Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Juan Cole's Misformed Comment on Religion and Murder Rates

Juan Cole starts his Terrorism and the other Religions  with this assertion

Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher#, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions. Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States.
After examining Cole's claims about religions and war and political death,  I got to wondering if it was really the case that "Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States."  Turns out it doesn't seem to be the case.  It depends on whether 'most'  means 'nearly all' or 'the largest number' and whether 'very low' means simply 'less than' or a 'lot less than.'  And how defines the "Muslim" world.

 The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime actually compiles statistics on homicides which can be found on Wikipedia here.  I've made a list of US and Islamic countries, which I'm taking to be majority population, excluding countries where Muslims are a plurality or large minority.

If I had more time and wasn't so rusty on statistics, I would do a bell curve (on all countries or the subset below) and define "very low" as one or two standard deviations below the U.S,  Would you say a very low comparative murder rate would be one-half, one-fourth, or one-tenth of the United States?  Let's go with one-half.

As you can see in the table below, seventeen (17) Muslim countries countries have higher murder rates than the United  States, including Sudan, Indonesia, and Senegal. Another twelve (12) have reported  murder less than the US, but more than fifty percent of the U.S. rate   That group includes Iran, Palestine, and Turkey.   That's a total of thirty-nine (39).    By this criteria, twenty-three (23) Muslim countries have "very low" murder rates compared to the U.S. That less than most.

Another eight (8) Muslim countries have reported rates less than fifty percent (50%) but greater than forty percent (40%) of the U.S., including Malaysia and Kuwait.  By this criteria, only fifteen (15) Muslim countries have "very low" rates compared to the U.S.  That's even less than most

In sum, I think Cole's claim that "Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States" should be rejected.

UNODC murder rates most recent year (full table here)
Country Rate Count Region Subregion
 Sudan 24.2 10,028++ Africa Northern Africa
 Guinea-Bissau 20.2 294 Africa Western Africa
 Kyrgyzstan 20.1 1,072 Asia Central Asia
 Burkina Faso 18.0 2,876 Africa Western Africa
 Eritrea 17.8 879 Africa Eastern Africa
 Chad 15.8 1,686 Africa Middle Africa
 Benin 15.1 1,262 Africa Western Africa
 Sierra Leone 14.9 837 Africa Western Africa
 Mauritania 14.7 485 Africa Western Africa
 Comoros 12.2 85 Africa Eastern Africa
 Nigeria 12.2 18,422 Africa Western Africa
 Gambia 10.8 106 Africa Western Africa
 Kazakhstan 8.8 1,418 Asia Central Asia
 Senegal 8.7 1,027 Africa Western Africa
 Indonesia 8.1 18,963 Asia South-Eastern Asia
 Mali 8.0 1,157 Africa Western Africa
 Pakistan 7.8 13,860+ Asia Southern Asia
 United States 4.8 14,748 Americas Northern America
 Turkmenistan 4.2 203 Asia Central Asia
 Yemen 4.2 990+ Asia Western Asia
 Palestine 4.1 145+ Asia Western Asia
 Albania 4.0 127 Europe Southern Europe
 Niger 3.8 552 Africa Western Africa
 Djibouti 3.4 29 Africa Eastern Africa
 Turkey 3.3 2,320 Asia Western Asia
 Uzbekistan 3.1 831 Asia Central Asia
 Iran 3.0 2,215 Asia Southern Asia
 Libya 2.9 176+ Africa Northern Africa
 Bangladesh 2.7 3,988 Asia Southern Asia
 Mauritius 2.5 33 Africa Eastern Africa
 Afghanistan 2.4 712+ Asia Southern Asia
 Malaysia 2.3 604 Asia South-Eastern Asia
 Syria 2.3 463+ Asia Western Asia
 Azerbaijan 2.2 206 Asia Western Asia
 Kuwait 2.2 59 Asia Western Asia
 Lebanon 2.2 95 Asia Western Asia
 Tajikistan 2.1 143 Asia Central Asia
 Iraq 2.0 608+ Asia Western Asia
 Jordan 1.8 100 Asia Western Asia
 Maldives 1.6 5 Asia Southern Asia
 Somalia 1.5 138+ Africa Eastern Africa
 Algeria 1.5 516 Africa Northern Africa
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1.5 56 Europe Southern Europe
 Morocco 1.4 447 Africa Northern Africa
 Egypt 1.2 992 Africa Northern Africa
 Tunisia 1.1 117 Africa Northern Africa
 Saudi Arabia 1.0 265+ Asia Western Asia
 Qatar 0.9 13 Asia Western Asia
 United Arab Emirates 0.8 39 Asia Western Asia
 Oman 0.7 18 Asia Western Asia
 Bahrain 0.6 6 Asia Western Asia
 Brunei 0.5 2 Asia South-Eastern Asia

# I don't think Cole fairly represents Maher here, at least not in the clip I've seen. 

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