I visited a professor today for office hours. This particular prefessor is the department's Middle East expert. So, I went in and asked the hard question: what is up with Islam and the Middle East? How much is religion and how much is cultural.
Her answers surprised me.
She said that people in the region are turning to Fundamentalist Islam (you know, the strict interpretation of the holy book... letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. Sound familiar?). People that are unhappy are turning to these more conservative sects.
In hard times, people turn to fundamentalist faiths. The answers are easy. Everything's all written down in the holy book.
She also said two things that stuck with me: Judaism, Islam and Christianity are more similar than not. And they both have a long history of not treating women all that great.
Of course, our conversation had more to it... But I still have to process that.