Around the world, a disturbing number of Muslims have regressive and extremist views regarding women and violence in the name of Islam. As someone who was raised Muslim, but left Islam at 18, this bothers me.
I know lots of Muslims.
I have Muslim family members and friends. The Muslims I know are not regressive at all. They support women’s rights to inherit and choose not to veil. They support gay peoples rights to not be attacked for their sexual orientation. In fact, most of the Muslims I know support gay marriage and have gay friends.
They all know non-Muslims, who they respect. They certainly don’t support Islamic terrorism. There are lots of Muslims like the Muslims I know, who support the rights of women, gays and non Muslims. Muslims like them should not be forgotten about and they certainly should not be judged for the regressive views and actions of other Muslims. At the same time, we must acknowledge that large numbers of Muslims around the world do have regressive views and that many even support terrorism.
It is completely possible to acknowledge this hard reality and also acknowledge the existence of Muslims who do not have regressive views or support Islamic violence. This article examines the number of regressive and extremist Muslims, according to a Pew Research Center study called The Worlds Muslims:Religion, Politics and Society. The findings of the study are shocking. But they have to be faced.
I am a former Muslim. My mom, whose family is from Eastern Europe, is Muslim, and my father is Christian. I was raised Muslim, but left Islam when I was 18. My Muslim family members on my mother’s side are very secular. None of the women cover their hair, and my teenage female cousins wear shorts, tank tops and other clothes that a conservative Muslim wouldn’t wear.
Some of my Muslim family members drink alcohol and most don’t pray 5 times a day or fast on Ramadan. They see women as equals and are fine with gay people. In fact some of my Muslim family members have gay friends and strongly support gay marriage. Some of my Muslim family members married Jews, Christians and atheists. They are tolerant of other beliefs and people choosing to leave the religion of Islam.
There are many secular Muslims like my family members and friends, who are supportive of gay rights and women’s rights and who marry people from other regions. There are also Muslim reformers like Maajid Nawaz who are attempting to change problematic aspects of Islam. But while these secular, moderate and reforming Muslims exist, there are also many Muslims with concerning political and religious views.
Sexist views among the world’s Muslims are pretty common. According to a Pew Research Study called The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society 43% of South Eastern European Muslims, 93% of South East Asian Muslims, 70% of Central Asian Muslims, 88% of South Asian Muslims, and 87% of Middle Eastern and North African Muslims believe that a wife must obey her husband. The number of Muslims who said that sons and daughters should have equal inheritance rights ranged quite a bit.
In South Eastern Europe 69% of Muslims said that sons and daughters should have equal inheritance rights, while 60% of Central Asian Muslims and 61% of Southeast Asian Muslims believed so. But only 46% of South Asian Muslims, and 25% of Middle Eastern and North African Muslims believed that sons and daughters should have equal inheritance rights.
The number of Muslims who said that women should have the right to choose to veil also ranged a bit, with 88%- 40% beveling so, depending on the region. 88% of South Eastern European Muslims believed that women should have the right to choose to veil.
79% of Southeast Asian Muslims and 73% of Central Asian Muslims agreed that women should have the right to choose to veil. But when it comes to South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa, the number of Muslims who believe that women should have the right to choose to cover up dropped. 56% of South Asian Muslims, 53% of Middle Eastern and North African Muslims, and 40% of Sub Saharan African Muslims supported a woman’s right to choose to veil.
Belief about a woman’s right to divorce, like belief about women’s right to inherit and cover up varied with different regions. 86% of South Eastern European Muslims, 70% of Central Asian Muslims, 44% of South Asian Muslims, 33% of Middle Eastern and North African Muslims, and 32% of Southeast Asian Muslims believed that women have a right to divorce.
What is most concerning is the amount of Muslims who support suicide bombings. In many Muslim countries a tiny minority of Muslims believe that suicide bombings in defense of Islam are often or always justified. 1% of Muslims in Azerbaijan, 2% of Muslims in Kazakhstan, 3% of Muslims in Bosnia, 3% of Muslims in Tajikistan, 4% of Muslims in Russia and 6% of Muslims in Albania, said that suicide bombings in the name of Islam were often or always justified. But 18% of Malaysian Muslims, 26% of Bangladeshi Muslims, 29% of Egyptian Muslims, 39% of Afghan Muslims and 40% of Muslims in Palestinian territories believed that suicide bombings in defense of Islam were often or always justified.
In America, a fairly large amount of Muslims don’t always condone terrorism. 81% of U.S Muslims said that suicide bombings and similar acts targeting civilians are never justified. 81% is the vast majority, but that still leaves 19% of American Muslims who do believe that attacks on civilians can be justified. There are a lot of people who believe that Islamic suicide bombings are always or often justified.
The study showed that American Muslims are pretty secular. 63% of American Muslims say there is no tension between being religiously devout and living in a modern society. In the U.S., 59% of Muslims say there generally is not a conflict between science and religion. American Muslims are slightly less likely to believe in evolution than Muslims in other parts of the world with 45% of U.S Muslims believing in it to compared to a global median of 53%. The percentage of U.S Muslims who believe in evolution is close to the percentage of U.S Christian who believe in evolution which is 46%.
U.S. Muslims are significantly less likely than Muslims worldwide to say that all or most of their close friends are Muslim. 48% of U.S Muslims in the survey said all or most of their close friends are Muslim, meaning that 52% have many close friends from other religions. 95% of global Muslims said that all or most of their close friends were Muslim.
American Muslims are more likely than Muslims in many other countries to reject violence done in the name of Islam. 81% of U.S Muslims say that suicide bombings and similar acts targeting civilians are never justified. 81% is a vast majority, but again, keep in mind, that 19% of US Muslims say that suicide bombings can be justified.
The Islamic extremism, sexism, violence etc that exists in the Muslim world is more likely to effect other Muslims then anyone else. It is mostly Muslim women who are forced to veil. Muslim Minority groups are frequently targeted by Muslim terrorists. In fact, most victims of Islamic terrorist attacks are Muslims. So ignoring the amount of Muslims who hold these disturbing views is ignoring the plight that many Muslim people face. If you care about Muslim people, you would acknowledge these facts and try to help the Muslims harmed by them.
As stated before, there are many Muslims who do not have regressive views on women, homosexuality and other issues and who do not support violence. There are gay Muslims, Muslims who drink, Muslim women who wear reveling clothes, Muslims who marry or make friendships with non Muslims, and Muslims who are trying to reform Islam. There are also U.S Muslims who voted for Trump.
In the US we have Muslim doctors, police officers and fire fighters . We should not judge these peaceful Muslims for the actions that other Muslims do or the views that other Muslims hold. But we should acknowledge that many Muslims have regressive views on women and are sympathetic with terrorism. Regressive Muslims and Muslim terrorists harm other Muslims more then anyone else, so by ignoring the existence of regressive and violent Muslims, you are ignoring the suffering of other Muslims, who are peaceful and may not have regressive views.