BBC Study Shows Social Changes in the Arab World
By: Noah Chani/Arab America Contributing Writer
Before delving into this, it might be helpful to give some clarity on what exactly we are referring to. Many Americans have a hard time with this understanding so we will just try to kill it before it grows legs. Islam is a religion, that happens to be the most popular religion in the Arab world, but one does not need to be Muslim to be an Arab. They are totally separate, therefore meaning that the Arab world is composed of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Folk Religions, and Buddhists among others. Having this knowledge, you now know that although the Arab world is predominantly Muslim, this study shows that many Arabs are turning away from their respective religions.
Between the waning months of 2018 and the spring of 2019 BBC, conducted a study to survey a variety of matters in the contemporary Arab world. The survey, which spanned across 10 Arab countries and Palestine, surveyed more than 25,000 people. The most interesting and potentially controversial finding of their study was that there was a significant rise in the number of millennials whom consider themselves non-religious. As a disclaimer, this is not incredibly unique to the Arab world, as many young people across all regions and religions are moving away from religion. A study by the Christian Broadcasting Network showed that in the United States 59% of millennials who were raised in the church already consider themselves to be non-religious. The shift is much less rapid in the Arab world but it does certainly exist and it would be ignorant to ignore such a trend. Along with the showings of their religious poll questions, the BBC study concluded that in most Arab countries people are becoming more and more progressive in regarding most issues. This article will review all the findings of their study as they all come back to growing progressiveness in the Arab world.
The research of BBC revealed that the amount of people who identify as “non-religious in the region has risen from 8 percent to 13 percent. The most eye-popping of the demographics was that, among those surveyed under 30 years of age 18 percent of them said that they were non-religious. This means that almost one in five of the young people you encounter in the Arab world are likely now irreligious. Among those surveyed representing their countries, Tunisia and Libya yielded the greatest volume of non-religious citizens at over 30 percent and 20 percent respectively. Of the 11 countries surveyed, only Yemen saw a fall in this category from 2013 to the date of the BBC surveys.
Women’s rights within the home and government in the Arab world has long been predetermined by societal barriers and the notion of tradition. The BBC study concluded that while there is still plenty of room to expand, the role of the woman is believed to be expanding in Arab societies. In fact, over 50% of people in each of the 11 countries surveyed except Algeria believed that a woman president or prime minister is acceptable. Lebanon and Morocco saw the highest percentage of people agree that a woman is able to be prime minister or president as over 75% of those surveyed in both countries believed that is the case. In a follow up question, those surveyed were also asked if they agree that husbands should have the final say in all family decisions. Every country except for Morocco saw over 50 percent of the respondents believe that husbands should have the final say domestically. This question also saw the majority of females agree that the male should have the final say of the household. It is puzzling that people believe a woman can be in charge of the entire country, but not within their own household.
The change we can observe based off the BBC study regarding religion, might have an effect on the progressiveness that can be observed in other aspects of society. With less people subscribing to the rules of their faith, they are able to consider more things that may have been considered very disrespectful religiously beforehand. For example, over 20% of people in both Algeria and Morocco believe that homosexuality is acceptable, there is room to believe that this number was much lower prior to the small shift away from religion that we can observe in the Arab world.
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