So is it wrong to ask the question?

By: BW Ellis
Originally Published: October, 15th 2014

When we go to school we learn by questioning, and the answers to those questions form the ways we see the world, but should we ever be prohibited from asking questions?

Between 2008 and 2012 a small group of dedicated scientists and pollsters asked a very large group of people questions that are so controversial I don’t know if everyone would be willing to ask them, much less answer them. I do know that the answers are not being well received.

The collection of survey results were presented in April of 2013 and the world went on oblivious to the truth bomb that was just laid at their feet. So I am going to apply some logic and the dreaded mathematics to these truths to allow for some enlightenment to creep in.

First off it is important for everyone to be working from the same numbers. The data I am looking at is in the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project’s study on “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society”, and the Muslim population by county table that was posted on their site in January of 2011.

Simply enough the study puts the numbers of Muslims that responded one way or another into a percentage. While this practice is scientifically appropriate I feel there are times when both the percentages and the actual numbers of a population need to be represented, that way we can better define terms like “moderate”, “fundamentalist”, or even “minority and majority”.

Now, to head off the hurtful comments decrying why I am focusing on Islam and not the other religions let me just make this clear, I am an atheist and an anti-theist. I disagree with all the faiths out there in one way or another. I am just as willing to discuss the numerous studies out there concerning Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or any other ideological practices’ shortcomings, including atheism.

It is safe to say that Islam has, in the last decades, distinguished itself amongst the world’s faiths and therefore has earned the attention of the Pew Research Project. Since we now have numbers on this topic it has given me the opportunity to show them to you in a way that otherwise seems to have passed the attention of the average American.

The study itself was a very comprehensive endeavor polling 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries. The countries themselves were chosen due to their size (over 10 million Muslims) and the political conditions on the ground. Due to these and other reasons some of the most fundamentalist countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Iran, and Somalia are not included in these numbers.

I don’t know for certain that these numbers are representative of the Muslims in the country, but with this and many other aspects of the study I am going to assume they were handled properly by both the Pew Research Center and the professionals from numerous universities that aided in the data collection. If anyone wants to try to bust their numbers or methodology, be my guest.

As a model of the way I am looking at this study we will need an example to take a closer look at. Indonesia is a country that is covered in this study and it has, by far, more Muslims than any other region on the planet.

According to the study, 72% of the Muslim population supports “making sharia the law of the land”. So out of the 204 million Muslims that the population table shows us for 2010, 147.5 million Muslims support Sharia.

Of the people who answered “yes” to the first question a collection of follow ups were asked. Anyone who has taken a survey over the phone, in person, or Facebook knows how this works, only here the questions were limited in the response. Usually a “yes” or a “no” is about all that was allowed.

So of the Indonesians who answered “yes” to the Sharia question we also have data for other questions that delve a little deeper into the faith. Questions like “Do you favor corporal punishments for crimes like thievery?”. Out of the entire group of respondents that answered “yes” to the Sharia question we have 45%, or 66.4 million Muslims that answered “yes” to the corporal punishment follow up question.

Out of the 147.5 million Indonesian Muslims that support Sharia 48% of them also support stoning adulterers to death. That figures out to 70.8 million Indonesian Muslims or roughly twice the population of Canada.

Now, when you hear the number presented as a percentage, the real impact of it simply doesn’t sink in, but when you hear it as a comparison to the populations of other countries, it looks a bit different, doesn’t it.

Out of the 147.5 million Indonesian Muslims that support Sharia, 18% of them also support the death penalty for people who leave the faith. That means that in the one country of Indonesia, 26.5 million Muslims favor both sharia and killing ex-Muslims. The population of Texas is 26.45 million.

So by asking these questions, we are seeing something that breaks several definitions for us. First off, can we say that a minority of Indonesian Muslims support these ideologies? Sure. Can we say it in a way as to suggest the number is small or insignificant? No.

Can anyone who lives in a modern western country say that these views are moderate? I would not think so.

When we look at the map of countries surveyed we see that a massive amount of the Muslim population was covered. By Pew’s estimates they found representative samples of 2/3rds of the entire Muslim population for the total sum of their study. So let’s apply these results to the really big numbers and get the totals.

Out of the 39 countries surveyed only 20 of them were asked follow up questions so looking at those first we have a total of 589.2 million Muslims that support Sharia. That is greater than the population of North America and Australia combined.

Sharia is a form of legal jurisprudence that does not rely upon laws written by representatives of the people. It follows the texts of the religion of Islam dating back to the 7th century. These texts are usually used in determining resolutions for domestic law but in some countries are used for criminal law as well. In either case the courts do not support fundamental rights that are recognized as necessary for modern society by the international community. 

Freedom of religion is not permitted, freedom of speech therefore is also not permitted. Equality for women, a topic Americans are still having problems with, is not a concern of this court since women’s testimony counts for only half that of a man’s, and in many or all circumstances a woman is not allowed to have a divorce without the consent of her husband and is not allowed to inherit an equal amount as her brothers or other family members.

Getting back to the study, from the 20 countries that answered the follow up questions, 367.2 million Muslims that supported Sharia also support corporal punishments for thieves. Now let’s take a moment here and look at the term “corporal punishment”. In the survey they define it to be equal to the term “hunun” which means:

“A class of punishments prescribed by the Quran and the Sunna for crimes considered to be against God.”

So these crimes are not just considered against the state but against the creator of the universe. 

In point of fact, out of the 834.5 million Muslims represented by the surveys an estimated 539 million of them supported the idea that sharia was the revealed word of god. Is there anyone who could argue against the “revealed word of god” in a Sharia court?

How far would you say the appellate process goes in that society?

Again from the study,

“Although interpretations by Islamic jurists vary, such crimes commonly include theft, adultery, making unproven accusations of adultery, consuming intoxicants, armed robbery and apostasy. The prescribed punishments range from lashes to banishment to death.”

This is where we get to the ethically questionable place. These are the laws that dictate that a thief should be beaten, receive lashes, or get one or both of their hands cut off!

Never mind the international conventions that prohibit such behavior, what if the court is wrong? Do we need to go over the statistics of death penalty inmates and others who were exonerated by DNA evidence?

Sharia’s fixed punishments that cause permanent and irreparable harm to its victims are the very reasons why torture in general and mutilations of this kind in particular are seen as barbaric in the majority of the developed world, yet from these 20 countries alone we see over half a billion Muslims supporting the practice.

That should be cause for pause in the heart of every Liberal out there. Next question.

Of the Muslims who supported Sharia, an estimated 385.8 million of them also supported the idea that an adulterer should be stoned to death. For now let’s just say that in any collection of 20 countries the number of people looking to stone other people to death should not be roughly equivalent to the population of western Europe.

Think about this for a moment. Pew did not separate the sexes in the determination here but lets say that since many Muslim countries allow for more than one wife, that the crime of adultery is predominately a crime enforced upon women.

This is where the Liberal ideology should be past outrage and well into frothing hysteria.

Imagine a little girl gets married off at an age that is far too young to be able to know if they will love this person nor is it their choice but to marry him. Arranged marriages of children are another topic for discussion but can we just say for the moment that they happen in really depressing numbers.

We now know that if one of those girls grows into adulthood and falls for another man, the act of embracing that love, to be with whomever she wants, carries with it a death of horrific proportions.

First she is shamed by the trial, then her shame is exasperated by the public display of her execution. That execution would involve having stones hurled at her body, breaking bones, tearing skin, bashing organs.

Imagine the screams that would come from such a killing, the slow torturous destruction of a person, a human who deserves the same rights as you or me. A person who endures the pain and shame of a slow crushing death until fate or a well placed stone ends it.

In 20 countries on this planet a population of people greater than that of western Europe is advocating for this.

The next follow up question cuts right to the bone, so to speak. 300.9 million Muslims who support Sharia in these 20 countries also favor the death penalty for people who leave Islam.

At this point stating that 300.9 million Muslims are almost the population of the continental US seems like child’s play.

How, as an American, can we look at such staggering numbers and not draw a conclusion? How can we say we support religious freedom with one breath and then marginalize the impact of 300 million Muslims on the world stage?

Is this a minority of people? Are we not supposed to show concern about this incredibly large segment of the Muslim population?

These numbers would be shocking if they represented the entire Muslim population but they don’t. We cannot have an accurate number of Muslims the world over that advocate for these things because the really dangerous and notorious parts of the Muslim world cannot be surveyed safely.

So when do we start to react? How many Muslims have to be advocating for religious fundamentalism that tap dances in the horrific category before Americans say something?

If the next survey to come around put the numbers of Muslims who support sharia at 600 million would we then react? 650 million? 700?

In an attempt to extrapolate and encompass the entire global Muslim population I took the average of all the percentages given in the Pew study. That number is 59%, and I think it’s soft. 

Without the fundamentalist countries to include it would seem that a simple average of 2/3rds of Islam is light, but its all we have so lets look at that percentage in real numbers, so to speak.

Out of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world you get 939.3 million. Statistically speaking, nearly a billion people support Sharia, and by any measure, this number is soft.

So is it wrong to ask the question?

Is it wrong to read the result and support it as accurate?

Is it wrong to change the way we think and speak about this faith when presented with such stunning evidence of how few are “moderate” and how many are fundamentalist?

I say no. I say that there is never a time when we can bury our heads in the sand and claim religious tolerance as a cover.

I say no. We cannot call ourselves Americans, or Liberals, and speak in favor of blind acceptance of the faith.

I say no. We can no longer accept that only a minority of Muslims support a legal system that is in direct contradiction to freedoms recognized by the international community simply because faith is the tool by which they are subjugated.

I say we need to ask the hard questions and accept the hard answers.