May 14th, 2014
06:24 PM ET

Kristof: There's a misperception the great divide is between different faiths

Fareed speaks with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof about the recent abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram.

You talk about this in your last book. How do you make sense of – would it be fair to call this Islamic fundamentalism? What is behind this?

You know, I think we have this misperception that the great divide is between different faiths, between Christianity and Islam, for example. And I think actually Eliza [Griswold] was one of the first people I know to really make the point that it's not so much between different faiths – it's between moderates and extremists generally. And, you know, moderate Muslims and moderate Christians have a great deal in common. Extremist Muslims and extremist Christians have in common the willingness to resort to violence, oppression. And that is what we're seeing with Boko Haram.

But this does seem specifically Muslim these days, which is whenever you see these young men, they always have this incredibly brutal attitude towards women. And it does seem like it's across many parts – though, of course, a minority – of the Islamic world.

It's true that if you look at places where women and girls are least likely to get educated, where they're most likely to be oppressed, then those are disproportionately countries with conservative Muslim populations. But they're also places where the culture itself, quite aside from religion, is deeply oppressive of women. I mean, Afghanistan, for example.

And I think that what we're seeing here is, unfortunately, a spiral. So in northern Nigeria, there’s very little education. Women are marginalized, partly for cultural and historic reasons.  Often, people cite Islam as the reason. Female literacy in this region is less than 50 percent. And then that leads people to think girls shouldn't get educated...


That leads them to attack schools, so girls don't get educated, which leads those areas to be further marginalized – women to be less a part of the economy, less a part of the society – and leads groups like Boko Haram to have even more influence.

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Topics: GPS Show • Islam • Nigeria • Terrorism

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    I totally agree...the difference is between moderates and extremists! And its not just in religion.

    May 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Reply
    • john smith

      America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
      In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
      During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
      In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
      Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

      May 15, 2014 at 1:18 am | Reply
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I agree with Mr. Kristol. Different faiths are quite similar in violence and oppression used by extremists.

    May 14, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  3. Leftcoastrocky

    "Extremist Muslims and extremist Christians have in common the willingness to resort to violence, oppression."

    Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R ) was recently caught on video making the argument that the First Amendment only protects Christians.

    May 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  4. chrissy

    Lol...Ya see there @ leftcoastrocky we have extreme politicians and we have moderate politicians! We have extreme Judges and we have moderate judges as well.

    May 14, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Reply
    • Marvin

      Every religion has some flaws because most religions originated in old days. Moderates in any religion are those people who use their common sense and choose the good parts of their religion and reject the terrible portions outright. Most Christians have no trouble rejecting the flat earth nonsense. No Muslim would ever admit that there are bad parts in their Quran. There are no moderate Muslims. Not a single one! You are a Muslim. Why don't you admit killing of infidels by Mohammed was wrong?

      May 14, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  5. tj

    This is the same old party line. Extremist (insert religion here – other than Islam) is the problem. Elephant in the room avoided again.

    May 14, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  6. Sylvester Okere

    Mr. Kristof, please stop working on second handed/diluted information about Nigeria. You have no atom of truth in what you wrote and your propaganda is mockery to present crisis in Nigeria. You need to study well to know the genesis of the past and existing crisis in Nigeria. For centuries there has been religious riots in northern Nigeria-that massacred innocent souls-untold blood shed by northern Islamic fundamentalists: Matasine riot, Kano riot, Abiola riot, Kastina riot, Kaduna riot, Jos riot and so on. Now they are called Boko Haram. Boko Haram just emerged in 2009 in a swift and organized manner than their usual bow and arrow weaponry. Please stop polluting information. "True journalism demands you to believe in the truth-seek the truth and report the truth.

    May 14, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  7. ✠RZ✠

    Any division that might exist amongst faith is harmless. Humans are clearly the problem whether divided, different, or the same.

    May 14, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  8. Marvin

    There is a huge difference between Christians and Muslims. As a Christian, one can reject that the earth is flat even if the Bible says so. However, a Muslim would wage jihad to defend everything wrong in Quran. All the religious books were written a long time ago and have bad portions! Christians routinely use their common sense and accept the good portions of Bible and reject what is clearly wrong. Not a single Muslim can ever reject even a single piece of bad stuff written in Quran! I would love to see even one Muslim use his or her common sense and reject the horrible parts of their Quran. I don't think I would ever see that. That's what separates Muslims from all other decent people.

    May 14, 2014 at 10:12 pm | Reply
    • Ferhat Balkan

      I disagree. It was Christians who started the Crusades in what resulted in the biggest massacre of innocents in all religious history. How is that part of history accepting a good part of the Bible? There are other examples such as the church imprisoning the astronomer Galileo for claiming Copernicus was right (Earth being flat comparison). There are many more examples I can give you. Simply look up: "Liberal movements within Islam" in Wikipedia.
      By blaming all Muslims or stereotyping them, you're no different than those Muslims who blame all Christians. There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. If the Quran was so horrible and Muslims so indecent as you claim, it would not be a less than 1% of Muslims who are extremists now would it?
      I am what most others would call a moderate Muslim. I believe in equality between men and women. I also believe that governments should be secular. There was a time when Islam was the bastion of civilization. When science and scholarly pursuits prevailed and scholars throughout the world would travel to the Middle East to broaden their knowledge. Where do you think the Arabic numerals come from? The word Algebra? It's not religion at fault here. It is the fault of man driven by terrible socioeconomic conditions, lack of education, corruption etc.

      May 14, 2014 at 11:43 pm | Reply
      • Marvin

        @Ferhat - Bukhari (84:57) – [In the words of] "Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'" Do you denounce it? Do you think it is completely wrong? I don't think any Muslim would ever denounce any terrible things like this found in Quran. That's what sets Muslims and decent, moderate people apart.

        May 15, 2014 at 12:07 am |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Once again, you're wrong. What you're quoting is called a 'Hadith' which isn't from the Quran, but rather a report of the deeds and sayings of Muhammad. The hadith literature does not qualify as primary source material as it was compiled from oral reports that were present in society around the time of their compilation, well after the death of the Prophet Muhammad That hadith you mentioned contradicts the Quran. None of the versions of this hadith actually state that the narrator heard the Prophet say those words. So, yes, I denounce it as do most Muslims.

        May 15, 2014 at 1:09 am |
  9. chrissy

    Sorry @ Marvin i have to disagree. I have a Muslim friend who is very kind. She helps everyone so much so that she will go without in order to help others! And @ RZ you are so very right! Humans are the only creatures that kill their own species just for sport! Can you imagine how disappointed our Creator is in us?

    May 14, 2014 at 11:07 pm | Reply
    • Marvin

      There is no creator. There is no god. Universe did not need god to either create it or sustain it. If there is evil, it is called Islam.
      Muslims don't kill innocent people for sport, they kill them in the name of Islam. They are going to execute a Christian woman in Sudan unless she converts to Islam. Not all religions are the same - There is a huge difference between Muslims and decent people.

      May 15, 2014 at 12:24 am | Reply
  10. Marvin

    You are a Muslim. Bukhari (84:57) – [In the words of] "Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'" Do you denounce it? Don't you think it us repugnant?

    May 15, 2014 at 12:02 am | Reply
    • Paull

      That isn't from the Quran.

      May 15, 2014 at 8:30 am | Reply
  11. chrissy

    So @ Marvin...what? You just magically appeared or what? I dont believe in magicians but if you do i respect your right to that...but...when did these magicians stop magically appearing people? And why? And i did NOT specify what religions kill their own for sport. I said HUMANS and that includes muslims, catholics, christians, athierts etc!

    May 15, 2014 at 12:33 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy,
      Magic is not needed for life, human or not, to exist. Magic does not explain the origin of the universe.
      Imagine the fees for TV appearances that could be demanded by a magician who created humans.
      Imagine the TV-show fees for God or Allah. I've heard that Allah is greater, so Allah's fee wold be higher.
      I don't think that God, Allah, or a terrific magician created the universe.
      I don't know Who did, but I don't really care.

      May 15, 2014 at 6:27 am | Reply
  12. chrissy

    And another thing...DECENT people dont bash people because of their religion! Those people are racists!!!

    May 15, 2014 at 12:35 am | Reply
    • No

      No. They're bigots.

      May 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  13. luthfi dhofier

    Reblogged this on LuthfiDhofier and commented:
    Kristoff's excellent insights about Muslim fundamentalism. "It is not a religious war. Instead, it is a war between extremism and moderation"

    May 15, 2014 at 1:06 am | Reply
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    "So live, that when thy time comes..."
    It is possible to make one's life so joyous and filled with the celebration of existence that what happens after death is not questioned.

    May 15, 2014 at 7:20 am | Reply
  15. chrissy

    I believe i was SPEAKING to marvin @ Joey! And i was being facetious as i dont believe in magic at all! Nor do i care if you believe in God or not...that will be something you have to deal with on your own one day! What i DO believe is DECENT people dont bash others because of which religion theyve believed in and that was the comment i objected too by MARVIN! So tell me @ did YOU have a horse in THAT race???

    May 15, 2014 at 10:20 am | Reply
  16. chrissy

    And you dont believe @ Joey...yet you quote from the bible??? Rather hypocritical isnt it?

    May 15, 2014 at 10:24 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy:
      The literary work that I quoted ends, "...fold up thy tent like the Arab, and silently steal away."
      Did you also find it in the Bible?

      May 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  17. bobcat2u

    This argument about one religion being more extreme than the other is so overdone. I grew up in a mixing bowl neighborhood in Detroit quite a few decades ago. Along with the diversity of the peoples, came a diversity of religious beliefs. For some reason, back then, it didn't seem to matter. We all were neighbors and lived in relative harmony. Because of this diversity, I was able to learn about these different religions, and it was very enlightening. It turns out that most religions share many of the same beliefs.
    Now as far as the argument of extremism, we have all been bombarded by the news of the wickedness of "all " Muslims.
    It is true, some of them are extremely extreme. But guess what people ? That goes for every religion on the face of this earth. As a matter of fact, some of the scariest people I've ever met are the extremely extreme Christians. But you can't put all the people of each respective religions in one group. The extremists of any given religion are a minority. Most of us just want to live our lives in peace and enjoy the friendships with our divers group of friends.

    May 15, 2014 at 11:45 am | Reply
  18. chrissy

    Ty @ bobcat! And ya know what....the Detroit area has NOT changed much in that area still! Even given the fact that Dearborn is very near Detroit and is mainly an arabic community!

    May 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  19. bobcat2u


    The biggest problem, like I've said so many times before, is too many people wanting to be up in everyone elses business. There is no big secret behind peaceful coexistence. Mind yours and let others mind theirs.

    May 15, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  20. chrissy

    I agree @ bobcat! I also think if this country is so damned worried about what other countries may or may not do...put up that damn anti missile shield over the US and lets just get on living already!

    May 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  21. bobcat2u

    I agree with that assessment chrissy. The sad part of that would be a need to round up all the nationalities of people we have worries about and put them all in concentration camps, as they did those of Ja panese descent during WW2.
    Wow, can you imagine just how few people would be walking our streets if they did that ?!
    That just brought up another thought. Our old friend used to talk about all the prisons being built around Colorado and elsewhere that were going to be used to house the dissidents of this country ?
    Things that make you go Hmmmm.

    May 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  22. The ENTIRE GOP PLATFORM in a single paragraph

    The GOP Prayer/Mantra/Solution: Dear God...With your loving kindness, help us to turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then, with your guidance and compassion, we will whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. God...Grant us the knowledge to then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. God...Give us the strength during our speeches to repeatedly yell........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!
    In your name we prey (purposely misspelled, or is it?)........Amen

    May 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  23. chrissy

    Sorry @ bobcat i kinda gotta disagree. The ones that are here legally are here because they WANT to be. I dont think they should be put in any kind of containment just because they had the misfortune to be born elsewhere!

    May 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  24. bobcat2u

    That's true chrissy, but during WW2, those that were here was by choice as well. That didn't make a difference. It was a little thing called protect from within.
    And I agree 100% with your second sentence. I didn't say we "should", I'm saying our government, in all their infinite wisdom, probably "would".

    May 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Reply
    • bobcat2u

      Whoops !!! I just went back and read my original comment, and I can see how it sounds like I was advocating internment. I definitely worded that wrong. Sorry about that.

      May 15, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  25. chrissy

    Lol its ok @ bobcat, im catching it from all sides today it seems.

    May 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Reply
  26. chrissy

    @ Joey i dont spend my day looking up every damn thing people say to me!

    May 15, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  27. chrissy

    So quick question @ Joey why on the thread prior to this one is there an "a" after your trademark symbol?

    May 15, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  28. rupert

    Be quiet chrissy. Now!

    May 16, 2014 at 1:15 am | Reply
  29. Normal human

    I grew up in a very small part of the world where lives of Hindus, Muslims and Christians intermingled a lot, whether we are in school, at work, in any part of our day to day lives. So when I read comments, I am unable to explain to you, what you have missed in your life – and your thinking about religions, culture and other intangible necessities in life, are completely deviated. All religions say the same thing – but people have understood it the wrong way, changed it for their own interests while they were in power – all just to trick people and gain out of it – driven by greed.

    And now you people who leave unwanted comments are the victims, who are required to deviate all these further. Nobody who has left comments knows completely about any religion, even your own, to comment about it. Religion is much above you to comprehend, so just read it and go on your way.

    I am proud of my birth place which is a Hindu region – the second oldest mosque is present there – My region was one of the first to in the world to have Christians – we are the only country where Jews were safe. Just thought to leave a comment to signal that you are all wasting your time writing comments.

    May 16, 2014 at 7:08 am | Reply
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