Saturday, February 10, 2007

Five Questions on Islamic Radicalism

Understanding Islam is the key to win in the War on Terror. Western endeavor to curb radicalists include not only efficient military operations, but also political process and development assistance. Contrary to popular viewpoint, John Epostino, professor of religion and international affairs at the Wash School of Foreign Service, and Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director of Muslim Studies for the Gallup Organization, point out that Radical Muslims are rich, well educated, hopeful for the future, and admiring Western liberalism.

Let me review their analysis in “What Makes a Muslim Radical?” in web exclusive version of Foreign Policy in November 2006.

Question 1: Importance of Religion in Daily Life

(1) Religion an important of your daily life
Radicals: 92%
Moderates: 91%

(2) Attended religious service in last 7 days
Radicals: 56%
Moderates: 59%

There is no difference in religiosity between radicals and moderates. Authors conclude that religious fervor does not necessarily trigger terrorism.

Question 2: Education and Income

(1) Education level
Primary school or less
Radicals: 23% Moderates: 34%

Secondary school through university
Radicals: 44% Moderates: 38%

(2) Income
Low or very low
Radicals: 22% Moderates: 31%

Above average or very high
Radicals: 25% Moderates: 21%

Radicals are more well educated and affluent than moderates. It is not poor education and poverty that leads them to violent activism.

Question 3: Hope for the Future
Worse off
Radicals: 7% Moderates: 7%

Better off
Radicals: 53% Moderates: 44%

While people attribute suicide bombing to hopelessness, radicals feel more satisfactory with their life than moderates.

Question 4: Admired Aspects of the West
Western technology (top for both groups)
Radicals: 30% Moderates: 31%

Liberty/democracy/freedom of speech (second from the top for both groups)
Radicals: 22% Moderates: 22%

Muslim radicals do not hate Occidental way of life. Both radicals and moderates admire Western liberty and democracy.

Question 5: What the West Must do to Improve Relations with Islam
(1) What can the West do to improve relations?
Respect Islam (top for both groups)
Radicals: 39% Moderates: 36%

(2) What else can the West do to improve relations?
Refrain from interfering and imposing its beliefs and policies
Radicals: 17%

Economic development/jobs
Moderates: 22%

Both radicals and moderates want the West to respect Islam. While radicals feel Western involvement threats to control their life style, moderates explore more ties with the West through economic development.


Radicals are better off in terms of income, education, and future prospect. It is utterly wrong to assume that terrorists act out of desperation. The most important issue is Question 5. Although radicals admire Western liberalism, they feel Western commitment a critical danger for their civilization. On the other hand, moderates want more Western assistance in economic development and job creation.

It is impossible to satisfy completely opposite requirements by radicals and moderates. However, the West can show their respect to Islam through cultural exchange. Assistance in empowerment and community building will lead more moderates to pro-Western. These policies must be accompanied with hard power resolutions.