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Psychology and Sociology of Religious Fanaticism

A Five Part Series

Part V

 

Understanding the Context of Religious Terrorism and Fanaticism

One of the greatest influences in my life as a young college student back in the 1960s was the written works of sociologist, longshoreman, philosopher and columnist—Eric Hoffer.

It is with the context of Eric Hoffer’s seminal 1951 book, The True Believer that I offer an explanation for groups as diverse as ISIS, The Ku Klux Klan, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, or other international, national or locally grown fanaticism groups.

Such diverse groups really have much in common as far as their psychology and sociology are concerned.

 

The True Believer

 

     The True Believer: Thoughts On the Nature of Mass Movements is a 1951 social psychology book by American writer Eric Hoffer that discusses the psychological causes of fanaticism.

The book analyzes and attempts to explain the motives of the various types of personalities that give rise to mass movements, why and how mass movements start, progress and end, and the similarities between them whether religious, political, radical or reactionary.

Hoffer argues that even when their stated goals or values differ, mass movements are interchangeable, that adherents will often flip from one movement to another, and that the motivations for mass movements are interchangeable. Thus, religious, nationalist and social movements, whether radical or reactionary, tend to attract the same type of followers, behave in the same way and use the same tactics and rhetorical tools. As examples, the book often refers to Communism, Fascism, National Socialism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Islam.

The first and best-known of Hoffer’s books, The True Believer has been published in 23 editions between 1951 and 2002.

 

Summary

 

Part 1. The Appeal of Mass Movements

Hoffer argues that mass movements begin with a widespread “desire for change” from discontented people who place their locus of control outside their power and who also have no confidence in existing culture or traditions.

Feeling their lives are “irredeemably spoiled” and believing there is no hope for advancement or satisfaction as an individual, true believers seek “self-renunciation.” Thus, such people are ripe to participate in a movement that offers the option of subsuming their individual lives in a larger collective.       Leaders are vital in the growth of a mass movement, as outlined below, but for the leader to find any success the seeds of the mass movement must already exist in people’s hearts.

While mass movements are usually some blend of nationalist, political and religious ideas Hoffer argues there are two important commonalities: “All mass movements are competitive” and perceive the supply of converts as zero-sum; and “all mass movements are interchangeable.”

As examples of the interchangeable nature of mass movements, Hoffer cites how almost 2000 years ago Saul, a fanatical opponent of Christianity, became Paul, a fanatical apologist and promoter of Christianity. Another example occurred in Germany during the 1920s and ’30s, when Communists and Fascists were ostensibly bitter enemies but in fact competed for the same type of angry, marginalized people; Nazis Adolf Hitler and Ernst Rohm, and Communist Karl Radek, all boasted of their prowess in converting their rivals.

Part 2. The Potential Converts

    

     The “New Poor” are the most likely source of converts for mass movements, for they recall their former wealth with resentment and blame others for their current misfortune. Examples include the mass evictions of relatively prosperous tenants during the English Civil War of the 1600s; or the middle- and working-classes in Germany who passionately supported Hitler in the 1930s after suffering years of economic hardship. In contrast, the “abjectly poor” on the verge of starvation make unlikely true believers as their daily struggle for existence takes preeminence over any other concern.

Racial and religious minorities, particularly those only partly assimilated into mainstream culture, are also found in mass movements. Those who live traditionalist lifestyles tend to be content, but the partially assimilated feel alienated from both their forbearers and the mainstream culture. (e.g., “The orthodox Jew is less frustrated than the emancipated Jew.”)

A variety of what Hoffer terms “misfits” are also found in mass movements. Examples include “chronically bored,” the physically disabled or perpetually ill, the talentless, and criminals or “sinners.” In all cases, Hoffer argues, these people feel as if their individual lives are meaningless and worthless.

Hoffer argues that the relatively low number of mass movements in America is attributable to a culture that blurred traditionally rigid boundaries between nationalist, racial and religious groups, and which allowed greater opportunities for individual accomplishment.

Part 3. United Action and Self-Sacrifice

In mass movements, an individual’s goals or opinions are unimportant. Rather, the mass movement’s “chief preoccupation is to foster, perfect and perpetuate a facility for united action and self-sacrifice.” To this end, mass movements have several means.

Mass movements demand a “total surrender of a distinct self.” One identifies first and foremost as “a member of a certain tribe or family,” be it religious, political, revolutionary, or nationalist.

Every important part of the true believer’s persona and life must ultimately come from his/her identification with the larger community; even when alone he/she must never feel isolated and unwatched.

Hoffer identifies this communal sensibility as the reappearance of a “primitive state of being” common among pre-modern cultures. Mass movements also use play-acting and spectacle designed to make the individual feel overwhelmed and awed by their membership in the tribe, as with the massive ceremonial parades and speeches of the Nazis.

While mass movements idealize the past and glorify the future, the present-day world is denigrated.  “The radical and the reactionary loath the present.” Thus, by regarding the modern world as vile and worthless, mass movements inspire a perpetual battle against the present.

Mass movements aggressively promote the use of Doctrines that elevate faith over reason [sound familiar] and serve as “fact-proof screens between the faithful and the realities of the world.”

The Doctrine of the mass movement must not be questioned under any circumstances. Examples include the Japanese holdouts who refused to believe that WWII was over, or the staunch defenders of the Soviet Union who rejected overwhelming evidence of Bolshevik atrocities.

To spread and re-enforce their doctrine, mass movements use persuasion, coercion, and proselytization. Persuasion is preferable, but practical only with those already sympathetic to the mass movement. Moreover, persuasion must be thrilling enough to excite the listener yet vague enough to allow “the frustrated to […] hear the echo of their own musings in the impassioned double talk.” And, as Hoffer quotes Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, “a sharp sword must always stand behind propaganda if it is to be really effective.”

 The urge to proselytize comes not from a deeply held belief in the truth of Doctrine but from an urge of the fanatic to “strengthen his own faith by converting others.”

Successful mass movements need not believe in a god, but they must believe in a devil. Hatred unifies the true believers, and “the ideal devil is a foreigner” attributed with nearly supernatural powers of evil. For example, Hitler described Jews as foreign interlopers and, moreover an ephemeral Jewishness alleged to taint the German soul was as vehemently condemned as were flesh-and-blood Jews.

The hatred of a true believer is actually a disguised self-loathing, as with the condemnation of capitalism by socialists while Russia under the Bolsheviks saw more intensive monopolization of the economy than any other nation in history. Without a devil to hate, mass movements often falter (e.g., Chiang Kai-shek effectively led millions of Chinese during the Japanese occupation of the 1930s and ’40s, but quickly fell out of favor once the Japanese were defeated).

Fanaticism is encouraged in mass movements. Hoffer argues that “the fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure” and thus uses uncompromising action and personal sacrifice to give meaning to his life.

Part 4. Beginning and End

Hoffer identifies three main personality types as the leaders of mass movements, “men of words, “fanatics”, and “practical men of action.” No person falls exclusively into one category, and their predominant quality may shift over time.

Mass movements begin with “men of words” or “fault-finding intellectuals” such as clergy, journalists, academics, and students who condemn the established social order (e.g., Gandhi, Trotsky, Mohammad, and Lenin). These men of words feel unjustly excluded from, or mocked and oppressed by, the existing powers in society, and relentlessly criticize or denigrate present-day institutions.

While invariably speaking out in the name of disadvantaged commoners, the man of words is actually motivated by a deep personal grievance. The man of words relentlessly attempts to “discredit the prevailing creeds” and creates a “hunger for faith” which is then fed by “doctrines and slogans of the new faith.” A cadre of devotees gradually develops around the man of words, leading to the next stage in a mass movement.

Eventually, the fanatic takes over leadership of the mass movement from the man of words. While the “creative man of words” finds satisfaction in his literature, philosophy or art, the “noncreative man of words” feels unrecognized or stifled, and thus veers into extremism against the social order.

Though both the man of words and the fanatic share a discontent with the world, the fanatic is distinguished by his viciousness and urges to destroy. The fanatic feels fulfilled only in a perpetual struggle for power and change. Examples include Jean-Paul Marat, Maximillian de Robespierre, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler.

The book also explores the behavior of mass movements once they become established as social institutions (or leave the “active phase”). With their collapse of a communal framework, people can no longer defeat their abiding feelings of insecurity and uncertainty by belonging to a compact whole.

If the isolated individual lacks opportunities for personal advancement, development of talents, and action (such as those found on a frontier), he will seek substitutes. These substitutes would be pride instead of self-confidence, memberships in a collective whole like a mass movement, absolute certainty instead of understanding.

The “practical men of action” take over leadership from the fanatics, marking the end of the “dynamic phase” and steering the mass movement away from the fanatic’s self-destructiveness. “Hitler, who had a clear vision of the whole course of a movement even while he was nursing his infant National Socialism, warned that a movement retains its vigor only so long as it can offer nothing in the present […]

The movement at this stage still concerns itself with the frustrated–not to harness their discontent in a deadly struggle with the present, but to reconcile them with it, to make them patient and meek.”

The focus shifts from immediate demands for revolution to establishing the mass movement as a social institution where the ambitious can find influence and fame. Leadership uses an eclectic bricolage of ideological scraps to reinforce the Doctrine, borrowing from whatever source is successful in holding the attention of true believers.

For example, proto-Christians were fanatics, predicting the end of the world, condemning idolatry, demanding celibacy and sowing discontent between family members; yet from these roots grew Roman Catholicism which mimicked the elaborate bureaucratic structure of the Roman Empire, canonized early Christians as saints, and borrowed pagan holidays and rites. In the absence of a practical man of action, the mass movement often withers and dies with the fanatic (e.g., Nazism died as a viable mass movement with Hitler’s death).

Mass movements that succeed in causing radical change often, but not always, exceed in brutality the former regime that the mass movement opposed. The Bolsheviks in Russia and the Jacobins in France ostensibly formed in reaction to the oppression of their respective monarchies but proved themselves far more vicious and brutal in oppressing their opponents.

Hoffer does not take an exclusively negative view of “true believers” and the mass movements they originate. He gives examples of how the same forces that give rise to True Believer mass movements can be channeled in more positive ways.

“There are, of course, rare leaders such as Lincoln, Gandhi, even F.D.R., Churchill, and Nehru. They do not hesitate to harness man’s hungers and fears to weld a following and make it zealous unto death in service of a holy cause; but unlike a Hitler, a Stalin, or even a Luther and a Calvin, they are not tempted to use the slime of frustrated souls as mortar in the building of a new world …. They know that no one can be honorable unless he honors mankind.”

— p.147

Hoffer argues that the length of the “active phase” of a mass movement — the most energetic phase when fanatics are in control — can be predicted with some accuracy. Mass movements with a specific goal tend to be shorter-lived and feature less terror and bloodshed (e.g., the American Revolution). In contrast, an amorphous goal tends to result in a longer active phase of decades rather than months or years and also include substantially more bloodshed (e.g., the Bolsheviks in Russia, National Socialism in Germany).

In either case, Hoffer suggests that mass movements are accompanied by a dearth of creative innovation because so much energy is devoted to the mass movement. For example, in England John Milton began a draft of his epic poem Paradise Lost in the 1640s before turning his literary talents to pamphleteering for the Commonwealth of England, only to finish the poem and his other major works after a change in government in 1660.

Reception

     U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower read The True Believer in 1952, gave copies to friends, and recommended it to others. In 1956, Look Magazine ran an article calling Hoffer “Ike’s Favorite Author.”

Allen Scarborough chose The True Believer as one of 25 books that “you need to read to know just about everything.”

     The True Believer earned renewed attention after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and, also after the Tea Party Protests and Occupy Wall Street protests a decade later.

 

Bibliography

 

The True Believer Quotes

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

Preview — The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

“It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible.”
“People with a sense of fulfillment think it is a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.”
“The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.”
“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”
“There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless.”
“The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement.”
“The enemy—the indispensable devil of every mass movement—is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter, and the deviationists are his stooges. If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing. It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious. He must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors.”
“Propaganda … serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others; and the more reason we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda.”
“A movement is pioneered by men of words, materialized by fanatics and consolidated by men of action.”
“Glory is largely a theatrical concept. There is no striving for glory without a vivid awareness of an audience… The desire to escape or camouflage their unsatisfactory selves develops in the frustrated a facility for pretending — for making a show — and also a readiness to identify themselves wholly with an imposing spectacle.”
“The conservatism of a religion – its orthodoxy – is the inert coagulum of a once highly reactive sap.”
“Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.”
“The act of self-denial seems to confer on us the right to be harsh and merciless toward others.”
“Jesus was not a Christian, nor was Marx a Marxist.”
Final Comments

     The purpose of this five part series has been to describe the characteristics of religious fanaticism in the world today. It is clear that there are definite behavioral characteristics of individuals who choose to start, or be part of, radical or extreme groups. Eric Hoffer has definitely captured in his Theory of Mass Movements the psychological appeal such movements have.

     The sociological side to religious fanaticism or global movements reflects the facts that, particularly in the Muslim world, three strikes against them give rise to extremism—low literacy rates, low educational levels, and high unemployment.

     There needs to be a renaissance in learning throughout the Muslim world if they are ever going to escape their vulnerability to extremist mass movements and the appeal of radical Jihadists.

     Ever since the Ottoman Empire down-played the importance of education and learning for their people, millions upon millions of Muslims over the millennial have suffered the consequences.    

 

 

 

 

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Psychology and Sociology of Religious Fanaticism

A Five Part Series

Part IV

 

In Part IV statistics concerning education, literacy rates, and employment among Muslims are presented and compared to other groups.

Education and Literacy Rates

 

Worldwide Historical View

     Note that the breakup of the Ottoman Turkish Empire resulted in about 40 new countries, including 22 Arab states.

     The Ottomans had their virtues, but they were no friends to public education, independent news media and the printed word. Ottoman culture favored the oral tradition, expressed in gorgeous poetry and music, and integrated the revered calligraphy of the Koran into every possible visual art form, from painting and ceramics to architecture and metalwork.

But literacy languished, particularly among Muslim Arab populations. According to historian Donald Quataert, general Muslim literacy rates were only 2 to 3 percent in the early nineteenth century, and perhaps 15 percent at its end. The vast majority of Muslim women remained illiterate well into the twentieth century. Prior to 1840, an average of only eleven books a year was published in the imperial capital of Istanbul.

     Books and printed matter in Turkish and Arabic were unknown before the end of the 18th century, and even then they were of limited impact because of widespread illiteracy.

Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition established a Hebrew printing press about 1494. Armenians had a press in 1567, and Greeks had a press in 1627. These presses were not allowed to print in Turkish or in Arabic characters, owing to objections of the religious authorities. One result of this delay was to give Greeks, Armenians and Jews an advantage in literacy, and therefore an advantage in commerce, and in having a means to preserve and propagate their culture that was denied to Turks and Arabs. The major result was to retard the development of modern literate society, commerce and industry.

The first Turkish printing press in the Ottoman Empire was not established until 1729. It was closed in 1742 and reopened in 1784. The press operated under heavy censorship throughout most of the Ottoman era. Elections were unknown of course, though government decisions were usually reached by consultation of the government, provincial chiefs and religious authorities.

     The whole Arab world translates about three hundred books annually–one fifth the number that Greece alone translates; investment in research and development is less than one seventh the world average; and Internet connectivity is worse than in sub-Saharan Africa.

August 2002

Fifty-seven Muslim majority countries have an average of ten universities each for a total of less than 600 universities for 1.4 billion people; India has 8,407 universities, the U.S. has 5,758.      Of the 1.4 billion Muslims 800 million are illiterate (6 out of 10 Muslims cannot read). In Christendom, adult literacy rate stands at 78 percent.

November 2005

Large numbers of children in African and Arab countries are still shut out of classrooms, with primary school participation at below 60% in 17 OIC countries. More than half the adult population is illiterate in some countries, and the proportion is as high as 70% among women. Four out of 10 children in the African sub-region are out of school, as are a quarter of children in Arab member states. Only 26 out of 57 OIC members are on course to achieve the primary education gender equality targets for 2005.

November 2005

The 57-member countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) have around 500 universities, compared with more than 5,000 universities in the US and more than 8,000 in India. In 2004, Shanghai Jiao Tong University compiled an “Academic Ranking of World Universities,” and none of the universities from Muslim-majority states was included in the top 500.

May 2007

The 2002 United Nations Arab Development Report compiled by leading Arab scholars and intellectuals, reported that fewer than 350 books were translated into Arabic every year, less than one-fifth the number translated into Greek. The 2003 report added that the 10,000 books translated into Spanish every year exceeded those translated into Arabic— over the entire millennium.

2008

With an average adult literacy rate of 71.7% in 2010, OIC countries as a group lagged well behind the world average of 80.1% and also the other developing countries’ average of 82.5%.

2013

 

Arab World

Nearly half of all women in the Arab world are illiterate.

Nearly one in three people in the Arab world is illiterate, including nearly half of all women in the region, the Tunis-based Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization (Alecso) said Monday.

Three-quarters of the 100 million people unable to read or write in the 21 Arab countries are aged between 15 and 45 years old, Alecso said in a statement.

Equally alarming, some 46.5% of women in the region are illiterate, the organisation reported, urging governments to put the fight against illiteracy at the top of their agendas.

January 2008

 

Denmark

Two thirds of all immigrant school children with Arabic backgrounds are illiterate after 10 years in the Danish school system:

Those who speak Arabic with their parents have an extreme tendency to lack reading abilities – 64 percent are illiterate. … No matter if it concerns reading abilities, mathematics or science, the pattern is the same: The bilingual (largely Muslim) immigrants’ skills are exceedingly poor compared to their Danish classmates.

May 2007

 

India

There has been a growing concern about the lack of educational qualifications of Muslims in India. While so far statistical information was lacking, the Census of India 2001 for the first time gives detailed educational data across religious groups.

Made available to INDIA TODAY exclusively, the findings are disheartening. The facts irrefutably demonstrate that, on an average, Muslim men and women are far less educationally accomplished than their non-Muslim counterparts, and this is so across almost every state in India. .      In 2001, only 55 percent of India’s 71 million Muslim males were literate, compared to 64.5 percent for the country’s 461 million non-Muslim men. Less than 41 percent of the country’s 67 million Muslim females were literate, versus 46 per cent of India’s 430 million non-Muslim women.

In proportional terms, the all-India Muslim male literacy rate was 15 per cent lower than that of non-Muslim males; this percentage difference increased to 17 percent in urban India.

     Far more serious was the percentage difference in literacy rates between Muslim females and their non-Muslim sisters; an 11 per cent disadvantage at the all-India level increased to over 19 per cent in urban India.

At the basic level of being ‘literate, ‘ Muslim women were proportionately 11 percent worse off than non-Muslims. The difference widened to 19 percent for those educated up to middle school; to 35 percent for those who studied up to Class X; to 45 percent for those who learned up to Class XII; and to 63 percent for those who were graduates and above.

August 2006

Muslims, India’s largest religious minority, are “lagging behind” on most things that matter.
Educational disparities were among the most striking. Among Muslims, Shariff said, the literacy rate is about 59 percent, compared with more than 65 percent among Indians as a whole. On average, a Muslim child attends school for three years and four months, against a national average of four years.

     Less than 4 percent of Muslims graduate from school, compared with 6 percent of the total population. Less than 2 percent of the students at the elite Indian Institutes of Technology are Muslim. Equally revealing, only 4 percent of Muslim children attend madrasas (colleges for Islamic Instruction), Shariff said.

November 2006

The first is the high drop­out rate among Mus­lim students. It is below even SC/ST students, who are generally considered the most educationally backward communities.

Six percent of girl students are forced to stop their education as parents think that there is no need for them to be educated.

The transition rate of Muslim students from class VII to VIII is very low compared to other communities.

September 2013

 

Indonesia

The global standing of Indonesia’s universities has dropped according to the latest world rankings published by Quacquarelli Symonds. The University of Indonesia, remains No. 1 in the country, but is only ranked 273rd globally.
United States and British universities dominated the top 20 in this year’s list, while ETH Zurich was the only university from a non-English speaking country that landed in top 20.

     The University of Hong Kong came in as the best performing university in Asia, securing 23rd place, followed by the National University of Singapore at 25th. The Australian National University was also among best performers in the region, finishing in 24th place.

The University of Indonesia was the only Indonesian institution in the top 300, but fell from 217th from last year to 273rd.

September 2012

Nigeria

 

     Illiteracy among Nigerian women of child-bearing age is three times as high among Muslims (71.9%) as among others (23.9%). Two-thirds of Nigerian Muslim women lack any formal education; that goes for just over a tenth of their non-Muslim sisters.

January 2011

 

Pakistan

Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel while addressing the inaugural ceremony showed his concern over the literacy rate in Pakistan which he said is amongst the lowest in the world. The actual literacy rate in Pakistan is hovering around 30% while this rate is around 15% in the tribal areas and the female literacy rate in tribal areas is around 5%.

December 2011

Fata comprises some of the least developed areas of the country, according to official figures, with the literacy rate for women standing at barely three per cent.

January 2012

    

   Pakistan ranks second in the global ranking of countries with the highest number of out-of-school children with the figure estimated to be about 25 million. Seven million have yet to receive some form of primary schooling. As many as 9,800 schools were reportedly affected in Sindh and Baluchistan due to floods. Around 600,000 children of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are reported to have missed one or more years of education due to ongoing militancy.      Pakistan has the lowest youth literacy rate. Only 59 percent females are literate as compared to 79 percent of males in the age group of 15 to 24 years. There are around 51.2 million adult illiterates in Pakistan. Only 65 percent schools have drinking water facilities, 62 percent have toilet facilities, 61 percent have a boundary wall and only 39 percent have electricity.

September 2012

Saudi Arabia

     In Saudi Arabia, the lack of books is accompanied by the struggle to modernize basic educational institutions. In his new book, Prophets and Princes, Mark Weston points out that Saudi Arabia did not have a high school until after 1930, and its first girls’ school was established after 1950.

     The Saudis have only 250 public libraries to serve a population of 26 million people, and there were no hours for female readers until 2006. The Saudis spend many millions of dollars translating and publishing the Quran into other languages, without devoting similar efforts to making foreign books available in Arabic.

2008

Tajikistan

The deputy chairman of Tajikistan’s State Committee for Religious Affairs said Friday the country has more mosques than schools.

Mavlon Mukhtorov said official figures show there are 3,425 regular mosques, 344 cathedral mosques, and 40 central cathedral mosques.

Mukhtorov said on February 16 his ministry issued permits for 45 new mosques to be built in different parts of the country.

Tajikistan’s Education Ministry reports there are 3,793 schools, most of them overcrowded, and in many cases one classroom has up to 40 students.

February 2012

 

Turkey

Pollster Adil Gür of A&G polling company interviewed 3,252 women in 42 provinces across Turkey on the subject of gender-based violence, ntvmsnbc.com reported.
Ten out of every 100 women in Turkey over the age of 18 are illiterate. Approximately 30 percent of women surveyed graduated from high school, and only 9 percent have a college degree. Twenty out of every 100 women over the age of 44 are illiterate.

March 2012

Moroğlu [the head of the Turkish Association of University Women (TÜKD)] stated that only 2 percent of women have access to a university education, which is far below EU standards. She further stated that every two out of 10 women are still illiterate in Turkey.

November 2012

 

United Kingdom

     People of working age with no qualifications: by religion, 2004, GB

In 2004 a third (33 per cent) of Muslims of working age in Great Britain had no qualifications – the highest proportion for any religious group. They were also the least likely to have degrees or equivalent qualifications (12 per cent).

Percentage of 16 to 30 year olds with a degree: by religion and country of birth, 2004, GB

 

Thirty percent of pupils of Pakistani origin gained 5 or more GCSE grades A-C in 2000, compared with 50 per cent of the total population      One in three Muslims has no qualifications, the highest for an ethnic group in Britain. They also have the lowest proportion of degrees or other higher qualifications.

July 2006

A large part of this, of course, reflects the lack of educational qualifications among the first generation of migrants. However,  Dale  etal. (2002) suggest that Muslim groups, such as Pakistani and Bangladeshis are most likely to have to retake exams to gain qualifications.
There appears to be an Asian polarization with pupils of Indian origin doing very well and pupils of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin performing poorly in comparison to other minority groups while at the same time doing better than their socio-economic position would suggest. Figures for 2006 show that Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils perform below the national average at Key Stages 1 and 2, and at GCSE attainment including English and mathematics. For example, at Key Stage 1 Reading, 77 per cent of Pakistani pupils and 78 per cent of Bangladeshi pupils achieved the expected level compared to 84 per cent nationally… Pakistani pupils’ relative attainment at GCSE and equivalent is six percentage points below the national figure, 50.9 per cent compared with 56.9 per cent, rising to nine per cent when English and mathematics are included.

2007

 

United States

According to a Gallup Institute study involving 300,000 people, American Muslims for the most part have lower incomes, less education, and fewer jobs than the population as a whole.

March 2009

 

Yemen

A shocking 65% of married Yemeni women aged between 15 and 24 are illiterate.

According to the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted by Ministry of Public Health and Population in September 2006, illiteracy among mothers the health ministry’s survey shows, that on average 35 percent of married Yemeni women aged between 15 and 24 are literate, with 59 percent of married women in urban areas, and 26 percent of married women in rural areas being able to read and write.

November 2008

Employment

 

Worldwide

Unemployment remained one of the most serious problems facing the OIC countries. According to the latest available data during the period 2007-2011, the average unemployment rates in the OIC countries were significantly higher than the world average and the averages of the developed and other developing countries. During this period, total unemployment rate in OIC countries increased from a level of 9.4% in 2007 to 9.9% in 2011.

November 2013

 

Middle East

The Middle East is the region with the highest rate of unemployment in the world, confirmed the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which reports that unemployment in the region is 10.3% compared to 6.2% on average globally.

The situation presented in “Global Employment Trends 2011” is even more dramatic when looking at the young segment of the population up to the age of 25, where the unemployment rate is estimated to be 40%. The data published by the UN agency raised a further alarm for a region that has already been observing popular insurrection and protests with cries for “more bread, more work” in recent weeks.

January 2011

Around three quarters of Arab youth want to migrate to countries out of their region due to rising unemployment in Arab states, an Arab League official said.

“Due to their poor participation in society and politics and to rising joblessness, 70 percent of the Arab youth want to migrate out of the region,” Khalid Al Wahishi, director of Population Policy and Immigration at Arab League, said.

“We at Arab League have been warning member states at all our meetings to empower the youth. Unemployment, alarmingly high at 26 per cent, poor participation of youth and illiteracy are major hindrances to population policy development and implementation,” Al Wahishi told delegates at a gathering of population experts from member-countries in Qatar.

November 2011

 

Australia

Unemployment rate in Queensland:

Muslims – 10.9% Non-Muslims – 4.7%

Research shows the unemployment rate of Australian Muslim women is over three times higher than Australian-born females from English speaking populations.

2006

 

Denmark

In Denmark, Muslims make up 5% of the population but receive 40% of social-welfare outlays. Their preachers have told them, Mr. Bawer reports, that only a fool would not take maximum advantage of the bounty that Western Europe offers.

February 2006

 

     Ninety percent of applicants for economic help to celebrate Christmas [in North Als] are Muslims.

November 2012

 

Germany

Foreign nationals are consistently overrepresented in unemployment figures. Turkish nationals are in the worst situation; they have an unemployment rate of 23 percent and comprise up to one third of all unemployed foreigners.

2007

Talina (11), Svenja (11) and Jason (9) do not understand a word spoken on the playground. Their classmates speak only Turkish or Arabic. In class, the three of them explain German words to their classmates.      They are the last German children at their school, The Jens Nydahl elementary school on Kohlfurter street (Kreuzberg). Ninety Nine percent of the 313 students are from an immigration background. The parents of 285 of them are financially supported by the state. One of the many school problems Bild reported on.

September 2011

India

In the famed national bureaucracy, the Indian Administrative Service, Muslims made up only 2 percent of officers in 2006. Among district judges in 15 states surveyed, 2.7 percent were Muslim.
The gaps in employment are likely to be among the most politically explosive. Muslims appear to be overrepresented among day laborers and street vendors and underrepresented in the public sector. Muslims secured about 15 percent of government jobs, considerably less than the share filled by “backward” castes and dalits, who were considered “untouchables” in the Hindu caste system.

November 2006

The survey [by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre] revealed that 47 per cent of Indian Muslims said it was difficult to survive on their incomes, compared with 39 per cent of Hindus.
More than 9,500 Indians, including 1,197 Muslims, were interviewed face-to-face last year and this year for the poll.

December 2011

Among religious groups, Sikhs have lowest poverty ratio in rural areas at 11.9 per cent, whereas in urban areas, Christians have the lowest proportion of poor at 12.9 per cent. Poverty ratio is the highest for Muslims, at 33.9 per cent, in urban areas.

March 2012

 

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, the youth unemployment rate in 2009 was over 30%. Other areas that need to be assisted with large investments, according to ILO analysts, include SMEs and the private sector.

January 2011

A study conducted by Booz and Co. for global management and strategy consultation, showed that 78.3% of female university graduates in Saudi Arabia , as well as over 1,000 Ph.D. holders, are unemployed.

According to the report, thousands of women graduate from Saudi universities each year who fail to find a job due to their area of specialization which were described as “routine” and “theoretical.” Women’s studies, the report added, are very nearly restricted to education and health.

The study explained that since 1992, female participation in the job market in Saudi has increased by three fold as it leaped from 5.4% to 14.4%. The number, however, remains the lowest in the Gulf region, according to Saudi newspaper al-Sharq.

June 2012

Spain

 

     Forty-two percent of Moroccan immigrants are jobless, but remain in Spain. Note that 99% of Moroccans are Muslim.

They are staying on in Spain whether they have jobs or not. Immigrants from Morocco, the largest foreign group resident in Spain, are also the one most affected by unemployment.

Of the more than one million unemployed persons of foreign origins registered as living is Spain at the end of 2009, around 350,000 are of Moroccan nationality. This is 42.4% of the community of 775,054 immigrants from Morocco with residence permits. These figures come from the 4th survey of immigration and the job market, which has been issued by the Ministry of Labour and Immigration and is quoted in today’s edition of the daily ABC.

August 2010

Turkey

According to a government study in Turkey, some 23.4 percent of women have been forced by men to quit their jobs or have been prevented from working; in the lower-income category, this figure is 21.5 percent while it is 21.2 percent for those with higher incomes.

February 2011

United Kingdom

     Muslim men of Pakistani and Bangladeshi background are disproportionately unemployed relative to other Asians, according to a Cabinet Office report commissioned by Tony Blair. Even after allowances for education and residential area, Pakistani Muslims are three times more likely to be jobless than Hindus; Indian Muslims are twice as likely to be unemployed than Indian Hindus.      Downing Street commissioned the study from the Performance and Innovation Unit, whose brief was to come up with ways of improving the economic performance of ethnic minorities.

     Hindus are four times less likely to be unemployed than Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims.

February 2002

In 2004 the unemployment rate among economically active Muslim men (13 per cent) was twice the rate of Sikh (7 per cent) or Hindu (5 per cent) men.      Muslim women have the highest rates of economic inactivity. In 2004 almost seven in ten (69 per cent) Muslim women of working age were economically inactive, a rate twice that of Hindu (31 per cent) and Sikh (36 per cent) women.

2004

Thirty-five percent of all Muslim children are growing up in a household where no adult is in employment, compared with 17.6% of all dependent children.

September 2004

Unemployment rates: by religion and sex, 2003-2004, GB

Unemployment rates for Muslims are higher than those for people from any other religion, for both men and women.

In 2004, Muslims had the highest male unemployment rate in Great Britain, at 13 per cent. This was about three times the rate for Christian men (4 per cent). Unemployment rates for men in the other religious groups were between 3 and 8 per cent.

The unemployment rate for Muslim women at 18 per cent was about four times the rate for Christian and Jewish women (4 per cent in each case). Unemployment rates for women in the other religious groups were between 6 per cent and 9 per cent.

Unemployment rates were highest among those aged under 25 years for all religious groups. Muslims aged 16 to 24 years had the highest unemployment rates. They were over twice as likely as Christians of the same age to be unemployed – 28 per cent compared with 11 per cent.

Economic inactivity rates of working age people: by religion and sex, 2003-2004, GB

Men and women of working age from the Muslim faith are also more likely than other groups in Great Britain to be economically inactive, that is, not available for work and/or not actively seeking work.

October 2004

  • 28 percent of Muslims live in socially rented housing as opposed to 20 percent for the general population. . . .
  • The unemployment rate for Muslims is 15 percent which is approximately three times higher than Christians and Hindus.
  • The unemployment rate for Muslims aged 16-24 is 17.5 percent as opposed to 7.9 percent for Christians and 7.4 percent for Hindus.

December 2005

 

     2/10 Pakistani or Bangladeshi women are active in the job market, compared to 7/10 black Caribbean and white women.

£150 a week is the average amount that Pakistani and Bangladeshi men earn less than white men.
     Thirty-one percent of working age male Muslims were economically inactive, the highest level in the country, in 2004.

July 2006

Muslims are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than the national average (16.4 per cent, compared to 7.7 per cent).

Worryingly, unemployment is especially high among young Muslims under the age of 30 (23 per cent), which is again higher than the UK average for young people (17 per cent).

The jobless rate for the least educated young Muslims – those with no qualifications – is even higher, approaching 40 per cent.

February 2010

Unemployment among ethnic minorities costs the economy almost £8.6 billion a year in benefits and lost revenue from taxes. Half of Muslim men and three quarters of Muslim women are unemployed.

October 2010

While there is some variation in employment rates among different religious groups, the most significant gap is for Muslim people who have the lowest rates of employment in the UK.
Fifty-one percent of second generation British Muslim women (those born in Britain) are inactive in the labor market, compared to only 17% of second generation- Hindu women. Of second generation British Muslim women, 13% are unemployed, compared to 4% of second generation Hindu and Sikh women, and 3% of Christian women.      Muslims are also more likely to experience periods outside education, employment or training, than Christians or those of no religion. Young Muslims are more likely to be NEET by age 19-21 than Christian young people, or those of no religion (28% compared to an average of 23%). This worsens with age: by age 22-24 Muslims are among those most likely to be NEET (42%).
Fourteen percent of Muslim women were employed full-time, 10% were employed part-time and 2% were self-employed. Moreover, 42% were categorized as ‘inactive, looking after the family, home.’ This compares to 10% of Christian women and 16% of Hindu women.

October 2010

Because such Islamic multiple-marriages are not recognized in Britain, the women are regarded by the welfare system as single mothers — and are therefore entitled to the full range of lone-parent payments.

As a result, several ‘families’ fathered by the same Pakistani man, can all claim benefits as they are provided for by the welfare state, which treats them as if they are not related.

Figures are hard to obtain, but it’s thought there may be around 1,000 polygamous families living in the UK, costing taxpayers millions of pounds every year.

September 2011

United States

     According to a Gallup Institute study involving 300,000 people, American Muslims for the most part have lower incomes, less education and fewer jobs than the population as a whole.

 

Final Comments

Unfortunately, Muslims are at the very bottom of the social ladder in terms of three very important social variables: education, literacy rates, and employment. Hundreds of years ago the de-emphasis on education and learning in the Ottoman Empire created the conditions for future failure in the Muslim/Arab world to elevate itself above poverty and ignorance. In this author’s opinion, the Muslim culture has been ripe, in terms of vulnerability, for the rise of radical Islam and groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda.

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Psychology and Sociology of Religious Fanaticism

A Five Part Series

Part II

Michael A. Sheehan stated in 2000, “A number of terrorist groups have portrayed their causes in religious and cultural terms. This is often a transparent tactic designed to conceal political goals, generate popular support and silence opposition.”

Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)

Conflict in Iraq and Syria has seen ISIS seize vast territory. Charting the group’s rise, Peter Welby says that future dangers lie in the appeal to Islamists worldwide of their claims to a caliphate.

The resounding successes of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the summer of 2014 were shocking. Cities fell to ISIS forces a fraction of the size of their defenders; soldiers were ordered to abandon their posts; and those soldiers who were captured were massacred. Buoyed by its advance, the group declared a caliphate, a move that has split the jihadi world despite long being the aspiration of such organizations.

Reeling from its string of defeats, it took until March 2015 for Iraqi forces to start their counter-attack in earnest. But unprecedented as these advances were in scale, they fit into a pattern that the group has set since its foundation.

ISIS can trace its roots back to 2002, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – a Jordanian who was to gain notoriety in the Iraqi insurgency from 2003-6 – founded a jihadi organization called Tawhid wal-Jihad in the north of Iraq. Zarqawi had been linked with al-Qaeda while in Afghanistan in the late ’90s, but was not a member of the group and disagreed with the tactic of focusing on the ‘far enemy’ (the West) as opposed to the ‘near enemy’ (rulers in the Islamic world).

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi’s organization grew more active and affiliated itself to al-Qaeda in 2004, becoming al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Despite the tactical differences, this made a useful alliance of convenience: Zarqawi’s organisation gained the recruiting and resourcing benefits of being part of a global and credible jihadi organisation, while al-Qaeda gained an affiliate in Iraq, already by that stage the global center of jihad.

Zarqawi’s AQI was an influential actor in Iraq’s descent into chaos between 2003 and 2007. It had an explicit policy of stoking sectarian violence with the aim of rallying the Sunni community around Sunni jihadi groups, a tactic that ISIS is replicating now. This gained criticism from al-Qaeda’s leaders, who felt that the indiscriminate and brutal violence risked alienating their supporters. However, it continued to support Zarqawi in public until he was killed in an airstrike in 2006.

In late 2006 AQI joined with eight other Islamist insurgent groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), without permission from the al-Qaeda leadership. The name chosen for this new group indicated its ambitions: it was more than a mere jihadi group, but an embryonic caliphate, governed by Islamic law, to which all Muslims within its territory owed allegiance.

As the US surge took hold in 2007 and the so-called ‘Anbar Awakening’ or sahwa – the cooptation of Sunni tribes in Anbar province in the fight against the insurgency – diminished the group’s support base, the notion of the Islamic State’s ‘territory’ was a tenuous one. Successive ISI leaders were killed in airstrikes, and the group’s capacity to launch attacks was severely diminished. But the accession in 2010 of its current leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, coincided with a change in the external pressures the group faced. The USA withdrew its forces in 2011 and the promised integration of the Anbar militias into the armed forces was abandoned, removing a significant counter to insurgent activity. Absent American restraint, Prime Minister Maliki gave vent to his more sectarian impulses, creating grievances that the Islamic State was quick to exploit. Moreover, the start of the Syrian civil war created a fertile new cause and battlefield for the group’s recruitment, and molded it into the military force it has become.

The Syrian war also facilitated the Islamic State’s final break with al-Qaeda. Since 2006, the group’s relationship with al-Qaeda had been ambiguous, possibly deliberately so: the mutual benefits that had first prompted Zarqawi to affiliate to the organization remained.

In 2011 Baghdadi created a Syrian subsidiary, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), under Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, in order to gain a toehold in the war. In 2013, with JN showing unwelcome signs of independence, he announced their reabsorption into the expanded Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – ‘al-Sham’ being the Arabic name for Greater Syria, with connotations of earlier caliphates. However, Jolani appealed to al-Qaeda’s central command, which ruled in his favor, ordering Baghdadi to confine his group to Iraq.

The alliance between al-Qaeda and ISIS was no longer convenient. ISIS could now claim a history and a support base that established its credibility, and al-Qaeda’s central leadership was weak. An ISIS spokesman declared that al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was sinful, and Jolani nothing less than a traitor. Shortly afterwards, Zawahiri announced that ISIS had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.

In subsequent fighting in Syria, much of it with other rebels including JN and other jihadi groups, ISIS has gained and held significant amounts of territory. It captured the city of Raqqa from other rebels in early 2014, using it since as a base to launch attacks in Syria and Iraq. In Iraq, the group exploited botched Iraqi military operations in Fallujah in January 2014 to gain control of the city. Control of sparsely populated transport corridors allowed them to advance rapidly in the kind of surprise attacks that delivered them Mosul, among other cities, in June of the same year.

However, 2015 has brought setbacks for the group, with Kurdish forces comprising mainly the Popular Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq, emerging as key opponents. A hard-fought four month battle for the city of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, culminated in victory for the YPG in January 2015 – though ISIS has maintained a presence nearby. In Iraq, the Peshmerga were able to dislodge ISIS from key areas around Mount Sinjar in December 2014. Furthermore, Iraqi security forces, aided by Shia militias supported by Iran, in March 2015 launched the first major government offensive against ISIS since June 2014, in Tikrit.

Regardless of these defeats, ISIS’ development since 2013 changed the nature of the group. It is no longer a mere terrorist group, but an army that can hold and administer territory. It governs according to harshly interpreted principles of Islamic law, including the imposition of dhimmi pacts on minorities – guaranteeing protection in exchange for the payment of a tax and the acceptance of second-class citizenship. Minorities, including Shia Muslims, have been subject to severe human rights abuses, including massacres and forced conversion, and the persecution of minorities in northern Iraq has been particularly brutal.

ISIS has also provoked shock and condemnation worldwide for its brutal execution of foreign journalists and humanitarian aid workers, as well as captured combatants from opposing forces. While the quality of its governance is questionable – a 2006 paper produced by the group stated that improving the quality of the people’s religion was more important than improving the quality of their lives – it can broadly coerce the consent of the people it governs.

Meanwhile, a further danger lies in the group’s appeal beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. While other jihadi groups, both in these countries and elsewhere, seek to establish an Islamic caliphate, ISIS claims to be one. Baghdadi has declared himself “Caliph Ibrahim,” and goes by the title “Commander of the Faithful.” In the language of his speeches and in his titles, he lays claim to a form of authority from the earliest days of Islam. This combined with the supposedly just cause of the fight against Assad in Syria has proved to be a powerful draw to young Islamists across the world, spread by means of an adept use of social media, and slickly presented propaganda such as the monthly magazine Dabiq. Some of these recruits will eventually return to their homes, taking with them their experiences as members of the most brutal jihadi group in the conflict.

The danger is not limited to individuals attracted to ISIS’ flag. In November, Baghdadi demanded that all Islamist and jihadi movements across the world be dissolved or absorbed into his ‘caliphate’. Many groups have taken up the call. While some were previously unknown, others, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Egypt have long been prominent actors in their own countries’ conflicts.

In September 2014, an international coalition led by the US began a military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, supported by more than a dozen European and Arab states. Extensive airstrikes have supported the operations of Kurdish and Iraqi ground forces in making strategic gains.

A focus on ISIS should not underestimate the unpredictable nature of this conflict: sudden changes in fortune have been a hallmark of the Syrian civil war, and in Iraq the concerted action of Shia militias and the military – not to mention Iranian interests – may yet turn the tide. Moreover, as the development of ISIS shows, jihadi groups can fracture suddenly and dramatically.

However, ISIS is bolstered by state-of-the-art equipment seized from Iraqi bases and resources from oil fields in its territory; it’s also reported that ISIS has extensive assets. The Iraqi army also melted before them in June 2014. Because of these factors ISIS will not be defeated without a hard fight.

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050

Why Muslims Are Rising Fastest and the Unaffiliated Are Shrinking as a Share of the World’s Population

The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050:

  • The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
  • Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
  • The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
  • In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
  • India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
  • In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
  • Four out of every ten Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are among the global religious trends highlighted in new demographic projections by the Pew Research Center. The projections take into account the current size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, international migration and patterns in conversion.

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