2006 November 29 Wednesday
Poll Finds Moderate And Extremist Muslims Similar

John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed argue in an article in Foreign Policy Muslim extremists are better educated than most Muslims and do not feel hopeless about their situations.

Ask any foreign-policy expert how the West will know it is winning the war on terror, and the likely response will be, “When the Islamic world rejects radicalism.” But just who are Muslim radicals, and what fuels their fury? Every politician has a theory: Radicals are religious fundamentalists. They are poor. They are full of hopelessness and hate. But those theories are wrong.

Based on a new Gallup World Poll of more than 9,000 interviews in nine Muslim countries, we find that Muslim radicals have more in common with their moderate brethren than is often assumed. If the West wants to reach the extremists, and empower the moderate Muslim majority, it must first recognize who it’s up against.

But if the extremists and the so-called moderates have so much in common then don't they have much less in common with us? Also, I do not believe we can empower one group of Muslims against another group of Muslims. We lack the ability to exert such subtle influence.

The radicals are more educated than the average Muslim.

There is indeed a key difference between radicals and moderates when it comes to income and education, but it is the radicals who earn more and who stay in school longer.

This must be a mistake. Liberals believe in education as the magic panacea for most of what ails societies. Education makes Muslims more likely to be extremists? That's contrary to liberal dogma.

I see realist reasons why this isn't surprising: More educated Muslims view themselves as in more direct status competition with Westerners. Their educations raise their expectations. Their occupations put them in economic competition with Westerners. Less educated and lower class Muslims see highly educated Westerners as more akin to the Muslim upper classes and more distant from their own lives. People who feel they are competing for status are more likely to resent their competitors who are more successful.

Education usually leads to greater experience with the West and therefore greater chance to feel inferior to it. If we really want to reduce Muslim resentment of the West then my advice is to keep them more distant from us.

Esposito and Mogahed find that Muslim terrorists do not feel hopeless. They think they have good prospects even without turning to suicide bombing. So forget about economic development as the panacea to dampen down terrorism.

Whenever a suicide bomber completes a deadly mission, the act is often attributed to hopelessness—the inability to find a job, earn a living, or support a family. But the politically radical are not more “hopeless” than the mainstream. More radicals expressed satisfaction with their financial situation and quality of life than their moderate counterparts, and a majority of them expected to be better off in the years to come.

We should separate the West from Islam. That is the best way to defend ourselves from them and to reduce animosity between us and them.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 November 29 08:57 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

John S Bolton said at November 29, 2006 9:59 PM:

This fits with the general observation, among honest commentators on terrorism, that terrorists are from the more educated middle and upper classes, not so much from the poor.
Terrorism is a form of power-seeking; when you reward it with the power that it seeks, you get more of it.
In Islamic societies, which are by their religious identity required to function also as terror offensives against the infidel, competition for power and status related to such power, tends to reward the bloodthirstiest.
Unfortunately, moderation in politics and temperament has every tendency to reward terrorists with power.
The unprincipled are inclined to negotiate with everyone, regardless of how bloodthirsty, irrational and terroristic, they might be.

Engineer-Poet said at November 29, 2006 10:23 PM:

Separation from Islam means eliminating oil imports, both for ourselves and the rest of the world.

Would suck to be Putin, though. ;-)

tommy said at November 30, 2006 12:45 AM:

Actually, the explanation might be even simpler: wealthier Muslims have the money and "leisure time" to wage jihad (and to spend their time studying the religious doctrines that encourage it). Poorer Muslims, even if unemployed, are undoubtedly more concerned with the struggles of day-to-day life in places where little in the way of government-financed welfare exists.

Also, Steve Sailer's thoughts about more morally conservative Muslims being turned off by western standards might be another factor. Wealthier Muslims are more likely to send their children abroad for their education and those children may be shocked at what they find in the west. Multiculturalists cannot admit that perhaps more "communication" doesn't necessarily result in more "understanding" or "tolerance" and may even discourage it.

I had an encounter with a leftist over the web earlier today who kind of illustrates this. He was a typical white liberal who didn't like my opinions on illegal immigration and suggested that I was practically a Klansman for my opposition to the influx of unskilled Hispanics pouring across our borders. Of course, as I pointed out, white liberals are all for diversity so long as they don't actually have to live with it. If that wasn't true, we might expect to see liberals currently living in racially homogeneous locations like Burlington, Vermont flocking to locales like Oakland, California for the diversity. It just isn't happening. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find white liberals living in areas that are less, not more, racially diverse than most conservatives and, where there is racial diversity, it largely consisting of economically successful Asians, not blacks or Hispanics.

John S Bolton said at November 30, 2006 1:46 AM:

Of course the shock of encountering real diversity can radicalize some people.
On the premise that terrorism is power-seeking, though, it makes sense that those who are from leading families, or otherwise more confident that they should rule, will be over-represented.
Siding with monarchs has not made America feel like a loose cannon to the rest of the world,
but opening countries forcibly to a raw scramble for power, has done that.
If we expand freedom and destroy terrorism by eliminating a dictator and his entourage,
why do neither we nor Israel, hunt and kill the leaders of terrorism?
If terrorism is a disgracefully weak contender's attempt at winning power,
why do we reward him by letting him operate, and not be killed?
If killing the ruler sets off a scramble for power, wouldn't the same happen within a terrorist organization?
A royal family might fear that their relatives would then be killed, but we're not supposed to have that.

Chris said at November 30, 2006 4:22 AM:

Actually, I found the last two questions in the survey to be most enlightening.

What can the West do to improve relations?
Respect Islam
39% Extremists
36% Moderates

What else can the West do to improve relations?
Refrain from interfering or imposing its beliefs or policies.
17% Extremists
Economic Development
22% Moderates

The whole idea of respecting Islam is very nebulous. Does that mean that you aren't respecting Islam if you ban a hijab for drivers license photos? We know that printing a cartoon picture of Mohammed is considered to be disrespectful. It appears that we would be disrespectful to Islam anytime we do something that conflicts with Islam, Sharia, Koran, or hadith. In other words, just being our culture is going to offend 75% of Muslims. As such, separating ourselves from them as much as possible is the best option.

The second follow-up question leads to some disturbing possibilities. Since moderates tend to be poorer and less educated, increasing their education and improving their financial situation is more likely to cause them to resent Western influence, thereby making them extremist. Thus, following liberal/neocon prescriptions, will result in more extremism.

Another interesting part of the survey is the way they determined extremists and moderates. Using the opinion of whether 9/11 was justified or not seems to increase the number of moderates. A Muslim could believe that 9/11 was not justified for several different reasons and still believe in imposing Islam via jihad.

Dave said at November 30, 2006 8:32 AM:

Randell do you want to deport 5 million American Muslims many of which are converts not immigrants?

Borat said at November 30, 2006 4:04 PM:

Anyone ever think that most revolutions and radical movements are not led by the poor but by the children of the middle class who feel they are stopped or oppressed by the upperclass??

If you are poor, sure you are not worried about abstract ideas of freedom, higher issues of religion, etc. You are worried about feeding yourself and your family. You are worried about basic needs.

It makes perfect sense to me that most radical Muslims would come from the Middle class...many Communist did to, most of the leaders of the American Revolution were middle to upperclass, the French revolution also, the Civil Rights movement also...even Communist movement in China were not from the very poor (Zhou En Lai and Mao Ze Dong were not peasants)...I could go on but you get the picture.

If you are middle class, fairly educated, even educated abroad...if you are knowledgeable of the world, if you are bilingual (can get outside information) then you come home to your country and see it is crap. You can not find a good job...everything is restrictive. You feel oppressed by your corrupt government and their corrupt oligarch allies. You think about these abstract ideas of freedom. You think about why your society is crap. You have ideas for change, but there is no forum where you can express yourself politically...not without taking the chance of going to prison. Sure you can vote, maybe, but voting is rigged or the politicians have no real power over state institutions (only the Royals or the dictator has that power). You become frustrated and angry, bitter.

Then some Imam comes and tells you all this is because:

1) America and Israel support your dictator government, provide them weapons and material support to oppress you (points to US troops in Saudi, US military aid of Egypt, US real politiking during the Cold War).
2) America and Israel undermine your governments (points to the overthrow in Iran of the democratically elected government and other coups in nonMuslims nations, like Congo).
3) They say this all happened because these leaders were corrupt and sold out there people for money and power, they were immoral and Western in outlook, greedy, materialistic.
4) The answer to this is a revitalization of Islam, only that can purge the country of this plague of corruption and foreign Christian/Jewish influence.
5) Come to my Mosque.

See the Mosque is the only place in the Muslim world, where even dictators and the Royal family tread lightly, they can not even appear anti-Islamic...so just like the Civil Rights movement in America, just like the Irish resistance in Ireland against the English they flock and meet around their holy places. It is the only place safe to do so, and then the Imam has them.

Then they use all kinds of distortion and half truths about Islam and its history to reinforce these views (Wahabbism).

So does this mean more freedom and economic opportunity will produce more radicals? No...that is a leap of logic. It is not about more money, it is about more control, more political power, more options to change, than the Imam at the Mosque.

Lawrence Auster said at November 30, 2006 4:15 PM:

Mr. Parker writes:

"More educated Muslims view themselves as in more direct status competition with Westerners. Their educations raise their expectations. Their occupations put them in economic competition with Westerners. Less educated and lower class Muslims see highly educated Westerners as more akin to the Muslim upper classes and more distant from their own lives. People who feel they are competing for status are more likely to resent their competitors who are more successful.... Education usually leads to greater experience with the West and therefore greater chance to feel inferior to it."

That's a great insight. I've written previously that as long as Muslims have no geographical or political contact with non-Muslims, they have no immediate cause to wage jihad, but that contact between Muslims and non-Muslims inevitably triggers jihad, and therefore we should keep Muslims physically isolated from ourselves. Mr. Parker has added a new twist to this. He is saying that status competition, even in the absence of physical proximity, can be a form of "contact." Once non-Muslims come into the ken of Muslims as competitors, as possessors of the "goods," whether economic, or educational, or cultural, or whatever, to which the Muslims aspire, the non-Muslims become an immediate and pressing presence in the minds of the Muslims. And the classic way—indeed the only way—that Muslims have of responding to non-Muslims is jihad.

The finding that education and affluence increase Muslim radicalism not only demonstrates that poverty is not the cause of Muslim radicalism. More profoundly, it shows that any increase in education, affluence, and overall social status in Muslim societies relative to wealthy non-Muslim societies—in other words, any narrowing of the socio-economic gap between non-Muslims and Muslims—will increase Muslim radicalism. Therefore it is in the vital interest of the West, not to democratize and modernize the Muslims and try to equalize them with ourselves, as President Bush and the neoconservatives want to do, but to LET THEM BE. Let the Muslims reside in their historic backwardness. The most dangerous thing we can do vis à vis the Muslim world is modernize it and thus make it more equal with our world, because that will only awaken Muslims' sense of competition with non-Muslims and so trigger their inherent jihadism.

Randall Parker said at November 30, 2006 4:36 PM:


Yes, obsolescing oil and moving to non-fossil fuel energy sources would be a great way to increase our security and de-fund the Muslims.


Yes, leisure time is a problem. As my grandmother (and quite a few others of the old school) used to say "Idle hands are the devil's workshop". This is one reason why Western demand for oil causes such problems. It funds idleness and leads to the devil's workshop.

But leisure time is not the only problem. Sayyid Qutb make his switch to Muslim extremist and intellectual father of many Muslim extremists during a trip from Egypt to the United States in the late 1940s. He was incensed at what he saw as scantily clad women (remember, this is before the 1960s and hemlines were lower) and what he viewed as a decadent culture. Had he never come to the United States he probably never would have turned so far against us.

Today the problem is worse because of mass communications. The Muslims can watch Western movies and TV shows. But keeping them out of the West would still help a great deal. They wouldn't build up as much resentment and they simply wouldn't be here to attack us in the first place.


The Muslims define "respect" as acting like submissive dhimmis toward them. We can only "respect" them by submitting to their moral authority.


For citizen Muslims I would offer them money to leave. I wouldn't force them to leave.

Lawrence Auster,

Thanks. This insight is, btw, part of a larger hypothesis of mine: Globalization is making status competition much more fierce. All sorts of people all over the world are going to form more and more resentments as they learn more about the lives and wealth and status of people who they never would have known existed in previous centuries. Dropping costs of communications and travel and the increasing rate of international trade all create the conditions for much larger scale resentments.

Muslims are the biggest problem in the rising wave of resentment because they believe a religion that insists Muslims should rule and Muslims should have highest status. But we are going to deal with this same problem to a lesser extent with other groups.

John S Bolton said at November 30, 2006 4:59 PM:

Another facet of this is that, as Moslems become healthier and expand their numbers via western science, previously unknown conflicts emerge.
When people depend on you for their very existence, and would die like insects without the help from foreigners which accumulates.
the response is most pointedly not gratitude, but hatred and an intensifying passion to destroy you.
Leave them on their own, punish colleges which train their physicians and so on, and they will respect you more than if you help them haut en bas.
Today I heard that we have been killing terrorist leaders, and not just a very few.

tommy said at November 30, 2006 11:16 PM:

The most important thing we can do is find an alternative to oil and choke these fools economically. I think one possible promising development is a report that a feasible petroleum product can be produced from plankton. I don't want to be overly optimistic since these things sometimes don't pan out in the real world, but it certainly looks interesting:


Since I presume the plankton obtain their carbon directly from CO2 in the atmosphere, this would also be much more environmentally friendly than current petroleum products. The net CO2 generated would be almost nothing.

RoberHume said at December 1, 2006 10:39 AM:

I agree that we need to leave the Muslims alone and to cut off their immigration to the West. I don't think we need to worry about oil. It's just a market. They will sell to us as long as we are not at war.

A major benefit to leaving the Muslims alone is that we will not have our troops occupying their land. This is the cause of much Muslim resentment of the west. Hence we will take a lot of the steam out of jihad. They can build skyscrapers, watch TV, and keep their women in Burkhas.

John S Bolton said at December 2, 2006 12:46 AM:

Here's an idea for removing predatory groups with foreign connections:
have long sentences on violent crimes against strangers,
then reduce them several years for each relative that the convict can bring back to his foreign country with him
give cash of perhaps tens of thousands of dollars for each such relative
offer high-grade health insurance for each such emigrant,
relative to the standard of the country in which they resettle
Offer this to citizens or immigrants of whatever type, except illegals.
This will cost less than holding the criminal in prison most often.
At the same time, it will skip over those families which have no criminals
and the richer among those that do.
Why would officials not entertain any such idea, unless it proves that they are avid to do damage to the countries which
comprise the heartlands of advanced culture?

John K. Lim said at October 20, 2010 10:38 PM:

The richer and more educated the Muslim is, the more they are radicalized and think of terrorism. That's new to me! So what's stopping us from returning all Muslims back to their own country first voluntarily and under gun point if neccessary. They are very good at masking their resentments and anger at what they see which is not according to the 5th century prophet's teachings. Let them rot in their Islamic countries and be segregated from us for ever, if that is now even possible. God help us all. See JS Naipaul's a nobel laureate, article regarding Muslims in Al Hayat a newspaper in Cairo, Egypt.

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