Nigerians agree despite religious differences

By Razib Khan | August 28, 2010 12:13 pm

I am currently reading Eliza Griswold’s The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam. The first half of the book is about Africa, and much of that is given to religious conflict in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous nation happens to be split down the middle religiously, with a Muslim north and a Christian south, meeting in the “Middle Belt” to contest. Griswold describes a very competitive religious marketplace.

One thing I was curious about though: are the religious conflicts in Nigeria simply due to coalitional fissures, or deep substantive divergences which track the religious differences? To illustrate, if Muslims and Christians share a village, then Christians who slaughter pigs in public places because pork is their primary protein source will likely have tensions with Muslims, who as a matter of substance object to pig slaughter which might pollute the landscape (this is a problem in parts of Southeast Asia where Muslims live downstream from Christians). In contrast, if you have economic difficulties in a region, and it is fractured ethnically or religiously, trivial tensions may quickly exploded into violence. In other words, in the second case religion is just a “quick & dirty” coalitional marker around which inevitable conflicts are going to swirl (in Mauritius Muslim Indo-Mauritians play a “wild card” role between Christian Creoles and Hindu Indo-Mauritians, despite greater substantive religious affinity with the Christians and greater cultural and racial affinity with the Hindus).

To answer this question I looked at the World Values Survey. For Nigeria there was data from 1995 and 2000, so I combined them to increase my sample size. Additionally, I wanted to focus on the Yoruba ethnic group, which is religiously divided between Muslims and Christians. In the WVS the religious categories actually break down further among the Christians, and I selected Pentecostals and Protestants for the Yoruba because of the large N for these groups, along with Muslims. Additionally, I selected Hausa Muslims as a comparison. The Hausa are an overwhelmingly Muslim northern ethnic group, while the Yoruba are a religiously pluralistic southern group (the Igbo of the southeast are as Christian as the Hausa are Muslim).

Please note that the survey was taken during a period of military rule by Hausa strongmen. I included only a subset of questions. You can follow to link to do your own queries.

Mus = Muslim, Pent = Pentecostal, Prot = Protestant. Some cells for Pentecostals are missing because for some questions all Protestants were aggregated together.

Question Hausa Mus Yoruba Mus Yoruba Pent Yoruba Prot
% Lower Class 51 34 22 23
% Completed University 6.5 12 36 23
% No Children 35 38 40 47
% Married 59 55 63 48
% Male 54 54 45 50
% Politics Very Important 39 20 12 21
% Work Very Important 89 94 96 91
% Religion Very Important 97 90 90 90
% Would not like people of difference race as neighbors 28 25 13 30
% Would not like immigrants as neighbors 28 20 12 15
% Would not like Muslims as neighbors 5.2 4 10 15
% Would not like homosexuals as neighbors 81 90 90 84
% Would not like people of a different religion as neighbors 36 14 20
% Totally satisfied with life (1-10 scale) 22 8 14 8
% Totally satisfied with financial situation (1-10 scale) 16 6 6 5
%Men should have more right to job than women 74 60 47 54
% Natives should have more right to job than immigrants 87 87 87 84
Mean, Ideal # of children 5.8 4.5 4 4
% A woman needs children to be fulfilled 81 93 96 93
% Disapprove of woman has single parent 89 76 92 77
% One should enjoy sexual freedom 23 16 9 11
% Marriage is outdated 18 19 11 13
% Agree strongly that men make better political leaders 63 56 44 51
% Agree strongly that university is more important for boy 46 22 12 21
% Very important that a woman is educated 80 76 82
% We need radical change in society 27 32 28 38
% Need larger income differences as incentives (1-10 scale) 21 25 41 15
% Gov. ownership of business should be increased (1-10 scale) 31 21 21 9
% The gov. should take more responsible (1-10 scale) 31 40 44 27
% Competition is harmful (1-10 scale) 7.2 8.2 1.8 14
% success is matter of luck and connections (1-10 scale) 12 13 4 13
% Wealth grows so there’s enough for everyone (1-10 scale) 28 17 29 28
% A great deal of confidence in armed forces 47 14 8 12
% A great deal of confidence in police 40 10 4 10
% A great deal of confidence in government 41 6 2 12
% A great deal of confidence in justice system 36 11 10 8
% A great deal of confidence in women’s movement 30 17 18 18
Mean, self position Left-Right (1-10) 6 4.9 5.5 4.7
Mean, rating of political system (1-10) 3.8 2.8 2.3 2.3
% Very satisfied with how democracy develops 28 13 15
% Favors open borders for immigrants 19 33 14 32
% Willing to fight for country 83 60 55 38
% There is a lot of respect for individual human rights 25 14 12
% Scientific advances will help 84 85 79 88
% A religious person 97 97 98 95
% God is very important in life (1-10) 88 92 93 86
% Get comfort and strength from religion 99 99 98
% Attend religious services more than once a week 72 85 58 60
% Raised religiously 97 97 93 90
% Believe in God 100 99 100 100
% Believe in Life After Death 87 80 86 86
% Believe in Hell 91 93 98 95
% Believe in Sin 85 97 98 95
% Believe in Devil 96 98 99 100
% Religious institutions give moral answers 85 69 71
% Agree strongly people atheists are unfit for public office 65 63 58
% Homosexuality never justifiable (1-10) 81 84 91 81
% Cheating on taxes never justifiable (1-10) 66 69 79 60
% Prostitution never justifiable (1-10) 77 85 90 79
% Abortion never justifiable (1-10) 78 83 82 72
% Divorce never justifiable (1-10) 55 64 74 56
% Very proud of nationality 78 66 57 60

And here’s a correlation matrix:

Hausa Mus Yoruba Mus Yoruba Pent Yoruba Prot
Hausa Mus * 0.94 0.9 0.93
Yoruba Mus * * 0.97 0.98
Yoruba Pent * * * 0.97

The Yoruba and Hausa have a high degree of agreement irrespective of religion, but there does seem to be a tendency for the Yoruba to agree across the religious divide. On the political questions I think the historical context is important. Additionally, it seems that the Pentecostals are the most religiously conservative and enthusiastic of these groups. Because the Hausa tend to be culturally Muslim (though there are a large minority of Hausa Christians in the sample) as a matter of course I was not totally surprised that they were not as zealous as one presumes Muslims to be.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Data Analysis
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  • Mary

    May I be permitted a personal story. This is very interesting to me. My dau-in-law is Igbo. Her youngest brother was at university in Jos, Nigeria during the Muslim riots in January. Several dozens of Christians were killed , possibly more. His Muslim roommates hid him in a relative’s barn. He was there alone for 4 days keeping in touch til his cell phone died. They came back to rescue him and get him to a hospital. He had been beaten badly when their dormitory was broken into and suffered a broken leg. He called my dau-in-law from this hiding place. The roommates were able to find a car and gasoline to drive him to Abuja. There were many checkpoints along the route manned by rogue police(as there is no other kind). He was instructed to appear unconscious so he couldn’t respond to questions and give away his identity by his speech. He recovered but never went back to Jos. Such is life in Nigeria. In this case religious identities were overridden by personal relationships. The Muslim students put themselves in grave danger by helping their Christian friend.

  • ChristianK

    How can people not believe in Life after Death but believe in Hell?

  • http://lonewolfsden.net Lone Wolf

    Religions are naturally divisive and economic and/or social problems only make religions more divisive. Its particularly bad with the authoritarian religions that preach that those who disagree with them are going to hell, all good comes from their god.

    Religions is just one more thing to divide people with and it is completely unnecessary which makes it even worse.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Religions are naturally divisive and economic and/or social problems only make religions more divisive

    you’re looking at one side of the equation. within religious groups they foster trust, cohesion and solidarity.

  • Pingback: In the lands of the living God | Gene Expression | Discover Magazine()

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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