Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Freedom and Islam: a statistical survey (Freedom House Index)

UPDATE (4 September 2017): See new post about a new book by Dr Hammond: "Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat"
UPDATE (27 October 2013):  See also here.  There are only three Islam majority countries that have a high score on democracy, in each case being classified as "Flawed Democracy"].

“So what brought you to Phuket”, I asked Pieter, the septuagenarian Dutchman we were chatting with at the Yacht Haven dockside.
He thinks a bit, rubs his chin and teeth, and says “Freedom”.
What sort of freedom did he have here that he didn’t have in Holland?
He pointed to his ochre-red shorts, sun-faded, and said that’s all he wore during the day.  As night fell he put on a shirt.  When he rode his motorbike he was helmetless.  That sort of freedom, he said.  To be oneself, and not mollycoddled by an 'elf and safety bureaucracy, or stifled by peer pressure to dress this way or that.
We knew what he meant, having just been to the Similans and climbed Sail Rock, which would give palpitations to the Occupational Health and Safety bureacrats: indeed, would not be allowed without a “proper” path and fences around the precipitous drops.  Instead, in free Thailand, there’s a rickety path, occasional wooden steps, ropes studded with rusting nails, and the top is a clear vertiginous rock, the edge of which I couldn’t even go near. But if I’d wanted to, I could’ve.  It's your own responsibility; you look after yourself.
This brought to mind another freedom connection, with a hat-tip to JW commenter Treah, for inspiring the research, summarised in the chart above. (Kinana, too)
Here’s what I did: found the latest statistics on Political Rights (PR) and Civil Liberties (CL) from the non-partisan think tank Freedom House. I added the two numbers together to get a combined number: 2 being a “perfect” score and 14 the least free. Then I got the percentage of Muslim population in each country. Then I did a correlation between those: this came to 0.61, which is statistically significant (a figure of 1 means that there is a 100% complete correlation between A and B; a figure of zero means no relation at all between A and B). 
Holland is the country with the largest percentage of Muslims which still has a “perfect” score of 2. Once you move to the right of that, with greater percentage of Muslims in society, you move progressively away from a free society.
There could be criticism of this methodology on the basis that
(a) there are other factors at work and
(b) a correlation does not imply causality.
True.  But...
In regards to (a) to say there are other factors at work does not invalidate the factor of Islam; just as the cigarette makers tried for years to say that there were other factors in the cause of cancer, apart from tobacco.  True enough, again, but the main one was tobacco. 
I venture that more research on this connection of Freedom vs Islam % of population would show not only other factors, but that the Islamic one is a key.  Why?  Because more Islam means more Sharia and more Sharia means more draconian laws, based on the Koran, not the rule of man, least of all the rule of democracy.  Sharia is inherently, and by clear self-definition against democracy, since that is a blasphemy (only Allah can make laws and they are delivered via the theocracy, the imams, Ayatollahs, mullahs, and so on; not by independent laws applicable to all).  And Sharia is inimical to innovation (bida), which of course is stifling to developing man-made rules and laws and developing a vibrant economy, a prerequisite for civil freedoms.
Regarding (b), correlation does not necessarily mean causality.  True enough.  But often -- perhaps mostly -- it does. The correlation between cigarette smoking and cancer has proven to be a causality.  Are we perhaps to suggest that the converse is the case?  That it is the lack of freedom that leads to more Islam?  That would be like saying “cancer causes cigarette smoking”. It is surely the increase of Islam in a society that leads to less freedom.  After all, there’s contempt for freedom amongst orthodox Muslims,  those that follow the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran most literally. Freedom go to Hell.

Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House, January 2011.  [Here]
CIA World Factbook, Accessed 17th January 2011. [Here]

Postscript (8 Feb '11):  From "Islam and Democracy - Much Hard Work Needed", 7 February, by D. Pipes, quoting some other studies showing that more Islam = fewer political rights.
Present realities are far from encouraging, for tyranny disproportionately afflicts Muslim-majority countries. Swarthmore College's Frederic L. Pryor concluded in a 2007 analysis in the Middle East Quarterly that, with some exceptions, "Islam is associated with fewer political rights." Saliba Sarsar looked at democratization in 17 Arabic-speaking countries and, writing in the same journal, found that "between 1999 and 2005 … not only is progress lacking in most countries, but across the Middle East, reform has backslid."
Pipes then goes on to ask whether the connection is specifically because of Islam, or simply associated with it:
How easy to jump from this dismal pattern and conclude that the religion of Islam itself must be the cause of the problem. The ancient fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc ("after something, therefore because of it") underlies this simplistic jump. In fact, the current predicament of dictatorship, corruption, cruelty, and torture results from specific historical developments rather than the Koran and other sacred scriptures. 
However, as Pipes himself notes, if Islam is to be reconciled with democracy -- and therefore more civil and political rights -- it must reject or reinterpret Sharia.  This is the nub and on this point many disagree with Pipes that it's even possible.  I hope Pipes is right, but I fear he is wrong.  The flow in the Islamic world appears to be in the other direction, to more and stricter, not less and "softer", Sharia. Read the whole article here.