Egypt and Turkey Turning Away from Violent Extremism, Toward Religious Tolerance

A second wave of a panel survey conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and collaborating institutions reveals significant shifts in attitudes among Egyptian and Turkish respondents toward the role of religion in politics, religious tolerance, Western political models, and national identity. Funded by the National Science Foundation and conducted during the summer and fall of 2016, the survey results indicate several key trends in both countries:

·         an increase in support for liberal values

·         a decline in support for political Islam

·         a significant increase in preference for Western-style democratic government

·         an increase in religious tolerance

These latest findings represent the second wave of this survey project in both Egypt and Turkey. Researchers re-interviewed 2,430 people from the nationally representative sample of 3,498 Egyptian adults they first interviewed in 2011, as well as 1,682 Turkish adults from the nationally representative sample of 3,019 they first interviewed in 2013. The work is part of the Middle Eastern Values Studythat seeks to document changing values in the Middle East over time, particularly in such areas of human concern as family and gender relations, identity, politics, the economy, religion, religious fundamentalism, Islamic government, Western culture and violence against American troops and citizens. The second wave of a similar panel survey in Tunisia was completed in 2015.

“Taken together, findings from these three countries display a remarkable pattern of change away from violence and Islamic extremism and toward liberal values of religious tolerance and secular politics,” said Professor Mansoor Moaddel from the UMD Department of Sociology, who serves as the project’s principal investigator. “For example, significantly more Egyptian, Tunisian and Turkish respondents either strongly agreed or agreed in the second wave of the panel that their country would be a better place if religion and politics were separated or if their governments were similar to Western-type government, than they did in the first wave.”

Professor Moaddel orchestrated both rounds of surveys in the two countries in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Michigan; El-Zanaty & Associates, 6th of October City, Egypt; and FREKANS, Instanbul, Turkey. More information on the survey results is available here

map of multiple countries in the Middle East, inclyding Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia