JUST HOW EXTREMIST EGYPT’S MUSLIMS ARE
On April30, 2013, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, of the Pew Research Center, published its unprecedented report: The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. It is based on public opinion surveys conducted between 2008 and 2012 in a total of 39 countries and territories on three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.
Map showing the 39 countries surveyed
The face to face survey included Egypt, where, from 14 November 2011 to 18 December 2012, 1798 Muslims, aged 18 years and above, of both men and women. The sample, which was designed to include 24 of 29 governorates proportional to population size and urban/rural population (the five frontier provinces, containing 2% of the overall population, were excluded), is nationally representative of 98% of the adult population. The survey’s margin of error is +/-3.7 points. The views of the adult Muslims of Egypt revealed by the huge survey, which reflect their opinion on religion, politics, morality, women, and Copts, are very important. It gives us an insight in what they really believe, and can be used by the Copts and outside world to assess extremism in the Muslims of Egypt.
I will not cover all aspects of the survey [for the full report, go here]but will focus on the questions that tell us about the political views of the Muslims of Egypt that are based on religion that affects the lives of the Copts in Egypt and their civil and political rights.
1. % OF MUSLIM EGYPTIANS BELIEVE SHARIA IS THE REVEALED WORD OF GOD; 20% BELIEVE IT IS DEVELOPED BY MEN, BASED ON WORD OF GOD
2. 74% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS FAVOUR MAKING SHARIA THE LAW IN EGYPT
3. 74% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT SAY IT SHOULD BE APPLIED TO BOTH MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS; ONLY 25% SAY IT SHOULD APPLY TO MUSLIMS ONLY
4. 95% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT SAY RELIGIOUS JUDGES SHOULD DECIDE DOMESTIC (FAMILY MATTERS, SUCH AS MARRIAGE, DIVORCE AND INHERITANCE) AND PROPERTY DISPUTES
5. 70% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT FAVOUR CORPORAL PUNISHMENT (HUDUD) FOR CRIMES SUCH AS THEFT (CUTTING OFF HANDS OF THIEF, e.g.)
6. 81% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT FAVOUR STONING AS A PUNISHMENT FOR ADULTERY
7. 86% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAID SHARIA SHOULD BE THE LAW OF THE LAND IN EGYPT FAVOUR DEATH PENALTY FOR LEAVING ISLAM
8. 56% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY EGYPT’S LAWS DO NOT FOLLOW SHARIA; 39% SAY THEY FOLLOW IT VERY OR SOMEWHAT CLOSELY; 6% DON’T KNOW
9. 69% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAY EGYPT’S LAWS DO NOT FOLLOW SHARIA SAY THIS IS BAD; 25% SAY IT’S GOOD; 8% DON’T KNOW
10. 55% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY ISLAMIC POLITICAL PARTIES ARE BETTER THAN OTHER PARTIES; 36% SAY THEY ARE SAME; 7% SAY THEY ARE WORSE
11. 75% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY RELIGIOUS LEADERS SHOULD HAVE POLITICAL INFLUENCE: 28% SAY LARGE INFLUENCE; 47% SAY SOME INFLUENCE
12. 29% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY SUICIDE BOMBING AGAINST CIVILIANS IN DEFENCE OF ISLAM IF JUSTIFIED (OFTEN, OR SOMETIMES)
13. 96% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY THAT ISLAM ALONE LEAD TO HEAVEN; 3% SAYS MANY RELIGIONS DO
14. 88% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY CONVERTING OTHERS TO ISLAM IS A RELIGIOUS DUTY
15. ONLY 28% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY RELIGIOUS CONFLICT IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM IN EGYPT
16. 50% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY MOST/MANY CHRISTIANS ARE HOSTILE TOWARD MUSLIMS; ONLY 35% OF THEM SAY MUSLIMS ARE HOSTILE TO CHRISTIANS
17. ONLY 22% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY THEY KNOW A GREAT DEAL/SOME ABOUT CHRISTIAN BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
18. 56% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY ARE VERY DIFFERENT; ONLY 30% SAY THEY HAVE A LOT IN COMMON
19. 42% OF THOSE EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAY ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY HAVE A LOT IN COMMON SAY THEIR KNOWLEDGE IS BASED ON A GREAT/SOME KNOWLEDGE; 27% ON NOT VERY MUCH/NOTHING KNOWLEDGE
20. 86% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY ALL OR MOST OF THEIR CLOSE FRIENDS ARE MUSLIMS
21. 17% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY THEY WOULD BE VERY/SOMEWHAT COMFORTABLE WITH THEIR SONS MARRYING A CHRISTIAN; 0% WOULD BE COMFORTABLE WITH THEIR DAUGHTERS MARRYING A CHRISTIAN
22. ONLY 4% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS ATTENDED INTERFAITH MEETINGS WITH CHRISTIANS
23. 31% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS SAY PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS ARE FREE TO PRACTICE THEIR FAITH; 46% SAY MUSLIMS ARE FREE TO PRACTICE ISLAM
24. 77% OF EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS WHO SAY IT IS GOOD THAT OTHERS ARE VERY FREE TO PRACTICE THEIR FAITH SAY THEY SUPPORT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The results of the Pew Research Center survey which was conducted in Egypt in 2011-2012 in the immediate post-25 January 2011 Revolution tells us much about the Muslims of Egypt. One this which it evidently tells us is that it wasn’t a social revolution in any way along liberal lines. Egyptian Muslims remain extreme in their political and social views that are based on religion; and the Copts, together with liberal Muslims and the outside world must realise that. Before I proceed, I would like to define what I mean by the word “extreme”: by it I mean they take Islam as a political ideology that should regulate all aspects of lives, not just for themselves but for the Copts and other faiths in Egypt.
The vast majority of Egyptian Muslims, who are almost all Sunni, (95%) believe that Sharia is divine, with 75% believing that it is the revealed word of God, and 20% believing that, although it is developed by men, it is based on the word of God. The majority (75%) of all Egyptian Muslims want Sharia to be the law of the land (only 26% don’t want that or don’t have an opinion on it).
Of the three-quarters of the Muslims in Egypt who want Sharia implemented in Egypt, the overwhelming majority want hudud (religiously prescribed punishments): 86% want those who abandon Islam be executed; 81% want adulterers stoned to death; and 70% want the limbs of those who steal or rob cut off. And 95% want religious judges decide on all family matters (like marriage, divorce and inheritance) and property cases.
What is more serious is that the majority (74%) of these Muslims in Egypt who want Sharia be implemented in Egypt, want it applied not just for themselves but for Copts (and other faiths) as well. Only 25% of them think Sharia should be applied to Muslims only. Of the 22 countries in Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Southern-Eastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa, surveyed about this question, Egypt is the worst in this: the figures of Muslims who want Sharia implemented in, e.g. Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who want Sharia applied to Muslims and Christians (and other faiths) are 43%, 39% and 34% respectively.
56% of all Egyptian Muslims think that the laws in Egypt do not follow Sharia, and 69% believe this is not good. They want Sharia implemented to replace Egyptian laws. This makes 46% only of all Egyptian Muslims believe they are free to practice Islam in Egypt. Clearly, the majority think that they are not given the freedom to practice their religion.
31% of Muslim Egyptians think that non-Muslims are free in Egypt to practice religion; and 77% say it is good that they are doing that. This raises some questions, e.g., do they think the Copts, for instance, should be free to practice their religion? The answer cannot be made without mentioning the typical duplicity that one finds in Muslim society: while they restrict the freedoms of non-Muslims, Muslims often boast that Islam grants non-Muslims the freedom to practice their religion. The concept of religious freedom in the Muslim mind is so restricted: as long as non-Muslims are allowed to survive in a Muslim society, after being subjugated to Islamic rule, and allowed to keep their religion to themselves, it’s religious freedom. This is the basics of Muslim “tolerance”. Let’s capture the meaning of religious freedom in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching” (Article 18). We have seen in the survey evidence that most Egyptian Muslims would like to apply Sharia to the Copts too, and that they would like Muslim converts to Christianity executed. This is hardly religious freedom. The Pew Research Center could have got us meaningful results on this issue had they explored the question of religious freedom more: e.g. do Muslims in Egypt support the building and repairing of churches on equal basis to mosques, or at least without the traditional restrictions imposed on them by Sharia? Do they allow Copts to preach, evangelise and proselytise freely? Do they disagree to discrimination against the Copts which is based on religion?
If these questions are asked, the survey would undoubtedly reveal the prejudice of the majority of the Muslims of Egypt against the Copts, and will tell us that, in fact, the quoted 77% of Muslims in the survey who say it is good that the Copts (and other faiths) are free to practice their religion. And if one touches on the faiths other than Christianity, such as Shi’ism (even this branch of Islam), Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Baha’ism, fair even worse than Christianity.
The fact is that Egypt is one of the countries in which religion is greatly restricted. Copts get it from both sides: government restrictions (such as discrimination in jobs and restrictions on church building) and hostilities from the Muslim society. The following graph, published by Pew Research Center in 2014, explains it better:
With the duplicity of the Muslims of Egypt, it is not surprising that only 25% of them see the religious conflict in Egypt, which is generated by them against the Copts, as not a big problem. But the most revealing statistics is the following: 35% of them see that most/many Muslims hostile to the Christians while 50% see that most/many Christians hostile to the Muslims!
The writer of this article does not in any way paint all Muslims in Egypt by the same brush. There are good Muslims, who suffer with us, but, unfortunately, most are extremists and show in their attitudes no concern for non-Muslims and liberal Muslims. Egypt is deeply Islamically conservative. It has not achieved any liberal progress since 1952 – in fact, as time goes on it gets worse. The notions of citizenship, equality, liberty and human rights in it are seriously damaged by its Islamic tradition and beliefs. We must know this. And on the facts of scientific research, such as this survey, we must build our vision for the future and strategy of work.