Mecca and moderation
By David Clingingsmith, Asim Ijaz Khwaja and Michael Kremer
International Herald Tribune
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
For many people in the West, Islam is increasingly associated with violence and terrorism. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the PEW Forum, 45 percent of Americans believe Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, up from 36 percent in 2005. Close to a third of respondents use negative words like fanatic, radical and terror to describe their impressions of Islam.
Does increased religious orthodoxy promote violence and intolerance? Our research on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca suggests this association is wrong. The hajj is one of the most important institutions in Islam and a singular experience for many Muslims.
Our recent study of Pakistani pilgrims shows that while performing the hajj leads to greater religious orthodoxy, it also increases pilgrims' desire for peace and tolerance toward others (to read the study, go to http://ssrn.com/abstract=1124213). And this greater tolerance is not just toward fellow Muslims - it also extends to non-Muslims.
These findings echo the experience of Malcolm X, who drastically altered his views on race after performing the hajj. In a letter from the hajj, he wrote: "We were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white ... what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held."
The hajj is an inherently communal and international phenomenon, with over 2 million Muslims from all over the world gathering for several days in intense prayer and rituals. Pilgrims interact with fellow Muslims of different races and ethnicities in a religious context. At the hajj, men and women often pray alongside one another, an entirely new experience for many pilgrims.
Our study isolates the impact of performing the hajj using a method common in medicine. When doctors want to test a new drug, they give it to a randomly selected treatment group and compare their outcomes to a statistically similar control group. While social scientists rarely have the opportunity to use this method, we are able to do so by taking advantage of a randomized lottery for allocating hajj visas in Pakistan. We compare the attitudes of 800 successful lottery applicants, the "treatment" group, to an equal number of unsuccessful ones. The results are incredibly revealing.
Pilgrims are more observant of orthodox religious practice even five to eight months after returning from the hajj. They are 16 percent more likely to pray, 26 percent more likely to do so regularly in the mosque, and double their likelihood of non-obligatory fasting.
Interestingly, however, pilgrims are less likely to believe and participate in localized religious practices, such as using amulets.
What may be surprising to some is that the hajj makes pilgrims more tolerant of both fellow Muslims and non-Muslims. The experience of diversity on the hajj really does seem to matter: Hajjis have more positive views about people from other Muslim countries and are more likely to believe that different Pakistani ethnic and Islamic sectarian groups are equal and that they can live in harmony. Despite non-Muslims not being part of the hajj experience, these views also extend to adherents of other religions: Pilgrims are 22 percent more likely to declare that people of different religions are equal and 11 percent more likely to state that different religions can live in harmony by compromising over their disagreements.
Paralleling the findings on tolerance, hajjis report more positive views on women's abilities, greater concern for their quality of life, and are also more likely to favor educating girls and women participating in the workforce.
Hajjis are also less likely to support the use of violence and show no evidence of any increased hostility toward the West. They are more than twice as likely to declare that the goals of Osama bin Laden are incorrect, more likely to express a preference for peace between Pakistan and India, and more likely to declare that it is incorrect to physically punish someone if they have dishonored the family. Hajjis also become more sensitive to crimes against women.
While these results are specifically about the hajj, they have broader implications.
The impact of an event like the hajj demonstrates that even deep-rooted attitudes such as religious beliefs and views about other social groups can be changed. While all religions may have radical seminaries or extremist groups that promote an orthodoxy that goes hand in hand with hostility toward outsiders, our study shows this is not an inherent attribute of orthodoxy.
The promotion of tolerance doesn't therefore need to be defined in immediate opposition to religious orthodoxy. There may be ways, as demonstrated in the hajj, to leverage religious beliefs to foster compromise and mutual respect.
There is also a broader lesson about exposure to a diversity of peoples. Although lacking a common language, mixing with others across national, sect, and gender lines can help promote tolerance - both toward fellow participants but even more significantly, to those who are not part of the experience.
David Clingingsmith is an assistant professor of economics, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. Asim Ijaz Khwaja is an associate professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Michael Kremer is a professor of developing societies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. They are the authors of "Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam's Global Gathering."
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
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August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
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Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.