie. Is this really the urgent matter of the day with the country suffering from extreme poverty and a military government? And in my Arabic talk at the Usul Ad-Din College, I made a side mocking remark against Ayman Adh-Dhawahiri, and I noticed in people’s faces that they were not pleased with that one remark, although they were quite pleased with my talk about the study of Islam. And I once was pissed. I am VERY bothered when somebody—anybody—tries to suggest that Palestine is an Islamic cause or question. One member of the audience in one talk said just that. I had to tell him: Islamic matter? You think that Palestinian Christians care less about Palestine than Palestine Muslims? I had to tell him that I knew Palestinian Christians who gave their lives for Palestine. George Habash cares less about Palestine that Mr. Muhammad Dahlan? That angers me when I hear it. I did not understand why a majority Muslim country can’t relax a bit about the Islam factor.

Mostly on the mark I would say, though of course the Angry Arab did not get to see the Westernized elite much, who are also making inroads into the middle classes.

Religion Explained

This is one of the best books I have read. It explains the origins of religious thought based on how our mind works. Highly recommended.

Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought by Pascal Boyer is a great book about a very interesting topic.

It is a book about why most humans are religious. Pascal Boyer takes an evolutionary and cognitive psychology approach to the problem. The discussion in this book about how our mind works was fascinating enough by itself. As a parent, I found the description of how children think and how their thoughts develop as they grow to be the most interesting parts of the book.

Overall, Pascal Boyer explains the development of religious thought in humans in an easily accessible way that a casual reader can understand as well. Therefore, I would recommend this book to everyone who is interested in religion and/or cognitive sciences. I must thank Razib for suggesting this book to me and making my thinking about religion so much more coherent.

Here is an article Why is Religion Natural? by Boyer that gives a flavor of the book.

Other interesting works on this topic are:

I must note here that religion being natural does not necessarily mean that religion is true.

Shab e Miraj

Did the Prophet Muhammad physically ascend to the heavens on this night?

Last night was Rajab 27 which is commonly believed to be the night of Miraj or the night of the ascension of Prophet Muhammad.

Here is what Fazlur Rahman had to say about it in Chapter 1 of his book Islam. He is discussing how externality of the Angel and the Revelation to Prophet Muhammad became an accepted doctrine among Muslims and then mentions the ascension:

The Quran refers to an important transforming experience or perhaps a series of such experiences of Muhammad in several Suras of the Quran (XVII, 1; LIII, 5-18; LXXXI, 23). In all of these places, the Quran alludes to the fact that the Prophet saw something ‘at the farthest end’ or ‘on the horizon’ and this shows that the experience contained an important element of the ‘expansion’ of the self. In LIII, 11-12, the Quran says: ‘The heart has not falsified what it has seen; shall you doubt what it has witnessed?’ But the spiritual experiences of the Prophet were later woven by tradition, especially when an ‘orthodoxy’ began to take shape, into the doctrine of a single, physical, locomotive experience of the ‘Ascension’ of Muhammad to Heaven, and still later were supplied all the graphic details about the animal which was ridden by the Prophet during his ascension, about his sojourn in each of the seven heavens, and his parleys with the Prophets of bygone ages from Adam up to Jesus. We may first concede the fact, which is rarely realized by opponents of ‘orthodoxy’, that a religion cannot live on purely ‘spiritualized’ dogmas and that reification is necessary even if only to serve the purpose of a ‘vessel’ for the spirit. We may further insist that it is really impossible to hold that something should occur of a purely spiritual nature without a physical concomitant, and we might even assert that a single event may be called spiritual or physical according to its setting or context, yet in either case the doctrine of a locomotive miraj or ‘Ascension’ developed by the orthodox (chiefly on the pattern of the Ascension of Jesus) and backed by Hadith is no more than a historical fiction whose materials come from various sources.

Here are the Quranic verses referred to in that passage. I am using Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s English translation.

17:1: Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).

53:5-18: He was taught by one Mighty in Power, Endued with Wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form); While he was in the highest part of the horizon: Then he approached and came closer, And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; So did (Allah) convey the inspiration to His Servant- (conveyed) what He (meant) to convey. The (Prophet’s) (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw. Will ye then dispute with him concerning what he saw? For indeed he saw him at a second descent, Near the Lote-tree beyond which none may pass: Near it is the Garden of Abode. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded (in mystery unspeakable!) (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see, of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest!

81:23: And without doubt he saw him in the clear horizon.

Without understanding the original Arabic and Arab linguistic and literature history, it is not possible for me to make a judgment on this matter. However, Fazlur Rahman’s account does seem plausible and Muslim orthodoxy has indeed given physical shape to a lot of things. Here is an example.

Quran 94:1-8: Have We not expanded thee thy breast?- And removed from thee thy burden The which did gall thy back?- And raised high the esteem (in which) thou (art held)? So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief: Verily, with every difficulty there is relief. Therefore, when thou art free (from thine immediate task), still labour hard, And to thy Lord turn (all) thy attention.

This metaphorical language of the Quran got distorted into this colorful story in the Hadith in Sahih Muslim.

Anas b. Malik reported that Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upo him) while he was playing with his playmates. He took hold of him and lay him prostrate on the ground and tore open his breast and took out the heart from it and then extracted a blood-clot out of it and said: That was the part of Satan in thee. And then he washed it with the water of Zamzam in a golden basin and then it was joined together and restored to it place. The boys came running to his mother, i. e. his nurse, and said: Verily Muhammad has been murdered. They all rushed toward him (and found him all right) His color was changed, Anas said. I myself saw the marks of needle on his breast.

برقعہ اور جہاد

لال مسجد کے مولانا عبدالعزیز نے دھمکیاں تو خودکش حملوں کی دی تھیں مگر خود برقعے میں بھاگنے کی کوشش کی۔

اسلام‌آباد میں لال مسجد میں جو کچھ ہو رہا ہے وہ قابلِ افسوس ہے۔ 19 لوگوں کی موت کا سن کر ہی انسان پریشان ہو جاتا ہے۔ مگر اس سب کی ذمہ‌داری کافی حد تک آنٹی عبدالعزیز اور عبدالرشید پر آتی ہے۔ کچھ چینیوں کے اغواء کے بعد حکومت کا اپریشن یقینی تھا۔ مگر اس طرح کے حالات میں بھی کچھ باتیں انسان کو ہنسنے پر مجبور کر دیتی ہیں:

اسلام آباد میں قانون نافذ کرنے والے اداروں نے لال مسجد کے خطیب مولانا عبدالعزیز کو اس وقت گرفتار کر لیا جب وہ برقعہ پہن کر مسجد سے فرار ہونے کی کوشش کر رہے تھے۔ پولیس نے مولانا عبدالعزیز کی اہلیہ ام حسن کو بھی گرفتار کر لیا۔

ڈپٹی کمشنر اسلام آباد چوہدری محمد علی نے اس بات کی تصدیق کرتے ہوئے بی بی سی کو بتایا کہ مولانا عبدالعزیز برقعہ پہن کر جامعہ حفصہ کی ان طالبات کی لائن میں کھڑے ہو گئے جنہوں نے حکومت کی طرف سے عام معافی کے اعلان کے بعد خود کو حکام کے حوالے کر دیا تھا۔ انہوں نے بتایا کہ تلاشی کے دوران لیڈی پولیس کانسٹیبل نے جب بظاہر ایک خاتون کا برقعہ اتارا تو اندر سے مولانا عبدالعزیزبرآمد ہوئے جس پر انہیں گرفتار کر لیا گیا۔

اب میں کیا کہہ سکتا ہوں کہ کیا یہ وہی شخص ہے جس نے خودکش حملوں کی دھمکیاں دی تھیں؟

اپڈیٹ: یہ پوسٹ تو بس کچھ طنزیہ اور مزاحیہ انداز میں کی تھی۔ لال مسجد کے سارے قصے کے بارے میں کہنے کو بہت کچھ ہے مگر کس کس کی غلطیاں نکالوں کہ اس حمام میں سب ننگے ہیں۔ اگر لال مسجد والے غلطی پر تھے تو حکومت نے بھی کچھ صحیح نہیں کیا۔

American Muslims Poll

This is the first comprehensive poll of Muslim Americans. It has a wealth of data about their demographics and their opinions. While Muslims in the United States are conservative, they are closer to mainstream America than many thought.

Recently Pew Research Center conducted the first ever detailed opinion survey of Muslims in the United States. The detailed report (in PDF format) is worth reading.

Overall, I found the survey results to be mixed. Pew put the subtitle “Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream” on its report. This is generally true. However, there are still causes of concern, but mostly due to the social conservatism of Muslims.

The first question is how many Muslims are there in the United States. This has been fairly controversial with Muslim organizations claiming more than 6 million. The Pew survey estimates adult Muslims to be about 0.6% of the total adult population. Adding children, they arrive at an estimate of the total Muslim population to be 2.35 million.

As for demographics, two-thirds (65%) of Muslims in America were born elsewhere. Of the foreign-born Muslims, about 37% were born in the Arab world and 27% in South Asia. Looking at individual countries of origin, the top countries are: Pakistan, Iran, India, Lebanon, Yemen, Bangladesh, Iraq and Bosnia. Among the foreign-born, about two-thirds are US citizens, hence only 23% of all American Muslims are not citizens. Muslim population is more weighted towards youth as compared to the general US population, a consequence of the predominance of immigrants. The racial breakdown of Muslim Americans is: 38% white (Arab and Iranians I guess!), 26% black (dominated by African Americans with a few African immigrants), 20% Asian and 16% mixed/other.

In terms of education, Muslims are about the same as the general US population for going to college and graduate school. However, there are more likely (21% compared to 16% in the general population) not to finish high school.

The income profile of Muslim Americans is very similar to the general population, though Muslims are less likely to own a house. This is very different from the Muslims in Europe where Muslims generally are from the poor and lower middle classes. Interestingly, Muslim Americans are a little less satisfied (42% excellent or good) with their economic situation as compared to the general US population (49% excellent or good). However, there are large differences in ethnicity here, with Pakistanis being very satisfied (68%) and African Americans very unsatisfied (30%).

Half of the Muslims consider themselves Sunni and 16% Shia while 22% say that they are only Muslims. Native-born Shias are quite uncommon (only 7%) while most Shia (or their parents) are from Iran (91%) or the Arab region (19%).

23% of the Muslim population is of converts to Islam. Most (91%) of these are US-born. 59% are African American and 34% are white. 55% converted to Sunnism, 6% to Shiism and 24% to nonspecific affiliation. About half of the converts converted before the age of 21 and very few (17%) converted after the age of 35. Two-thirds of converts were Protestant before, 10% Catholic and 15% had no religion.

American Muslim beliefs about the Quran mirror those of American Christians about the Bible, with Muslims being just a little bit more conservative. For example, 50% of Muslims believe Quran is the literal, word-for-word word of God while 40% of Christians believe the same for the Bible. 60% of Muslims think that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of Islam. Religion plays a very important role in the life of 72% of Muslim Americans. However, 40% of Muslims go to the mosque at least once a week while 34% go seldom or never. African Americans and Pakistanis are the two groups that visit the mosque most often while Iranians rarely do. Coming to prayers (salah or namaz), 41% pray five times a day, 20% pray at least once a day and only 12% never pray (another 6% pray every Eid). I am not sure I would take the response to this question very seriously. Three-fourth of Muslims also consider giving charity (zakat) and fasting during Ramazan to be very important.

US Muslims US Christians
Religion is very important in your life 72% 60%
Pray every day 61% 70%
Attend mosque/church at least once a week 40% 45%

About a quarter of Muslims have high levels of religious commitment with an equal number having low levels of religious commitment. The rest fall in between. Sunnis are more likely to be religiously committed than the Shia. African Americans seem to be highly committed as well.

Since women prayer in mosques was a popular topic here, it was interesting to read the opinions of Muslim Americans on this issue. 48% of men and 45% of women want women to pray separately from men; 20% of men and 26% of women want women to pray behind men; and 21% of men and 20% of women want women to pray alongside men in the mosque.

The old question of comparing different identities is something I don’t like. What really does it mean to ask if someone thinks of themselves as American first or Muslim first? And is it the same question when asked of a majority population? This really is something minority populations have to face as the majority can readily identify with the nation. So I found it interesting that among ethnic groups of Muslims, the native-born African Americans are the most likely to think of themselves as Muslims first (58%). Also, interestingly, 42% of American Christians think of themselves as Christians first.

A better question is about assimilation. Here 43% of American Muslims think that Muslims coming to America today should adopt American customs while 26% say that they should remain distinct from American society. Women are less enthusiastic about adopting American customs than men (48% vs 38%). Young people (aged 18-29) are almost equally divided on this issue (43% vs 39%). Interestingly, the foreign-born are more for assimilation (47% pro — 21% anti) as compared to the native-born (37% pro — 38% anti). This is mainly a result of the African Americans (47%) saying that Muslims coming to America should remain distinct from society.

In terms of interaction with society, nearly half of the Muslims have most or all of their close friends who are Muslims while the other half have relatively few Muslims in their inner circle. Here, women are much more likely to have most or all Muslim friends. 62% of Muslims say it’s okay for a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim. Again men are much more likely (70%) to have this opinion compared to women (54%). Those with high religious commitment are less likely to have this opinion though their 45% surprised me.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 53% of Muslims say that it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States. Those most likely to have this opinion are the highly educated (65%), those earning more than $100,000 (68%) and non-African American native-born Muslims (67%). Why the rich and educated elite think so I have no idea but my guess is that these groups had not experienced any prejudice or problems before and thus it came as a shock to them.

The list of problems given by Muslims has the following: No problems (19%, that is significant!), discrimination/racism/prejudice (19%), being viewed as terrorists (15%), ignorance about Islam (14%), stereotyping (12%, how is this different from prejudice?). 54% of Muslims believe that the government singles out Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring. Men (59%) believe so more than the women (49%) and native-born Muslims (73%) do so more than foreign-born (47%). In fact, it seems that the longer one has been in the US the more that group believes in Muslims being singled out. Interestingly, only 47% of Arabs believe Muslims are being singled out while 55% of Pakistanis and 53% of other South Asians believe so. This seems somewhat consistent with my observation that Americans think that the stereotypical Arab features are actually those that belong to Pakistanis and Indians.

Here is an interesting comparison of the encounters with intolerance of Muslims Americans and African Americans in the past 12 months.

Percent who report that in the past year they have been Muslim Americans African Americans
treated or viewed with suspicion 26% 33%
called offensive names 15% 20%
singled out by police 9% 20%
physically attacked or threatened 4% 10%
any of the four 33% 46%

This shows that while Muslims have seen more intolerance recently, it has been milder and less frequent than what African Americans experience in the United States. So what would be the case for the poor African American Muslims? Half of all Muslims who are African American say they have been the target of bigotry based on their religion in the past 12 months, compared with 28% of white Muslims and 23% of Asian Muslims.

While Muslims were majority Democratic even before, the Bush administration has probably made them more so. 63% are Democratic or lean Democratic compared to only 11% Republicans/lean Republican. Muslims voted 71%-14% for Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election. Even politically conservative Muslims (19% of the total) lean Democratic (60%) and voted for Kerry (63%).

Most Muslims (70%) prefer a bigger government providing more services and want the government to do more for the needy (73%). However, Muslims are conservatives on social issues. 61% think homosexuality should be discouraged. The only group of Muslims who disagrees is those with low religious commitment. Only 43% of them think homosexuality should be discouraged. The group most opposed to homosexuality is African American Muslims who are 75% against. Also, 59% of Muslims say that the government should do more to protect morality in society. Arabs and recently arrived immigrants seem to be the most enthusiastic about the government regulating morality. Contrast this with the view of the general US population where 51% think that the government is too involved. I am of course with the bare US majority and think that the idea that government should be involved so much in morality is a major problem of the Muslim world right now.

43% of Muslims think mosques should opine on day-to-day social and political questions while 49% disagree. This seems to be a division between African Americans who overwhelmingly want mosques to express their views on political matters and foreign-born Muslims who don’t. Non-African American native-borns’ views are in the middle.

Muslim American voter registration and turnout lag behind the American average. Also, while in the general population rich are more likely to be registered and to vote, that’s not the case among Muslims. Both native-born and foreign-born citizens are equally likely to be registered to vote. The ethnic group with the lowest registration is Arabs (50%) and the highest Pakistanis (83%).

An overwhelming 75% of Muslim Americans are against the Iraq war compared to 47% of the general public. Even Republican Muslims (54%) are against the war. On the Afghanistan war, opinions are more divided. Overall, 48% Muslims are against it compared to 29% of all Americans. However, foreign-born Muslims are divided 40%-40% about the Afghanistan war while native-born ones are against the war 65%-26%.

Fixing responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terrorism seems to be difficult for Muslims. While American Muslims seem to be much more realistic on this issue than Muslims in Europe (except France) or in the Muslim world (except Nigeria or Jordan), only 40% believe that a group of Arabs did it while 28% don’t believe a group of Arabs to be responsible. Of these 28%, a quarter blame the Bush administration for the attacks. Overall, 32% refused to answer or said they didn’t know. This is ostrich-like behavior. Older American Muslims, those with college degrees and those with low religious commitment seem to do better.

51% of Muslims are very concerned and 25% are somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism. Again younger Muslims (18-29) are not as concerned. Compare these numbers to Pakistan where 43% are very concerned and 29% are somewhat concerned.

Only 8% of American Muslims think suicide bombing of civilian targets is often or sometimes justified. This rises to 15% among those aged 18-29. Only 5% of Muslim Americans have a favorable view of Al Qaeda, but 27% refused to express an opinion. The 5% number is very low and reasonable as one can find at least 10% in an opinion poll to agree to anything. However, the 27% who declined to answer are more worrying. Why did they refuse? Were they afraid? Looking at the detailed tables, it seems those who refused were mainly those with a high school diploma or less (35%), African Americans (30%) and recent immigrants (30%). In contrast, 78% of college graduates have a very unfavorable opinion of Al Qaeda.

61% of Muslim Americans think a way can be found for Israel to exist so that the rights and needs of the Palestinian people can be taken care of. This can be compared to 67% of the US public, 67% of Israelis, 33% of Turks, 26% of Indonesians, 23% of Pakistanis, etc. Contrast the 23% of Pakistanis with 67% of Pakistani Americans. Arab Muslim Americans are the only ones with less than a majority (49%) on this question but even they have far different views than the people in Arab countries.

بش کے دیس میں خدا

امریکہ مذہبی ملک ہے۔ یہاں ایتھیئسٹ کو اچھا نہیں سمجھا جاتا۔ خدا پر یقین کو اچھے انسان ہونے کے لئے لازمی قرار دیا جاتا ہے۔ ذاتی اور عوامی دائرہ‌کار میں ایتھیئسٹ کے بارے میں ایک عام امریکی کیا خیالات رکھتا ہے اس بارے میں کچھ سروے کے نتائج حاضر ہیں۔

بدتمیز نے اپنے بلاگ پر ایک سلسلہ شروع کیا تھا بش کے دیس میں جس میں وہ امریکہ کے بارے میں لکھتا ہے۔ پھر حال ہی میں بدتمیز نے پوچھا کہ خدا کیا ہے؟ ۔ اس سے مجھے اس پوسٹ کا خیال آیا۔

جیسا کہ میں پہلے لکھ چکا ہوں کہ مجھے امریکہ آنے سے پہلے اندازہ نہیں تھا کہ امریکی اتنے مذہبی ہوں گے۔ مگر یہاں آ کر احساس ہوا کہ یہاں atheist کافی کم ہیں اور عام لوگ انہیں اچھا بھی نہیں سمجھتے۔ صرف یہی نہیں بلکہ اردو وکی‌پیڈیا کے افراز کی طرح بہت سے امریکی agnostic اور atheist میں فرق نہیں سمجھتے۔ ایسا نہیں ہے کہ atheists کے خلاف active hostility ہو مگر مذہبی لوگوں کا خیال ہے کہ خدا کو مانے بغیر انسان ایک اچھا انسان ہو ہی نہیں سکتا۔ شاید اسی قسم کی کوئی رائے پہلے صدر بش نے بھی دی تھی۔

پچھلے سال یونیورسٹی آف منیسوٹا نے ایک سٹڈی شائع کی جس کے مطابق ایتھیئسٹ امریکہ کی سب سے کم قابلِ بھروسہ اقلیت ہیں۔ اس سٹڈی کی تفصیلات کے مطابق امریکی نہ ایتھیئسٹ کو ووٹ دینا چاہتے ہیں، نہ اپنے بچے کی اس سے شادی کرنا چاہتے ہیں اور نہ یہ سمجھتے ہیں کہ ایتھیئسٹ اور ان کا امریکہ کے لئے ایک ہی وژن ہے۔ مزے کی بات یہ ہے کہ ان ساری باتوں میں ایتھیئسٹ مسلمانوں سے بھی بدتر سمجھے جاتے ہیں۔

گیلپ کے ایک سروے کے مطابق 2008 کے صدارتی انتخابات میں زیادہ‌تر لوگ کیتھولک، افریقی امریکی، یہودی، عورت،ہسپانک یا مورمن کو ووٹ دینے کو تیار ہیں مگر ایک ایتھیئسٹ کو صرف 45 ووٹ دینے کے بارے میں غور کریں گے۔ یہ ایک ہم‌جنس‌پرست سے بھی بری پرفارمنس ہے جسے 55 فیصد لوگ ووٹ دے سکتے ہیں۔ 1958 میں جب ایٹھیئسٹ صدارتی امیدوار کے بارے میں سروے کیا گیا تو صرف 18 فیصد اسے ووٹ دینے پر تیار تھے۔ یہ تناسب 1978 میں بڑھ کر 40 فیصد ہو گیا مگر اس کے بعد سے زیادہ نہیں بڑھا۔

اسی سال ایک اور سروے کے مطابق 32 فیصد ووٹر مورمن امیدوار کو ووٹ دینے سے کترائیں گے، 45 فیصد مسلمان صدارتی امیدوار کو ووٹ دینے سے کترائیں گے جبکہ 50 فیصد ایتھیئسٹ امیدوار کو ووٹ نہیں دیں گے۔ یہاں بھی ایتھیئسٹ مسلمان سے بھ بدتر ثابت ہوا۔

پیٹ ٹلمین ایک امریکی فٹبال کا کھلاڑی تھا جو فوج میں شامل ہوا اور افغانستان میں فرینڈلی فائر سے مارا گیا۔ پینٹاگون نے پہلے اس کو ہیرو قرار دیا اور کہا کہ وہ دشمن سے مقابلے میں مارا گیا۔ ٹلمین کی فیملی حقائق جاننے کی کوشش میں رہی اور اب بھی مزید کوشش جاری ہے جب اس کی موت سے متعلق کافی حقیقت سامنے آ چکی ہے۔ اس بارے میں یہ آرٹیکل کافی تفصیل بتاتا ہے۔ مگر ہم ایتھیئسٹس پر بات کر رہے تھے۔ اس آرٹیکل میں فوج کے ایک لیفٹیننٹ کرنل صاحب فرماتے ہیں کہ ٹلمین کی فیملی اس کی موت کی تفصیل اور ذمہ‌داری کے تعین پر اس لئے مصر ہے کہ وہ خدا پر یقین نہیں رکھتے اور اس لئے انہیں چین نہیں آ رہا۔ اس بیان سے کرنل کا ایتھیئسٹس کے خلاف تعصب صاف ظاہر ہے۔

Pakistan Opinion Poll

There is an opinion poll out about the perceptions of people in four Muslim countries (including Pakistan) about US policy, attacks on civilians and al Qaeda. It offers an interesting perspective into what Pakistani city dwellers are thinking.

Via Abu Aardvark, I found out about a public opinion poll about US policy, attacks on civilians and al Qaeda in four Muslim countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco. Abu Aardvark focuses on Egypt while I am interested in Pakistan.

Let us look at the full report. But first some information:

The surveys were conducted between December 9, 2006 and February 15, 2007 using in-home interviews. In Morocco (1,000 interviews), Indonesia (1,141 interviews), and Pakistan (1,243 interviews) national probability samples were conducted covering both urban and rural areas. However, Pakistani findings reported here are based only upon urban respondents (611 interviews); rural respondents were unfamiliar with many of the issues in the survey. In Egypt, the sample (1,000 interviews) was an urban sample drawn probabilistically from seven governorates. Sample sizes of 1,000 – 1,141 have confidence intervals of +/- 3 percentage points; a sample size of 611 has a confidence interval of +/-4 percentage points.

So the Pakistani rural population did not have much to opine on these issues and the survey only reports findings from urban areas.

(Urban) Pakistanis have a 15%/67% favorable/unfavorable view of the current US government which is similar to the other countries (except Egypt which is much more unfavorable). 64% of Pakistanis think that nearly all or most of the world events are controlled by the US. 36% of Pakistanis disagreed (while 33% agreed) with the statement that “there have been times in American history where it has helped to promote the welfare of others.” 73% of Pakistanis think that weakening or dividing the Islamic world is a policy goal of the United States and 64% think that spreading Christianity in the Middle East might be a goal. In comparison, 68% of Pakistanis thought that maintaining control over oil resources is a goal of US policy.

On the primary goal of the War on Terror, 42% of Pakistanis think it is to weaken the Islamic world while 26% think it is to militarily and politically dominate the Middle East. Only 12% think the purpose of the war on terror is to protect the US from terror attacks.

While 71% of Pakistanis agree with the goal of getting the US troops to withdraw from Iraq, Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, they disagree about attacks on US troops with about a third approving and similar numbers disapproving.

81% of Pakistanis believe that politically motivated attacks on civilians are not justified, with 72% considering it against Islam. However, only 30% of Pakistanis think that groups that target civilians, such as al Qaeda, are violating the principles of Islam. At the same time, 62% consider suicide bombings by Muslims to be wrong. About two-thirds oppose attacks on civilians in the US and Europe while a slightly less majority opposes attacks on US civilians working in the Muslim world.

9% of (Urban) Pakistanis support al Qaeda attacks on the US and share al Qaeda’s attitude towards the US while 7% oppose the attacks but share the attitude. 17% oppose the attacks and do not share al Qaeda’s attitude towards the US. The rest declined to take a position (which is unusual compared to the other countries surveyed).

Pakistanis have a more positive (27%) view of Osama Bin Laden than negative (15%) with 24% having mixed feelings. Also, only 2% of Pakistanis consider al Qaeda to be behind the September 11, 2001 attacks while 27% think the US did it and 7% blame Israel (62% refused to answer). This is very different from the other countries.

21% of Pakistanis think a conflict between Western and Muslim cultures is inevitable while 43% think it possible to find common ground.

67% of Pakistanis want to keep Western values out of Islamic countries. On the other hand, 65% of Pakistanis consider globalization to be good while only 14% declare it to be bad and 61% consider democracy to be a good way to govern. 71% want to push the US to remove its military forces and bases from the region; 79% want a strict application of shariah law in every Muslim country; and 74% want to unify all Muslim countries into a single state or caliphate.

While 84% of Pakistanis believe people should be free to worship according to their religion, 60% had no problem with proselytizing. About half the Pakistanis have unfavorable views of the freedom of expression in the United States.