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Feb. 10 , 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Young

Eastern Michigan sociologist offers insight into Iraqis' attitudes

YPSILANTI ­­- An Eastern Michigan University professor may have answers to some of the important questions facing the U.S. government's role in Iraq.

EMU sociologist Mansoor Moaddel (pronounced moe-ah-dell), an expert on the Middle East, recently completed a comprehensive survey of Iraqis that examined their attitudes towards religion, politics, gender and coalition forces. He and co-investigators, Ronald Inglehart and Mark Tessler, both of the University of Michigan, recently released findings that suggest some commonly held perceptions about Iraqis might be inaccurate.

"Iraq has historical, religious and geopolitical significance. Not only does it host two of the most revered shrines in Shi'ism (a sect of Islam), but it also has one of the world's largest oil reserves," said Moaddel. "The information we gained from our survey will be valuable for foreign policy; enhancing understanding between Americans and Iraqis; and for providing insight into Iraqi society that is necessary for building a democratic state."

The survey, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), looked at a number of categories including:   what Iraqis believed were ideal national values; religious-ethnic differences in cultural and political attitudes; whether Iraq was better off with or without Saddam Hussein; how long coalition forces should remain in Iraq; rejection of foreigners as neighbors; inter-versus intra-group trust; inter-group differences in perceived control; perception about the security and predictability of life; and to what extent are Iraqis optimistic or pessimistic about their future.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted November - December 2004 with a national representative sample of 2,325 Iraqis representing Shi'i Kurds, Shi'i Arabs and Sunni Arabs.

"There were some surprising findings, especially when we compared the Iraqi results with those from previous surveys in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan and Egypt," said Moaddel. These included the following:

  A cross-national comparison between Iraqis, Iranians and Saudis revealed that concerns about western cultural invasion is much higher among the Iraqi Shi'is and Sunnis than among Iranians or Saudis. The more Iraqis are concerned with western cultural invasion, the higher their tendency to support anti-western ideologies, including religious fundamentalism or Islamic nationalism.

  Although Iraqis are very religious in terms of basic beliefs, there are cross-national differences in Islamic countries. Only 33 percent of Iraqis participate in religious services once a week or more, compared to 44 percent in Jordan and 42 percent in Egypt.

  Kurds favor gender equality more than the Arabs. Historical evidence also indicates a connection between the rise of democracy, political pluralism and the rise of Islamic feminism.

  Most Iraqis surveyed believed that good government is based on the wishes of the people. Only 40 percent of the Kurds, 30 percent of Shi'is and 31 percent of Sunnis felt that a government, consisting of Islamic laws, was good.

  Both the Kurds (91 percent) and Shi'i Iraqis (84 percent) believed they were better off without Saddam Hussein. Only 21 percent of the Sunnis, who were in power during Hussein's rule, believed they were better off.

When asked if life was unpredictable and dangerous, 77 percent of the Sunnis agreed compared to 41 percent of the Shi'is and 17 percent of the Kurds.


These findings may demonstrate that people who believe they have lost control over their lives may be more prone to violence, said Moaddel.

Moaddel believes there are solutions to the problems in Iraq. He feels that the Sunni leadership needs to be convinced to support a new Iraq. Only then will their followers come around. He noted that after the election, coalition forces were getting more tips about terrorists than in the past. "It shows that the people feel they have a stake in protecting the new government," said Moaddel.

Moaddel recently applied for another grant from the NSF in order to conduct additional surveys in Iraq Sept.1, 2005 through August 31, 2010.

A graduate of Shiraz University in Iran, Moaddel received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Wisconsin and a master's degree from Western Michigan University. He specializes in culture and ideology of the Middle East; Middle Eastern politics and governments; and the future of Islamic fundamentalism and its effects on the United States. He is the author of numerous books, including "Islamic Modernism, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse," which will be available in spring 2005.

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.


Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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