Lebanon

Nasser’s Charisma and the Mideast’s Bygone Secularism

My father often says that in mid-century Saida, it was rare to see women wearing the veil in public. Stories like this are a dime a dozen among the retiree set, and even 50-somethings can harken back to a more secular Lebanon. As`ad Abu Khalil talks about how, during his student days, he would drink beer on AUB’s campus during Ramadan to provoke “the religious nuts” who were fasting. Obviously, we live in a very different world.

This great video of Nasser posted on Michael Collins Dunn’s blog (which is one of my favorites, incidentally), is a reminder of Egypt’s similar experience in this regard. It’s difficult to imagine a mainstream Arab politician making a speech like this today. Also note Nasser’s tremendous timing and rhetorical prowess. I may place a little too much emphasis on oratorical abilities in shaping the politics of the Middle East, but clips like this (and this and this and this) are why I keep harping on this theme.

PS: I’ll be in DC next week to hear a paper on confessionalism and electoral reform by Dr. Arda Ekmekji. I can’t keep track of which friends of the blog are based in the seat of Empire these days, but if you’re around, drop me a line.

Discussion

74 thoughts on “Nasser’s Charisma and the Mideast’s Bygone Secularism

  1. This reminds me a little of that lonely Synagogue in Beirut. Nice bricks and all, but empty inside.

    We Arabs have a habit of inflating the “bygone” secularism. I don’t think it was really there. Just figments of it. We consumed European ideas, but never took part in them.

    Like I told Alex many months back- this Faux-Secularism, blowing up Muslim die-hards on the one hand, while encouraging them on the other, is what is responsible for this development. Gamal shouldn’t get brownie points for putting that MB chap in place vis-a-vis his unveiled daughter, or having the balls to say it.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 13, 2012, 7:38 pm
  2. President w/o Portfolio

    Daniel Pipes tells it like it is, although I don’t want to believe it.

    http://www.danielpipes.org/11584/mohamed-tantawi

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 13, 2012, 10:21 pm
  3. QN,

    Anecdotal evidence is fine and dandy but should be heavily discounted.

    Look at the graph on the top of page 20 of this report:
    http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Research/POP/pdes/egypt/docs/IR-07-010.pdf

    Extrapolating, in the 1960′s the illiteracy rate in Egypt was around 80% (1 in 5 could read). This section of the report also states that “Urban Egypt is more than twice as literate as rural Egypt”. Illiterate people are generally superstitious and religious. In Europe, as education levels went up, affinity to religion went down. Why would it go the other way in the Arab world?

    Perhaps the way to look at it is the following. Think of the MB as “missionaries” preying on a weak and uneducated population that is strongly religious. The MB just channeled the strong affinity to religion to their own form of Islam.

    Nasser is speaking to the people in the hall and those in Egypt that had a radio or a television in 1960. He was speaking to the urban elites. The latest Egyptian parliamentary elections kind of drive the point home. The secular liberals were surprised by the little support their views have in the general population. They live in a bubble and extrapolate incorrectly from their bubble to the general population. I think this is not unique to this generation.

    Posted by AIG | July 13, 2012, 10:54 pm
  4. QN,

    “I may place a little too much emphasis on oratorical abilities in shaping the politics of the Middle East.”

    Saadat, Eshkol, Rabin, Shamir, Hafez Assad were not great orators (Bashar can be replaced by a turnip). Ben Gurion was intermittently good but not consistent. Same goes for Sharon. The kings of Jordan were not good orators. I fell asleep several times listening to Peres.

    Begin, Nasser and Nasrallah receive high grades for oration.

    I just don’t see much evidence for your theory that public speaking skills are an important factor in shaping politics in the Middle East. Many important leaders were not great orators.

    Posted by AIG | July 13, 2012, 11:10 pm
  5. ” I fell asleep several times listening to Peres.” AIG….
    Peres seems to cultivate as bland a persona as possible. Smart for the man who holds more of Israel’s secrets than anyone extant.

    Being a good orator worked for the current resident of the Oval Office up to a point. There are, I’m sure, a few more examples of political powers bestowed upon those aspirants gifted with the sweet tongue. They have a “leg up” so to speak. Does that make them more effective as leaders? Only to the extent that the oratory skills are as the frosting on an already formidable cake.

    Style lathered over crumbly substance can only take one so far in the leadership stakes. The 3 orators you mentioned (Nasrallah, Begin, Nasser) are all substantive beyond their ability to communicate.

    Posted by lally | July 14, 2012, 12:53 am
  6. Goes also to show that As`ad Abu Khalil days as an ass go back a long time…

    Posted by OldHand | July 14, 2012, 6:00 am
  7. AIG

    My point was not that people are more religious today, but simply that certain forms of religiosity (like the veil) are more prevalent. This is widely attested in the Middle East. There have been books written on the subject; it’s not just my grandpappy’s anecdotal evidence. But you have a point, of course.

    In Lebanon, the situation was different. The women walking past my dad’s window in working-class Saida were not part of the urban elite. Today Saida looks enormously different.

    Incidentally, it’s commonly said that certain varieties of fundamentalist religious practices have experienced an unexpected rebound in the “First World”… Look at the rise of evangelical megachurches in the US. The settlers in Israel? This requires a more robust explanatory model than: “Illiterate people are superstititious; educated people are not religious.” Etc.

    As for your point about oratory, again you are re-writing my argument. I’m not saying that such abilities are the most important factor. But they are underestimated.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 14, 2012, 6:48 am
  8. I just don’t see much evidence for your theory that public speaking skills are an important factor in shaping politics in the Middle East.

    AIG, QN,

    I think you guys are too young to have experienced the power of the long speeches by Nasser, Sadat, Hafez Assad, not in SHAPING policy, but in getting people behind their decisions. I can tell you from first hand experience that, at the time (today is probably very different), people’s opinions were shaped or swayed to a great extent by speeches given by these leaders. I don’t know about Israel, and I suspect it was and is a completely different paradigm there. When Hafez Assad sent his Army into Lebanon to prevent the utter defeat of the predominantly Christian Kataeb et al. forces, to the chagrin of the opposing Lebanese civil war parties, he gave an ultra-long speech that riveted everyone in Lebanon to the radio. As a result, a large number of Christians developed a (temporary) adulation for Assad. When Nasser took full responsibility for the defeat of 1967 and indicated his intention to resign, showing humility and sincerity, the populace arose in the millions in demonstrations begging him to stay (and he stayed). I don’t know about shaping POLICY, but shaping PUBLIC OPINION was certainly, at the time, virtually controlled by those speeches.

    Again, I don’t know about today. My guess is that these speeches have lost a lot of their impact, in part because of the lost art or oration, in part because of the plethora of media channels diluting the attention of audiences. I share QN’s admiration of Uqab Saqr (whom I learned about form QN!). He is truly erudite, courageous, principled, and remarkably effective in his delivery. However, the extent to which he is admired and this admiration affects people’s attitudes is very much in question. My guess is that this admiration is limited to a few nerdy folks.

    *PS I don’t mean “nerdy” in a pejorative way but to indicate folks who have a certain intellectual depth coupled with interest in current affairs, not necessarily to the exclusion of other qualities that make them completely normal otherwise. ;-)

    Posted by honestpatriot | July 14, 2012, 8:11 am
  9. Part of the reason for the failure of secularism is alluded to at the end of the speech. If the exact same speech were to be held in today’s Egypt, the phrase “10 million women” would have to to be changed to “35 million women”. There ain’t many literate women with university degree who have some 4-5 offspring.

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/egypt/fertility-rate-total-births-per-woman-wb-data.html

    Posted by Pas Cool | July 14, 2012, 3:39 pm
  10. Great orators have shaped the destiny of the whole world and outside the Middle East the list is quite long: From Lenin and Mao to Churchill, JFK, MLK, Malcolm X to Castro and Chavez and Obama. However, one thing they all have in common and the most influential orators of the ME have in common is that they had a substantial grass roots support if for some it was temporary or circumstantial. Take for example George Galloway in the UK. If anyone was born for making speeches it is him but he isnt going to ever be the leader of a major party or Prime Minister.

    However, depending on their position or support, leaders can get away with being poor practitioners of the art of speech making. Hariri Snr. had people hanging on his every word in his prime but he was hardly entertaining and Al Sadr in Iraq is notoriously bad at public speaking but both had influence far surpassing their abilities.

    If the argument here is that the rise of religious practice is down to the lack of erudite secular speakers then I think that argument is too simplistic (and the argument that the rise of religious fervour is down to illiteracy is similary reductive). The rise of religous practice in the Middle East crosses all classes and in fact all religions and the reasons are many and complex and differs from nation to nation. Blaming the fall of secular society in the Middle East on pure poverty is a Western view that cant accept or believe that intelligent educated people would not want to be just like them.

    Posted by mo | July 14, 2012, 9:08 pm
  11. Mo,

    The question is not whether some leaders are good orators, but how much does the fact that they are good orators contribute to what they can accomplish or how important a leader they are. It is clear that good orators do not automatically become important leaders as your example with Galloway shows. QN claims that in the middle east oration is an important factor. I don’t see the evidence to support that.

    My argument is not that Egypt for example was more secular in the past. My argument is that it was never secular. Religious practice did not rise, it was transformed towards the form advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian women in the past did not wear a veil because she was secular or liberal, she did not wear it because she was not yet influenced by the “missionary” work of the MB. I was citing the illiteracy data because it is highly unlikely that a society that is 80% illiterate could be secular, as 1960s Egypt was.

    Many Europeans and Americans are religious. Issac Newton was very religious. Religion itself is not the problem, it is the consequences religion may have for economic and scientific development that is the problem. If religion does not allow you to control population growth, you have a problem. If religion makes 50% of the population unproductive, you have a problem. If religion limits what you can study or research, you have a problem. If religion inhibits creativity, you have a problem.

    People do not want to be Western. What they want is a Western standard of living and to keep their own beliefs and culture. But sometimes, it is just not possible. A society that believes that the only thing worth studying is the holy books and that the internet is evil, will remain poor. For example, this is the case with the ultra-orthodox in Israel. In the same manner, but to a lesser extent, religion inhibits Arab societies. If the MB really believe that “Islam is the solution”, they are in for a big surprise.

    Posted by AIG | July 15, 2012, 12:39 am
  12. “What they want is a Western standard of living …”

    And secular regimes have consistently failed, throughout the Arab world, to provide this. It is quite easy if you are a MB on a mission to find weak points in the ruling of your country and to promise a better society through amongst other devoutness.

    Posted by Pas Cool | July 15, 2012, 1:14 am
  13. True, a secular regime is not a guarantee for development either, especially if it is authoritarian.

    Posted by AIG | July 15, 2012, 1:19 am
  14. Not to come too much off-topic, but the secular regimes in the Arab world (and Turkey and others) were enforced, and not a product of genuine secular development, as in the case of Europe. Forget not, the road to secularization in Europe started as early as 1122 with the Concordat of Worms, the agreement between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope not meddle in each other’s affairs. It’s not a straight line, and there are of course numerous other aspects to consider as well, but the end result was a European population that was able to, wanted to, separate religion from politics. Islam, in most interpretations, does not allow for this. A similar development in the majority muslim world is a pipe dream in my lifetime, and with religious meddling of society you get what AIG, I find, correctly puts as the consequence religion may have on a society’s development. It’s not the MB’s fault. They are just interpreting a text in the way they know, and there’s honestly not much of an opposition to their way of interpretation. Here secular regimes, rhetoric notwithstanding, helped along quite well in their miserable policies of sticks and carrot.

    Posted by Pas Cool | July 15, 2012, 1:42 am
  15. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/opinion/sunday/douthat-can-liberal-christianity-be-saved.html

    This is interesting because it provides a glimpse into the high correlation between liberalism and secularism. Maybe the correlation is not universal and would not apply to Islam, but my guess is that it would. We may not know the exact reasons why but liberalism and secularism go hand in hand. I think it would be very surprising if Arab societies grow more liberal without growing more secular.

    Posted by AIG | July 15, 2012, 12:33 pm
  16. your inputs on Arab societies are always appreciated, Another Israeli Guy.

    Posted by 3issa | July 15, 2012, 1:18 pm
  17. Oratorical abilities have helped shape the Middle East, certainly. From what I gather many muslim tv-evangelists have helped shape public sentiment for instance regarding the veil.

    Secularism is still a pillar of European society, and I strongly believe that what some refer to as Euro-Islam will soon be attractive enough to gather widespread attraction, albeit perhaps mostly in Europe. Surely there will be immigrants that use their oratorical capabilities, as well as the pen, to influence a hopefully more liberal interpretation of Islam. A central aspect of globalization is the quicker spread of thoughts and ideas, so I am sure that there will be much discussion all around. But societies seemingly tend to change slower than the mind, as perhaps the French revolution taught us. Liberty, equality and brotherhood took some time to take proper root in French and Western European society. Even with the faster pace that globalization has brought upon us, I wouldn’t bet on liberal values for the foreseeble future taking root in the Arab world as solidly they did in Europe.

    Posted by Pas Cool | July 15, 2012, 2:49 pm
  18. 3ISSA,

    Historically, Arab societies have not been good at self analysis. I can give you many examples. A recent favorite is the fact that Assad was sure in January 2011 that the Arab spring would not come to Syria (and you can check the SC archives and see that I was adamant for many years that it is inevitable that this would occur in Egypt and Syria). Another example is the unwillingness of the Lebanese to conduct a census. I am quite sure that the Mossad knows more about the makeup of Lebanese society from analyzing your telecommunication records than the Lebanese government does because it never bothered to do so and perhaps does not have access to the technology to do so.

    They also have been very poor at analyzing and learning about Israel which is kind of surprising since Israel is a hot issue in the Arab world. We in Israel are very interested in understanding Arab societies as the numerous think tanks and university departments devoted to the subject show. But we are much less interesting as a society to you.

    Posted by AIG | July 15, 2012, 5:14 pm
  19. Perhaps, instead of saying “Secular”, we should say ” Un- Religious”, because secularism is more than just opposing religion in politics, it comes with sets and principles and none of the so-called secular governments of the ME, Nasser’s Egypt and the Assads’ Syria to name a few hardly exercised any of these principles. This is why the Arab Spring failed in bringing the Liberals, secularists et al to the forefront after the revolutions. It had a huge following, but was never institutionalized. The Islamists rose to the top on the back of uprisings that began in mostly disenfranchised youth who were more inclined to secularism, so in a way, the Islamists rise to power can be attested to the failure of secularists to form a formidable secular system of governance rather than the popularity of Islamic governance itself.

    Posted by Maverick | July 15, 2012, 6:23 pm
  20. AIG,

    Please be reasonable, you cannot expect the Arabs to happily skip to school in anticipation of lessons about Israel whilst it is responsible more or less for the plight of their brethren.

    Posted by Maverick | July 15, 2012, 6:33 pm
  21. Maverik,

    I would reach the opposite conclusion. Wouldn’t you want to learn the most you can about your adversaries so you can fight them better? Even if the intellectual curiosity is lacking, won’t you be driven to do so by practical considerations? For example, Israel encourages Arabic learning at all levels because it is important for our intelligence community. Why wouldn’t it be the same in Arab countries?

    Posted by AIG | July 15, 2012, 6:43 pm
  22. Such a laborious and futile task……why bother. It is more important to have the base ( guerrilla warfare) and the top ( Nuclear) covered, that way eliminating all those finer details in between, lest they find out just how smart those pesky little joos are.
    But on a serious note, are you saying the Israelis learn about the Arabs through a ” get to know your enemy” prism?

    Posted by Maverick | July 15, 2012, 7:38 pm
  23. It is dual purpose. The intelligence community uses academicians as consultants and it also has its own experts and gives courses intended to develop its own personnel above and beyond what the universities teach. So there is an important “get to know your enemy aspect”. It is not a prism through which the subject is learned but it is a strong motivation to devote resources to the subject. Does that surprise you? It is not much different than the Soviet studies in the US during the cold war.

    Posted by AIG | July 15, 2012, 8:24 pm
  24. No, it does not surprise me. It irks me when you put it like this…” We in Israel are very interested in understanding Arab societies as the numerous think tanks and university departments devoted to the subject show. But we are much less interesting as a society to you.” It smells of taking the higher moral ground, you know what I mean.
    Anyhoo, lets not get caught up in dialectics or whatever you want to call it, I’m really enjoying the debate on the topic of the post.
    In my opinion, the decline in the number of charismatic leaders and orators is mainly due to the masses’ increasing awareness of the limitations of governance and leadership. In other words, they are seeing straight through the BS of the same old rhetoric.

    Posted by Maverick | July 15, 2012, 8:39 pm
  25. Maverick, definitely you have a point in that secular regimes failed to deliver. Another reason why islamists seemingly have gotten the upperhand is also lack of knowledge in what a liberal society actually stands for. Not suprisingly the fertility rate is higher in the countryside than in the city. Not surprisingly education is commonly at a higher level in a city, allowing for a broader range of ideas and usually more discussion, than in the countryside. In other words, that liberal and democracy minded person you’re likely to meet in downtown Damascus will be grossly outnumbered by others from outside the city whose views are shaped by different flows of ideas.

    One of the biggest advantages of the co called Arab Spring is that discussion has very much opened up. There’s a whole new generation of thinkers out there, whether on the countryside or in the city. People are asking questions that certainly would not have been asked by those same people 2 years ago. Perhaps among them we have the next great Cicero.

    Posted by Pas Cool | July 16, 2012, 12:57 am
  26. How could anyone think that the impetus for getting to know the Arab (sic) enemy is anything but the obvious? Only the incurious could believe otherwise. Israelis, in particular, do little to disguise their motivation; cultural appreciation isn’t on the agenda. Similarly, getting to know the enemy has always been a priority for Hezbollah; they apparently have Hebrew-fluent operatives strategically placed to good effect.

    Know thine enemy 101 is a universal imperative for those who would be successful in making their wars.

    The thinktank/academia/media model is problematic in that the inhabitants rely on incremental conversations among themselves to advance the collective knowledge base. Other than taxi drivers, consulting the subjects of inquiry is not a requirement.

    WMB and all that.

    Posted by lally | July 16, 2012, 1:15 am
  27. Maverick… How do you dare noticing a sense of higher moral ground?

    Don’t forget that these guys are fighting for the only democracy in the region, even though imperfect, but still, they should be granted the right to have a different perspective on their neighbours (and I’m not saying because they are backwards only)

    OK. To stick to the topic, I agree that most masses in the arab world knows the BS of their leaders. An interesting perspective is from my home country, Morocco, where the corrupt dynasty ruling the land for centuries now is not longer being taken seriously by most people, despite the efforts of the regime.

    In Syria and elsewhere the daily menu for the masses is the Resistance BS, in Morocco they even claim that their rule is sanctionned by the Divine (BS to another level). So the father, Hassan II, was a formidable orator I believe, but to be frank very few people really followed him… Simply because the speeches were empty, and the only things people could see is the widespread corruption and the stories of torture dungeons. Today his son, Mohammed VI has simply no oratory skill whatsoever (and it is almost sure that he is ill), and the level of support he seems to have is as low as his father.

    So for a fact, the eloquence of the zaim is not shaping policy, but I’m not sure it even contributes to recruiting more supporters. Secret police and bribes are doing the job quite well.

    Posted by 3issa | July 16, 2012, 2:33 am
  28. In Ireland at the moment, church attendance is high, but confidence is low. People still go to church and you might call them cultural catholics or something but if you ask them how seriously they would take priest’s opinion on their personal life, you learn how little influence that hour a week has. They don’t believe in the biblical narrative. They don’t accept the religious sexual morality. The question Papal decisions about women in Priesthood or gay marriage. Most importantly, they don’t see priests as having much moral authority.

    Thats a profound change from 20 years ago, but if you were trying to ascertain these things from historical records from the 1950s, it would be very unreliable. The real data sources are not attendance records or wearing religious symbols. They’re the way a comedian on a late show panel addresses a priest. The way that priest expects to be treated. How a parent “teaches” a child to treat priests.

    What I’m getting at is that it’s hard to know what kind of cycles religion goes through, how fast things change, etc. Judging it based on outward symbols, television appearances, church attendance, voting, etc. might be misleading. The different aspects of religion or secularism do not necessarily rise & fall in tandem. That said, there are definitely changes happening in the Middle East religious scene. BTW, I think the changes in Israel’s religious character and make-up are very much related to wider trends in the Middle East.

    On a side note, seeing a leader in front of such a friendly crowd makes me very uncomfortable.

    Posted by netsp | July 16, 2012, 6:46 am
  29. How could anyone think that the impetus for getting to know the Arab (sic) enemy is anything but the obvious?

    Lally,

    In your world Lally, you may be asking a simple question. What other Hebrew words do you know besides “hasbara”, pray tell?

    Since Israel is located in region where arabic is the main language, it pays to learn it for many reasons, including cultural exchange. What’s your excuse?

    http://www.haifa-foundation.org/Jewish-Arab_Co-existence.htm

    http://www.realisticdove.org/archives/484

    http://www.haifa-foundation.org/beit_hagefen.htm

    http://cnpublications.net/2009/11/17/arabs-and-jews-coexist-by-magic/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 16, 2012, 8:43 am
  30. Netsp:

    A fellow (OldHand) felt that by “Drinking Beer” on campus during “Ramadan”, As’ad Khalil demonstrates that his days of being an “Ass” goes back a long time.

    It’s funny. Not funny HaHa.

    As’ad today is 52. He was born in 1960 (According to Wiki). Which means he must have been at the University in the late 70′s, early 80′s.

    Why was it so outlandish for him to Drink Beer during Ramadan, on campus?

    And why does the OldHand think he’s an “Ass” for doing so?

    Rewind history 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, and it’s the same story. Faux Secularism.

    When As’ad Abu Khalil drinking beer in the AUB campus during Ramadan ceases to become a “Story”, that’s when the so-called “Arab Spring” will finally reach Arab Shores.

    Ironically, that will also be when As’ad Abu Khalil will no longer feel compelled to make a statement of drinking beer during Ramadan.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 10:01 am
  31. Cheers, Gabe.

    Posted by Monolith | July 16, 2012, 12:08 pm
  32. Rare are those that have children and remain politically incorrect.

    Is there such a thing as a “Parents Go fuck Off” rating and spare us the shit you brought us up into?

    Posted by Monolith | July 16, 2012, 12:43 pm
  33. LOL
    You know what they say, there is no democracy when you impose upon a baby to be born

    Posted by 3issa | July 16, 2012, 2:10 pm
  34. AIG:

    The Egyptian women in the past did not wear a veil because she was secular or liberal, she did not wear it because she was not yet influenced by the “missionary” work of the MB.

    Honestly AIG, once in a while, you should really take a backseat and read/learn from others.

    Going around unveiled was not the Norm in places like Egypt in the 19th century. In fact the veil was the norm.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoda_Shaarawi

    So what do you say of Hoda? That she was “influenced” by the “Missionary work” of Napoleonic and Britannic Enlightenment principles!

    Get real.

    If the early to mid 20th century saw a movement whereby women- more or less- were trending towards “removing the veil”, and in the late 20th century were trending the other way, then something ought to be said about this! Above and beyond of course the explanation that they are fickle falling leaves drifting where the wind blows them!

    So what do Israeli universities say about this?

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 2:29 pm
  35. Anyone watching Lebanese minister of foreign affairs interview on Future News?
    يا عيب الشوم

    Posted by IHTDA | July 16, 2012, 2:37 pm
  36. Gabriel,

    You really need to improve your reading comprehension skills and stop being a two bit troll.

    QN wrote the following:
    “My father often says that in mid-century Saida, it was rare to see women wearing the veil in public.”

    And the implied argument was of course that people in the past were more secular. My argument was that they were not more secular, just not influenced by a form of Islam that insisted on the veil. To argue that Arabic societies were more secular in the past or that there was a trend towards secularism based on anecdotal evidence is just wrong. And you are continuing with this by using Huda Shaarawi as an example. This is evidence that is very weak. Again, it is just anecdotal. You probably do not understand what that means so here is an explanation:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anecdotal_evidence

    Without evidence based on a wide sample all the talk about “trends” regarding the veil or secularism is just wild speculation. What we do have is good data about illiteracy, poverty and education levels. And we know that there is a strong correlation between those and secularism. And since these levels have only been improving in the Arab world, albeit slowly, it just does not make much sense that in the past Arab societies were more secular.

    And of course just a troll would spin my sentence as saying that Egyptian women did not wear a veil. It is clear that what I am saying is that it is likely that if a woman did not wear a veil it was not because she was secular, not that Egyptian women did not wear veils.

    Posted by AIG | July 16, 2012, 3:04 pm
  37. Israeli University NewZ

    Gabriel,

    FYI, many within Israeli universities say Israel is the illegitimate son of Zionist whores and that the Jews should give “Israel” back to their rightful owners.

    Apparently if you want a good education in Israel, you just have to avoid certain professors.

    http://stevenplaut.blogspot.com/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 16, 2012, 3:05 pm
  38. AIG:

    I don’t need anecdotal evidence. I lived in those societies. I saw the changes in my own eyes, and within communities that you would call “educated” and “literate”.

    Your reading of events is way off mark.

    QN wrote the following:
    “My father often says that in mid-century Saida, it was rare to see women wearing the veil in public.”

    And the implied argument was of course that people in the past were more secular.

    Do you think that Hoda ripped off the veil not realizing (and Hoda was an educated woman) that there are various Quranic readings and interpretations of the veil!

    Do you think that Hoda did not come to that decision based on what she internally felt ought to be a separation of spheres of influence!

    What else does secular mean!

    By doing what she did, Hoda did in fact pave a more “Secular” path for Egypt.

    My argument was that they were not more secular, just not influenced by a form of Islam that insisted on the veil.

    But one day Hoda was apparently “influenced” by the Form of Islam that insisted on the Veil, and the next day she was apparently not influenced any more! Why else was it such a “Big Thing” worthy of a Wiki-Article to tell us about the rise of Feminism in Egypt in the early 20th century!

    The fact that the “MB” (or whatever form they existed in then) defacto had “social” control of the women of late 19th century Egypt, and they saw that control wane with the Westernization and Modernization of Egypt is a testament that society WAS secularizing.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 4:15 pm
  39. AP:

    The question I asked AIG re: Israeli universities and studies of social phenomena is a serious one. Please don’t make light of it.

    AIG has repetitively stated that part of the reason Israel is so superior is that they have taken an intellectual interest in their neighbours. Surely this topic of religiousity is part and parcel of the studies.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 4:18 pm
  40. I am not Jonathan Cook

    AIG has repetitively stated that part of the reason Israel is so superior is that they have taken an intellectual interest in their neighbours.

    Gabriel,

    I think AIG is right, but I have no proof. Israeli-Arabs speak very good hebrew. So the point is, why do they learn about each other?

    - To be able to win future wars?

    - To conduct business?

    - So they can understand each other for friendship?

    I say a combination of all 3. If you feel AIG believes “…Israel is so superior…”, you just have to understand that this is the Israeli mentality. The ZIonists need to be put in their place. One way to do this, is to create a democracy that is better than Israel’s. Certainly Arabs are nicer than Israelis, but there is no metric for that.;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 16, 2012, 4:38 pm
  41. Gabriel,

    “I don’t need anecdotal evidence. I lived in those societies. I saw the changes in my own eyes, and within communities that you would call “educated” and “literate”.”

    You do not even realize that you are contradicting yourself in this paragraph. The evidence you describe is exactly anecdotal. You saw a very small part of society and you are jumping to conclusions based on that. As for Hoda, she was an educated women at a time when 95% to 99% of Egyptian women were illiterate. And you jump to conclusions based on her experience. And make assertions about Egyptian society based on her experience. But since you do not understand how to evaluate evidence, this conversation is a waste of time.

    “AIG has repetitively stated that part of the reason Israel is so superior is that they have taken an intellectual interest in their neighbours.”

    Where did I state that Israel was superior? You lie as usual. If I ever made such an assertion, I am sure you will easily find a quote supporting this, but of course you won’t.

    Posted by AIG | July 16, 2012, 4:51 pm
  42. AIG… I don’t have the patience to search through the unsearchable archives., and comments displayed 50 at a time to find your quote.

    You said it in the instance when you were asking someone how many Jewish studies programs there are in Arab universities, and when you compared and contrasted that to Israeli universities. If you didn’t use the adjective “superior”, that’s entirely possible. But everything else around what you wrote suggested you felt Israel’s approach was “superior”.

    I’ll address your other point later.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 7:24 pm
  43. In short, you lie through your teeth and cannot back your accusations. You can just claim I said something without feeling the need to back it up. You said I ” repetitively ” stated that Israel is superior. So find ONE instance. And not only that, you lie again. You claimed in your first post that I claim that Israel is superior and part of the reason is intellectual interest in our neighbors. Now you claim that I said that Israel’s approach on this issue is superior, not that it is one aspect of why Israel is superior. Nice try changing your meaning, but you are still a liar because I never said any of these things. Back your claim with a quote or admit you are a rotten liar. I have no interest in hearing anything else from you unless you can back your claims.

    Posted by AIG | July 16, 2012, 7:39 pm
  44. (PS. Not interested in a tit-for-tat, AIG, as I wrote to AP before, this is actually a serious topic, and I will deconstruct your views a little later tonight when I have a little more time).

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 7:41 pm
  45. You made an accusation, back it up. Show a specific quote to back what you said. You make a baseless accusation and now you are trying to evade. Rotten liar. There is no tit for tat here. You made an accusation and you need to back it up or admit you are a liar.

    Posted by AIG | July 16, 2012, 8:20 pm
  46. Link above See link

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 8:26 pm
  47. Irrelevant link. There is not one word about Israel being superior because of what it does. Rotten liar.

    Posted by AIG | July 16, 2012, 8:41 pm
  48. Rotten liar? Enough with the playground insults please.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 16, 2012, 8:44 pm
  49. AIG, In your own words.

    I think you miss the point. The issue is not “suspicion” but the idea that this grants Israel some recognition in the form of “normalization”. Frankly, this has hurt the Arabs even in their effort to battle Israel. In every major Israeli university there is a department for Arab studies. There is no department for Israel or Jewish studies in any Arab university I know (if someone has data to the contrary, please post) because this is viewed as “normalization” or granting some recognition to Israel. The Arabs have given Israel a huge advantage in the relationship because they refuse to study and understand their enemies under all sort of superficial arguments that upon further inspection are just self-goals.

    So yes, one could be a little surprised at this seemingly irrational behavior.

    So let’s summarize:

    1) In every major Israeli university there is a department for Arab studies.
    2) There is no department for Israel or Jewish studies in any Arab university I know (if someone has data to the contrary, please post)
    3) The Arabs have given Israel a huge advantage in the relationship
    4) So yes, one could be a little surprised at this seemingly irrational behavior.

    No AIG, you did not use the word “Superior”. But I’ll be darned if you didn’t believe that Israel’s actions are superior. After all, you have stated the obvious: having those department for Arab studies has certainly, in your view, given Israel strategic “advantages”. In that sense alone- if nothing else- Israel is therefore acting in a “Superior” manner.

    QN:

    Don’t concern yourself too much with the playground insults. They are the “Cluster Bombs” of debate. Sometimes, some people are left with no other options!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 16, 2012, 9:20 pm
  50. If a Brazilian tells me that they have much better soccer team than Israel does it mean he thinks Brazil is “superior” or believe Brazilians are superior? If an American tells me that the US has better universities? If a German tells me they have better industry? If a Lebanese tells me they have better humus?

    Your insecurity complex causes you to to see in others beliefs that are just not there. Let’s take something that is ultra concrete. It is a fact that Israel can supply electricity without interruption and Lebanon can’t. It is also seemingly irrational that the Lebanese have not gotten their act together and solved this problem. If I state these obvious facts, does that mean I think Israelis or Israel are “superior” to Lebanon or Lebanese? Of course not. And of course I don’t believe Israelis are superior to Lebanese in any way even if we do have uninterrupted electricity.

    This is what you wrote initially before you started your weaseling and equivocation:
    “AIG has repetitively stated that part of the reason Israel is so superior is that they have taken an intellectual interest in their neighbours.”

    Using the electricity example, your argument is: Since AIG said that Israel has better electricity service than Lebanon then he believes Israel is superior to Lebanon. And you are “darned” if I don’t believe this nonsense that you attribute to me. The facts are what they are. It is childish to feel slighted when the obvious is stated.

    Posted by AIG | July 17, 2012, 12:37 am
  51. The insatiable need to compare some Israeli thing with some always inherently lousier “Arab” thing is a form of overcompensation.

    Posted by lally | July 17, 2012, 2:31 am
  52. (AIG.. Just lost a whole big post).

    Please don’t make more of the use of “Superior” than there is to it. The context of use ought to have been quite clear- and if it wasn’t- that was no reason to make this big Hoopla about it.

    Will re-write the other stuff later.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 3:42 am
  53. On to the topic of anecdotal evidence.. but first:

    Brazil does in fact have a Superior Soccer team to Israel. And the Lebanese most certainly have a Superior Hummus to Israel!

    When I say that I don’t “need” Anecdotal evidence, I mean, I don’t need anecdotal evidence from others. In much the same way that I am not particularly interested in (as far as I’m concerned) non-established correlations between religiosity and literacy rates. That does NOT mean that I don’t recognize that my own evidence is no less anecdotal than that of Elias’s father.

    This is natural. I form my opinions based on what I see before me, and my opinions change as the facts before me change.

    When I grew up, you did in fact hardly see a veiled girl at school. You could count in your hands the number of veiled girls. It was a Middle Class English school.

    Today, visit the same school, and you’d be hard pressed NOT to find a veiled girl.

    I can tell you for a fact that those few girls who did veil back in the day are still veiled.

    I can tell you for a fact that quite a few girls who were busy partying, drinking, etc, today have chosen to don the veil.

    Your views:

    [On Nasser]…He was speaking to the urban elites….The secular liberals were surprised by the little support their views have in the general population…. They live in a bubble and extrapolate incorrectly from their bubble to the general population.

    [And later, to Mo]
    My argument is not that Egypt for example was more secular in the past. My argument is that it was never secular. Religious practice did not rise, it was transformed towards the form advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian women in the past did not wear a veil because she was secular or liberal, she did not wear it because she was not yet influenced by the “missionary” work of the MB.

    Yet Huda was a woman of letters. She was the daughter of someone relatively prominent, and was educated. She lived- according to Wikipedia, in an Egypt that looks more like an Egypt where the MB would be comfortable…

    …”At the time, women in Egypt were confined to the house or harem. When in public, women were expected to show modesty by wearing the hijab over their hair and faces.”…

    And yet- the process of apparent “Secularization” at the very least crept into the “Urban Elites” society. This woman of letters resented “restrictions on her dress and movements”, and “brought many women out of their homes and into public places for the first time.”

    Did Hoda- who was “taught to read the Qur’an and received tutoring in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, and Islamic subjects” not part of the “Urban Elite”? We learn further down in the sentence that she spoke French too.

    Yet- in late 19th century Egypt, apparently even the Urban Elite lived under the Strictures of Muslim Brotherhood “Form” of Islam.

    So what happened?

    What happened in Egypt at the turn of the 20th century that transformed the “Urban Elites of Cairo” from a form of Islam as Practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood to a form as Practiced by Hoda? Was, as I asked earlier- the Urban Elite influenced by the “Missionary” work of Europe?

    No one says that Egypt became a “truly” secular place. Or that the ideals of someone like Hoda reached every last village in Egypt. I am at the forefront of saying that the Secularism in the Arab world is a Faux-Secularism.

    PS…

    As I was scrolling up to Copy and Paste your words.. I noticed that you brought up the university thing again in this thread :).

    http://qifanabki.com/2012/07/13/nassers-charisma-and-the-mideasts-bygone-secularism/#comment-37425

    … and from which I quote…

    …Arab societies have not been good at self analysis….. I am quite sure that the Mossad knows more about the makeup of Lebanese society from analyzing your telecommunication records than the Lebanese government does.

    They also have been very poor at analyzing and learning about Israel which is kind of surprising since Israel is a hot issue in the Arab world. We in Israel are very interested in understanding Arab societies as the numerous think tanks and university departments devoted to the subject show. But we are much less interesting as a society to you.

    DISCLAIMER: My purpose of highlighting certain words is NOT to suggest that you think Israelis are Superior!

    Since you in Israel are very interested in “understanding” Arab societies, and we (the Arabs) are not very good at Self-Analysis (as per your own words), it would be interesting to hear something a little more substantial than what you’ve offered to date!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 4:55 am
  54. Who’s Better? Let’s ask Nasrallah…

    Gabriel, Lally,

    Perhaps Arab societies “resist” learning about Israeli society because it is “beneath” them. A form of “superiority”? Just thinking out loud…

    Meanwhile, the IDF has reported a significant increase in the number of youths slated for service in MI, with the corps’ recent officers training growing by an impressive 25%. Military Intelligence sources attributed the change to the recent strategic upheavals in the Middle East and the “birth” of new intelligence arenas, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Sinai.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4256651,00.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 17, 2012, 6:51 am
  55. 2 Americans still kidnapped in Egypt.

    Kidnappers claim they’re using the victims to learn more about American society since they were rejected by the University of Cairo…

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/egyptian-kidnapper-threatens-kill-american-hostages/story?id=16781546#.UAQpW_Wm2Uk

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 17, 2012, 6:57 am
  56. If it weren’t so sad it would be funny. You admit you make generalizations based on anecdotal evidence. No it is not “natural”. It is just muddled thinking. And you admit that studying population trends is not interesting for you. Oh, well. If you want to make stupid decisions while disregarding population wide evidence, be my guest.

    And then you continue with your muddled thinking and make generalizations about elites in Egypt based on evidence of ONE woman.

    Arab societies are bad at self analysis. That is just a plain fact. If you contest that, just say so. And if someone does something better than you, it does not mean it can solve your problem in that area. The fact that Israel is better than Lebanon at providing energy to its people does not mean that Israel knows how to solve Lebanon’s electricity problem.

    Posted by AIG | July 17, 2012, 8:19 am
  57. More food for thought. Oftentimes I find we don’t properly define that what we want to discuss, with miscommunication as a result. In Europe, where I reside, this is for instance the case when it comes to multiculturalism. Not many care to define what it means before plunging head first in a discussion.

    In the discussion regarding superiority above, I would have liked to seen a braver discussion regarding the differences between various types of societies, which of course would necessitate what one actually means by calling something superior to something else (I believe AP mentioned something similar). I have no qualms calling most European societies as they are today superior to that of for instance Saudiarabia what regards women’s rights, well, all forms of human rights. My frame of reference is then, mostly, the application of the UN’s universal declaration of human rights.

    Calling something generally superior is of course difficult. However, just yesterday I saw a heading in a local newspaper that exclaimed “Women Are Smarter Than Men, Scientists Say”. It perplexes me as to what is sometimes allowed and othertimes shot down as some kind of racism. Exchanging “Women” and “Men” for, for instance, “Arabs” and “Indians” would of course be shot down as racial biology. I wish to think, however, that any kind of racism was not implied in any of the above when speaking of which society is superior/better/more modern etc. Of course, in the example above, it is a well known fact that more women graduate from university than men, which might lead to them scoring higher on IQ tests. Men could thus become smarter as a whole by increasing their numbers at university, hence, without having taking part of the study, I wold initially not regard that as some kind of racism. If the same were true for Arabs and Indians, that as well could perhaps be explained by level of education. Still, any scientist that dares mention something of the kind would obviously be labeled a racist.

    Posted by Pas Cool | July 17, 2012, 1:14 pm
  58. “And then you continue with your muddled thinking and make generalizations about elites in Egypt based on evidence of ONE woman.”

    ONE woman? Only one woman in all of Egypt decided to remove the veil in the early 1900s?

    Nasser was the product of a generation before him! All those people he sat and addressed in that video are a product of a generation that preceded them- a generation, if one were to believe the Wiki article, had their women holed up in Harems and veiling their heads and faces when out in public!

    I am not “generalizing” Huda’s story and making it Egypt’s story. It may be the story of only 10% of Egypt, but that’s 10% more than it was in the late 1800′s.

    That’s all there is to it.

    You have yet to explain that shift.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 2:07 pm
  59. Few observations. All anecdotal. As for Israelies studying Arabic language & culture. There are now very few Jewish immigrnts to Israel from Arabic countries. Some of my grandparents could have passed for native arabs in several dialectical areas. In a way they were Arabs, as much as German Jews were German. It is not the same as a University course. That generation is vanishing, apparently for ever. I dont think we will see many “Fuads” as ministers in the future. Studying Arabic in grade schools and highschools is not very popular among Jews in Israel. In my view less and less Jews in Israel get to know Arabic culture as natives. Also in the Universities a growing number of students and scholars in the Arabic departments are Israeli Arabs. Generally things said by AIG on this subject are factually correct but things are not as they used to be even in that area.
    In Israel, in general, high eduction and association with the sciences, applied and pure, used to be associated with liberal secularism combined with mild or not so mild atheism. That trend is shifting. For an anecdotal example one of the Nobel prize winner is very religious and very to the right, he is as far as I know, the only such example. But there are more and more like him. In my anecdotal view it is possible for an Israeli Jew to be a scientist and very religious and very to the right, and to a large extand quite non liberal. It is now a minority situation but it seems that the trend is growing.
    Also as this summer goes I am not so sure about the electricity supply in Israel, but time will tell.

    Posted by Rani Hazbabi | July 17, 2012, 2:09 pm
  60. AP:

    Who’s Better? Let’s ask Nasrallah…

    Gabriel, Lally,

    Perhaps Arab societies “resist” learning about Israeli society because it is “beneath” them. A form of “superiority”? Just thinking out loud…

    Yes… and?

    So what if Arabs think learning about Israeli society is “beneath” them, and it gives them a False sense of “Superiority”?

    Are you itching for me to disagree with this statement? I wouldn’t! If you read the work of Bernard Lewis and his debates with the late Edward Said, this theme emerges fairly often.

    And- suprise, surprise- I fall in the Lewis camp!

    I am not the one who has gone up in arms about the use of the word “Superiority”, which apparently has become something of a swear word!

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 2:11 pm
  61. “I am not “generalizing” Huda’s story and making it Egypt’s story. It may be the story of only 10% of Egypt, but that’s 10% more than it was in the late 1800′s.”

    Really? You are not generalizing? Where did you get the 10% number? Out of thin air like the rest of your “evidence”. You are building a mountain out of nonsense based on a wikipedia article about ONE Egyptian woman. You are generalizing about the Egyptian elite based on ONE example.

    And what is there to explain? As a society becomes more educated it becomes more secular. If indeed the Egyptian elite became more secular at the turn of the century (and you have shown 0 evidence for that) it could easily be explained by rising education levels among the elite. But of course you ignore these population wide correlations because you prefer muddled thinking.

    Posted by AIG | July 17, 2012, 2:26 pm
  62. “So what if Arabs think learning about Israeli society is “beneath” them, and it gives them a False sense of “Superiority”?”

    If you agree to this statement, you have a funny way of showing it. A person who agrees with this statement would not get riled up and react childishly when I mention that Israelis study Arab societies more than Arabs study Israeli society.

    Posted by AIG | July 17, 2012, 2:31 pm
  63. Gabriel, Maverick, AIG et al.

    Gabriel you pick on my AbuKhalil line and you ask:

    Why was it so outlandish for him to Drink Beer during Ramadan, on campus? And why does the OldHand think he’s an “Ass” for doing so?

    For one, if I remember correctly, alcohol was not allowed on campus for students at any time. For two, he could have gone home, to his friends, to any bar or restaurant in Beirut (some just across the street from campus) to get his beer, any time of the day, and no one would have minded. But NOOOOOO, we have to “shock les bourgeois” and make some kind of grand statement by offending people trying to live their beliefs. So much for tolerance and sensitivity….

    For other reasons Angry Arab is an ass, I refer you to his writings and his entry in Wikipedia.

    A couple of notes on the discussion:

    The Israelis (and Jews in general) make it a point to learn about many things, including Arabs. It may be a cliche, but it has basis in reality (and it does not preclude knowing your enemy).

    The Arabs make it a point to be ignorant at least when it comes to Israel. Go check your geography textbook; gasp, there in no Israel! Check your history books and your news, darn it, Arabs won all their wars? So what’s the problem? No need to think nor study nor improve…

    In 1967, after the 5-day defeat, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was the hero, and my father said to me: The fools banned his book, instead of reading it to learn how to fight him.

    On the “superiority” debate, or whatever you want to call it, I’ll leave you with a joke: yep, sure, no need to improve or think hard, we are equals by golly.

    Bwaahhhahhhhaaaaaa

    Posted by OldHand | July 17, 2012, 2:44 pm
  64. AIG:

    I am not offended by your observations on the state of education in the Arab world. I agree with them! And the state of Education in Israel IS superior.

    Re: 10%. I pulled it out of a$$-crack.

    Or maybe using the figures of current voting in Egypt. MB got 50%, Nour (Ultra-Salafist) got 25%. Say there are 10% Copts. This leaves liberals at around 10-15% of the population.

    Whether or not this figure was as true 50 years ago is an open question. I would suggest that it was probably higher than that, but then that would be a rather unscientific and heuristic number I would be throwing out.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 3:05 pm
  65. Old Hand:

    I am no fan of the Angry Angry Arab.

    I don’t know what the laws in Lebanon or. Where I grew up, you could not eat/drink even a coke during “Fasting” hours. Not just in the streets. There were no restaurants open at all. And alcohol- forget it!

    Some years ago, in this lovely city of Toronto, while I was doing my Masters, our department had a Wine and Cheese Party. I co-ordinated the event. After the soiree, a “Hijab” wearing member of my lab came to me and said, and I quote:

    “I expected that from the other people in the lab. But not from you. You are an Arab, and by bringing in wine to this event, you excluded me from it”.

    I told her there was juice and water and pop. And Halal Pizza. Her dietary restrictions were well cared of and taken care of.

    To this day, I wonder how she got into that Transatlantic plane that no doubt served alcohol coming to Canada.

    If you think that Co-existence should be predicated on people hiding out in their homes and in “restaurants” so that they don’t offend the sensibilities of the religious. That somehow the Common Denominator of Shared Space must be reduced to the most stringent and restrictive of sensibilities, then I am not sure that the Angry Arab is the “A$$” in this case!

    As I wrote earlier, when the Arab world reaches the stage in which people stop concerning themselves with the choices others make, based on their personal readings of morality… then and only then will the Spring finally reach those shores.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 5:06 pm
  66. AIG:

    You wrote:

    And what is there to explain? As a society becomes more educated it becomes more secular.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate

    Saudi Arabia is 120 on the list @ an 86% Literacy Rate.

    Today, Egypt is 156 on the list @ a 66% Literacy Rate.

    Do you think Saudi Arabia is 20% more “secular” than Egypt?

    Is Literacy Rate really strongly correlated with “Secularism”, and if so, how did you come to that conclusion?

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 5:13 pm
  67. Gabriel,

    In Saudi Arabia you would probably be considered literate if you can only recite Al Fateha from the Quran.
    since the figures are collected from a combination of sources including “national self-reported data” i doubt the 86% Literacy Rate is accurate.

    Posted by Vulcan | July 17, 2012, 5:47 pm
  68. http://www.economics.harvard.edu/pub/hier/2001/HIER1913.pdf

    “Religious beliefs and education appear to be substitutes. As people select denominations
    that match their beliefs, more educated people, who have weaker beliefs, switch into
    denominations where beliefs are weak. If denominations are belief-based groups, then
    we shouldnít be surprised that more educated people sort into low belief denominations
    with low levels of attendance. The fact that education and belief are substitutes also
    shows itself in the fact that people from high belief denominations acquire less education.
    Holding their education constant, parents who come from high belief denominations have
    less educated children.”

    Posted by AIG | July 17, 2012, 6:47 pm
  69. This is a worldwide survey:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/142727/religiosity-highest-world-poorest-nations.aspx
    http://www.gallup.com/video/114694/Analyst-Insights-Religiosity-Around-World.aspx

    Religiosity correlated with gdp per capita (and therefore also with education).

    Posted by AIG | July 17, 2012, 7:20 pm
  70. Thanks for the links AIG….

    Brief comments:

    1) First link relates only to the US. It’s good you had the follow-up links which would in principle be more relevant.
    2) Also on first link, educated people may switch to “weaker faiths”, but the same article says that they go to churches more often.
    3) How this translates to countries like Egypt is not immediately clear. It is not entirely clear that one can correlate something like wearing the veil with “weakness of faith”.
    4) In general, I think there is a judgement call on what constitutes “weakness” of faith. The Episcopelian church may be more “liberal” on questions regarding women in priesthood or homosexuality. However, I think many Episcopelians may take exception to have their faith being described as weaker.
    5) On the second link, again, I don’t doubt there is a correlation between GDP and religiosity. The latter may also be related to education, but I don’t think the relationship is necessarily transitive. The Gallop Poll itself suggests as much, when it states that: “One theory is that religion plays a more functional role in the world’s poorest countries, helping many residents cope with a daily struggle to provide for themselves and their families. ”
    6) The same article suggests that the US “bucks” the trend.

    Vulcan:

    That may well be true re: Saudi Arabia. But what’s the end result? That we can’t trust any of the “Scientific” data? Because there is no consistently applied metric to define literacy and education?

    If anything, it just adds more value to “anecdotal” evidence.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 17, 2012, 9:54 pm
  71. “On the second link, again, I don’t doubt there is a correlation between GDP and religiosity.”

    Well, there you have it. The same argument can be made about GDP as the one made about literacy rates. Egyptian GDP per capita is larger now than it was in the past:
    http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=wb-wdi#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gnp_pcap_pp_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country&idim=country:EGY&ifdim=country&tstart=332654400000&tend=1279339200000&hl=en_US&dl=en_US&ind=false

    So it doesn’t make sense that Egypt became more religious as it grew richer. And just google it, there is a very strong correlation between gdp per capita and literacy and education rates.

    As for the US it bucks the trend in the sense that for a rich country it is quite religious. But the US also was more religious in the past. It just grew less religious more slowly than other rich countries. And the reason given for bucking the trend is the US being an immigration country which is not relevant for Egypt.

    As as for the value of anecdotal evidence in this case, valuable anecdotal evidence is an oxymoron. It is inherently misleading and biased. Any one individual sees a very thin slice of society and is relying on memories from decades ago.

    Posted by AIG | July 17, 2012, 10:50 pm
  72. AIG,

    As per above, I think it is rather obvious that there is a strong correlation between GDP and Education.

    You write: “So it doesn’t make sense that Egypt became more religious as it grew richer.”

    Yet the article you pointed stated that within denominations (not across them), church attendance grew with education.

    Now I’m a little more cynical (and perhaps agree a little with the Harvard article- where they attribute the attendance to social factors). I don’t think church attendance necessarily translates to “religiosity”. But then cynicism cuts both ways, and the droves of poor eager to get blessings don’t always scream religiosity either!

    I don’t think the relationships are so clear cut.

    Posted by Gabriel | July 18, 2012, 12:57 am
  73. You can think whatever you want, but if you don’t provide evidence it is just speculation. The trend is crystal clear, more education and less poverty equals less religious beliefs. There is nothing “clear cut” about social sciences. But it is a vast improvement over building theories based on one data point.

    Posted by AIG | July 18, 2012, 1:27 am

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