What does it mean to be a Muslim?
Dalia Mogahed is a Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, a nonpartisan research center dedicated to providing data-driven analysis on the views of Muslim populations around the world. With John L. Esposito, Ph.D., she is coauthor of the book Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Her analysis has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, the Harvard International Review, the Middle East Policy journal, and many other academic and popular journals. She travels the globe engaging diverse groups on what Muslims around the world really think.
Mogahed leads the analysis of Gallup's unprecedented survey representing the opinions of more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide, including Muslims in the West. She also directs the Muslim-West Facts Initiative, through which Gallup, in collaboration with the Coexist Foundation, is disseminating the findings of the Gallup World Poll to key opinion leaders in the Muslim World and the West. She is a member of Women in International Security, serves on the leadership group of the Project on U.S. Engagement with the Global Muslim Community, and is a member of the Crisis in the Middle East Task Force of the Brookings Institution.
Dalia Mogahed: I think there are many problems. If we look at what Muslims themselves are saying are their greatest problems, they really cite political and economic corruption very, very clearly. They are very critical of their own societies.
It’s really a myth to think that Muslims aren’t engaging in self-criticism. That’s simply not true.
And at the same time, admire what they perceive to be a great deal more justice that exists in the political system in the west. So the disconnect isn’t that democracy isn’t admired, but rather that Muslims believe that the democratic principles the west often preaches, they’re not practicing when it comes to their part of the world.
When Islam is used to further someone’s own political or social power, then that core message of serving only God and being true to a message of selflessness is therefore forgotten. So I think that in claiming superiority over other human beings, and in claiming a monopoly on the truth, that core message is lost and distorted.
The historical figure that I find most inspiring is, as a Muslim, the prophet Mohammad. Peace be upon him.
I think that the reason for that is because he brought to the world a message that could resonate with the young and the old at the same time, the rich and the poor at the same time, women and men at the same time. He brought a message that was so resilient and so flexible that it could thrive in societies as different as China and Nigeria.
And I think that one of the biggest challenges today is to rediscover that vitality and not allow Islam to become ossified as a rigid force.
In very basic terms, he brought a message that said that nothing was worthy of worship except God. And what that means; the implications of that simple message was that all humans were therefore equal. If no one could be worshipped except God, then no one was superior to anyone else.
In fact, exclusively he said that all human beings are as equal as teeth on a comb. So the way I understand that, it was a message of human liberation – a liberation from slavery from one human to another, and instead for all humans to serve God alone.
We actually have done some work on Muslim minorities in the west in London, Paris and Berlin. And we found some very interesting and very surprising evidence to show that Muslims are no more likely than the general public in these countries to feel alienated from the nation that they have chosen to live.
In fact, believe it or not, in London, Muslims are more likely than the general public to say that they identify strongly with the U.K. as their country. The general theme is that Muslims identify strongly with their nation, and at the same time also identify strongly with their faith. And we did not find any evidence to show that the two were trade-offs.
So for example, those who identified strongly with their faith were not more likely to identify less strongly with their nation; that the two were mutually enriching, not mutually exclusive; national and religious identities mutually enriching, not mutually exclusive.
Where Muslims in these countries and the general public differ most was on issues of social morality. So what Muslims actually mirrored where we would expect to find conservative American Christians. So where thought that things like abortion, extramarital affairs and these types of issues were morally wrong, whereas the general European social norm was that these things, of course, were non-issues.
So whereas Muslims identified strongly with their nation – and in fact were more likely than the general population to favor mixed neighborhoods; so they weren’t interested in isolating; they were different than the general population in social, moral outlook.
So the question really becomes, Is that difference an issue? Or are diverse societies always going to have differences in social morality? And I think that Europe could really learn by looking to the United States, where there is a huge amount of diversity in our own outlook as Americans as to social issues; but at the end of the day we’re still all American. And we don’t make it some kind of a litmus test in terms of cultural conformity to measure the amount of “Americanness” that one holds.
And that same concept, I think, needs to translate into many of these European societies so that they don’t alienate their Muslim citizens. We actually asked women in these countries, “Do you wear hijab?” And in both cases – when they said “yes” or “no” – we asked why. And what we found is that by far the most frequent response of why women do wear hajib was very simply that it was their religious conviction to do so. So nobody essentially said it was a statement in defiance of the culture of Europe, or was a political statement or a statement of defiance. An overwhelming majority just simply said it was their religious conviction.
At the same time, only about 2% said that it was something that a male relative asked them to do. So, at least according to our data, this is something that people are choosing to do. And they’re doing it just for the most simple reason ever: because they believe it is required by their faith.
And that brings us to the second point of, “What does it mean when it’s banned?” If people do believe in their own belief system that this is a requirement of their faith, and the state is prohibiting them from carrying out an aspect of their faith, how can we in a liberal society support such an act by the state to prevent the free practice of religion? Especially in a way where it’s simply not affecting anyone else. It’s how a woman chooses to dress.
I think what needs to be understood, and really what the data clearly shows, is that hajib; its meaning should not be overestimated as a political statement. It is simply an act of piety.
Recorded on: July 3, 2007.
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"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
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Crows have their own version of the human cerebral cortex.
Action-packed pallia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NzkyMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzk1NzM1OH0.Tjb3zulFW2gwhteR124F9HGbmdnCqNqQFOBQouieTJ8/img.png?width=980" id="2bbc9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2907e4035e553565f4446e968ee73d92" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Fun with Ozzie and Glenn<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0Njk2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzY4Njc2MX0.ZgpsPMCK6qOj2o0kErvVPjdua1EnMCIwCuHHGrb3LiY/img.jpg?width=980" id="acbeb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e286fecbb228a5ca8aa26fcd19f95a2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="two crows in a tree" />
Ozzie and Glenn not pictured
Credit: narubono/Unsplash<p>The kind of higher intelligence crows exhibited in the new research is similar to the way we solve problems. We catalog relevant knowledge and then explore different combinations of what we know to arrive at an action or solution.</p><p>The researchers, led by neurobiologist <a href="https://homepages.uni-tuebingen.de/andreas.nieder/" target="_blank">Andreas Nieder</a> of the University of Tübingen in Germany, trained two carrion crows (<em>Corvus corone</em>), Ozzie and Glenn.</p><p>The crows were trained to watch for a flash — which didn't always appear — and then peck at a red or blue target to register whether or not a flash of light was seen. Ozzie and Glenn were also taught to understand a changing "rule key" that specified whether red or blue signified the presence of a flash with the other color signifying that no flash occurred.</p><p>In each round of a test, after a flash did or didn't appear, the crows were presented a rule key describing the current meaning of the red and blue targets, after which they pecked their response.</p><p>This sequence prevented the crows from simply rehearsing their response on auto-pilot, so to speak. In each test, they had to take the entire process from the top, seeing a flash or no flash, and then figuring out which target to peck.</p><p>As all this occurred, the researchers monitored their neuronal activity. When Ozzie or Glenn saw a flash, sensory neurons fired and then stopped as the bird worked out which target to peck. When there was no flash, no firing of the sensory neurons was observed before the crow paused to figure out the correct target.</p><p>Nieder's interpretation of this sequence is that Ozzie or Glenn had to see or not see a flash, deliberately note that there had or hadn't been a flash — exhibiting self-awareness of what had just been experienced — and then, in a few moments, connect that recollection to their knowledge of the current rule key before pecking the correct target.</p><p>During those few moments after the sensory neuron activity had died down, Nieder reported activity among a large population of neurons as the crows put the pieces together preparing to report what they'd seen. Among the busy areas in the crows' brains during this phase of the sequence was, not surprisingly, the pallium.</p><p>Overall, the study may eliminate the layered cerebral cortex as a requirement for higher intelligence. As we learn more about the intelligence of crows, we can at least say with some certainty that it would be wise to avoid <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">angering one</a>.</p>