Serious Ethical Violations: Rania Awaad’s Shoddy Suicide Research

Over the past ten years, liberal Muslim activists have made a concerted effort to use highly questionable research studies to push liberal policies onto the Muslim community.

For example, imagine wanting to push Muslims to vote for a left-wing politician. You could publish a report that “proves” that statistically the most important policy issue for the Muslim community is immigration. You could then use this “scientific” report to campaign in the Muslim community for this left-wing, pro-immigration politician and claim that, objectively, she is the candidate that best aligns with Muslim concerns.

The fact of the matter is, it is trivially easy to lie with statistics. That is the subject of the best-selling book How to Lie with Statistics, which was published in 1954 and is just as relevant nowadays as ever. The book details very simple methods that can be used to cook the books while making it seem like the statistical results are fully accurate.

And the “benefit” of this manipulation is that if you get caught, there is usually plausible deniability. Researchers can cover their tracks by claiming, “Whoops, I guess I made an innocent mistake there. My bad!”

Statistics Prove Muslims Are…Whatever You Want Them to Be

The biggest example of liberal Muslims using statistical studies to basically shill for the Democratic Party, is Dalia Mogahed’s Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU).

We have reported on Mogahed’s nefarious role in the US government and CVE and her ongoing collaboration with Yaqeen Institute.

A whole report could be compiled on all the garbage ISPU spews out and how that garbage has been used to manipulate the Muslim community in particular political directions.

Just consider a recent report they published in the heat of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court controversy on the legality of abortion last month. Conveniently, ISPU had the statistical results on hand to quickly publish their findings that show how: “The Majority of American Muslims Believe Abortion Should be Legal in All or Most Cases.”

The report includes two graphics, reproduced above and below. 

You will notice with these ISPU reports that they often contrast Muslims with “White Evangelicals.” In study after study from ISPU, Muslims are the demographic foil to specifically White Evangelicals.

This conveniently aligns with how liberal Muslims want to think of themselves, namely, as the furthest thing possible from White Christian conservatives. In reality, American Muslims have a great deal in common (as well as notable differences), in terms of religious and spiritual values, with Christian conservatives, arguably much more in common than with political liberals. Many American Muslims would agree with this simply based on their life experiences living among and interacting with the Christian majority population. Yet, somehow, the data from ISPU consistently shows that the opposite of this is the case, and Muslims and Christian conservatives are like oil and water.

Another example. According to ISPU, Muslims are more likely than any other group to support coalition building with “racial justice activists” like Black Lives Matter, i.e., the pro-LGBTQ, pro-feminist, Democratic political group that now and again also addresses police violence against minorities.

What is notable is that, according to ISPU, Muslim support for racial justice activism is higher than what comparable studies report of the Black community’s support for this cause.

Newsweek:

Some of the steepest declines in support for the movement were found among African American respondents. Their support for the movement’s goals dropped from 67 percent to 56 percent since last April, while support for the movement’s strategies and tactics want from 65 percent to 49 percent.

How curious!

And, as you might have guessed, the Muslim community is by and large a huge supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights, at least according to ISPU.

In one report, ISPU details how “LGBT Muslims Seek Inclusion.”

In 2015, ISPU told Muslims they “should welcome” the legalization of gay marriage.

In 2019, ISPU dropped any remaining facade with this report:

Now, some might think this is just rabid liberal ideologues like Mogahed projecting her biases onto the entirety of the Muslim community. But rest assured. ISPU does “real” “research” using “real” “data.”

Need “Data”? Mogahed Can Help

Thanks to Mogahed’s outreach and collaborative spirit, other Muslim groups have learned that the statistics game can be highly profitable.

Yaqeen Institute is one example. Yaqeen has had an official partnership with Mogahed’s ISPU for years, and Mogahed is on the Board of Advisors of Yaqeen.

In 2018, Yaqeen released results of a survey they conducted to determine the “major sources of doubt” for the Muslim community. The biggest source of doubt according to their results, and I’m not joking here, was: “religious people.” Seriously.

Commenting on this bizarre result in our Review of Yaqeen:

Is it a strange coincidence that Omar Suleiman’s entire “compassionate orthodoxy” project discussed above is grounded on the assumption that “conservative” Muslims are not tolerant and gentle enough and then his institute produces a research survey that finds that the lack of tolerance and gentleness of “religious people” is the main source of doubt and apostasy?

Maybe there is no coincidence and it is just that Omar Suleiman has his fingers on the pulse of the Muslim community, fully in tune with its problems. But that explanation doesn’t work because the 2017 interviews with imams, chaplains, et al., from across the US didn’t surface “intolerant, mean religious people” as a significant factor. Do Omar Suleiman and Yaqeen know better than all these imams and scholars combined?

I guess amazing statistical coincidences follow Dalia Mogahed wherever she goes!

Now, Muslim mental health professionals are availing themselves of Mogahed’s unique expertise.

Rania Awaad Is Ambitious

Last year, a small study on suicide rates quickly made national news, with coverage in outlets like NPR. The study implausibly claims that Muslims are twice as likely to attempt suicide as any other group.

The study lists Rania Awaad as the primary author, but other co-authors on the paper include Hooman Keshavarzi of Khalil Center, Hamada Altalib, and, coincidentally, Dalia Mogahed herself. Mogahed is not a professional psychologist or otherwise tied to academic psychology research, so one might wonder why she should appear as a co-author for this paper. Continue reading to find out.

But who is Rania Awaad?

Awaad working with the super deviants at MuslimGirl.

She was the Clinical Director at the Khalil Center’s Bay Area branch and is an Associate Professor of psychology who has been featured, over the past few years, by several Muslim organizations, all associated with the well-known Dawah Mafia. Notably, she is a Senior Fellow at Yaqeen Institute and a frequent collaborator with Ingrid Mattson’s Hurma Project.

These affiliations alone should be major red flags for those who know what Yaqeen and Ingrid Mattson are about.

Much more can be said about what exactly Awaad is doing in these spaces and what agendas she is pushing. But for now, let’s focus on her mental health advocacy.

The “Muslim Mental Health” Racket

Recently, there has been a concerted effort in the American Muslim community to push the importance of mental health. Islamically, there is no problem with mental health awareness in and of itself. However, modern mental health as a discipline and practice stems from psychology, and psychology is a highly secular, liberalized field that is in countless ways anathema to Islam and the preservation of traditional Muslim institutions and lifestyle.

As a response, some Muslims have attempted to “Islamicize” psychology and mental health practices in order to “ground” them in traditional Islam. But — like all attempts to translate a foreign ideology into the conceptual framework of Islam, e.g., Islamic democracy, Islamic communism, Islamic feminism, etc. — the results leave much to be desired. What such efforts all have in common is they fail to adequately challenge the most fundamental premises of these fields, yet it is precisely within those premises that the most anti-Islamic content lies. So the Islamic adaptation must paper over these contradictions and the Muslim adapters have to pretend that they don’t exist. The final result is messy: Not fully Islamic, not fully secular. But often lucrative, nonetheless.

Fully elaborating these issues is beyond the scope of this article. What can be said briefly, however, is that this “Islamic psychology” is a secularizing and liberalizing influence on the Muslim community. This can be demonstrated by the fact that some of the most prominent educators on the Muslim mental health scene also happen to have a clear liberal message and often are at tensions, or outright conflict, with traditional imams, traditional Islamic family structure, traditional institutions of Islamic learning, etc.

The danger of Islamic psychology is that it takes advantage of the wider Muslim community’s naïve eagerness to embrace science and, in particular, medical science. This makes it the perfect Trojan horse for proliferating all manner of liberal and feminist values among religious, practicing Muslims who would otherwise reject such values as patently un-Islamic.

RELATED: The Campaign to De-Stigmatize Suicide in Islam

Awaad’s work is a prime example of this. Many of her lectures given at US mosques are dripping with an overt feminist message of women’s empowerment dressed up as “traditional Islam.”

Furthermore, she and her less prominent husband, Rami Nsour, have contributed a great deal in recent years to the feminist imam hunting project. They have collaborated with pro-LGBT deviant groups like Ingrid Mattson’s Hurma and FACE to push a “spiritual abuse” framework that attacks imams. Much more can be said on this, but interested readers can get a sense of the wider issue by reading the following reports:

The Curious Case of the MeToo Mufti: Abdullah Nana

FACE and Alia Salem: The Pro-LGBT Deviants Who Hunt Imams

Ingrid Mattson, HEART, and the Pro-LGBT “Muslim” Network Distorting Islam

Are Muslims Twice as Likely to Attempt Suicide?

The main claim of Awaad’s study is laughably implausible. And when Awaad posted it on Twitter last year, some commenters immediately noted as much.

All the current research on religion and suicide shows that Muslims are consistently the least likely to commit or attempt suicide.

Chart from “A global perspective on the epidemiology of suicide” by JM Bertolote, A Fleischmann. Published in Suicidologi, 2002.

At the global scale, Muslim suicidality is far lower than any other religious group.

But some might object that Awaad’s study is different because it concerns a minority Muslim population that faces discrimination from the wider non-Muslim society.

Well, on this aspect, previous research also sheds light.

For example, one academic, peer-reviewed study titled “Suicidal behavior among Muslim Arabs in Israel” looked at suicidal behavior in Israel, comparing Muslims with Jews. The study found that Muslims committed suicide at less than half the rate of Jews.

Is it plausible that Muslims in America face more discrimination, Islamophobia, and overall pressure than Arab Muslims living in Israel?

Another study comparing Muslims and Hindus in the UK also found that Muslims are at a lesser risk.

Other published academic studies comparing the suicide rates of the Muslim minority in countries like Bulgaria and India, found similarly lower suicide rates for Muslims compared to other religious demographics.

Awaad’s paper doesn’t cite any of these studies, nor does she even acknowledge the body of research that already exists on Muslims and suicide. Given that her results are so dramatic, didn’t Awaad or her co-authors think it wise to cross reference prior research?

Isn’t this gross incompetence? Or is it more than just incompetence?

Awaad Debunked by an Unlikely Source

The Journal of the American Medical Association published Awaad’s paper last year, but recently published a note with the paper. The title of the note reads: Study Findings Appear to be the Result of a Stastictical/Methodological Artifact – Suppressor Effect.

A researcher took it upon himself to audit one aspect of Awaad’s paper: The statistical analysis. He found, basically, that there are significant errors made in that analysis. Essentially, Awaad’s conclusion is completely wrong, just as many had suspected.

Who’s at fault for this gross error?

Well, there is plenty of blame to go around.

But who is this intrepid researcher?

His name is Dr. Osman Umarji and you wouldn’t believe which Institute he works at…

Umarji is Director of Survey Research and Evaluation at Yaqeen. Maybe Yaqeen brought him in to clean up the shoddy statistical research Yaqeen has been dumping out over the years, putting its hard-earned zakat money to good use.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is this. Umarji posted his analysis on Twitter, but he failed to mention that his PDF refutation undermines fellow Yaqeenite, Awaad.

Umarji recognized in his tweet that Awaad’s “research letter” caused a lot of “commotion & anxiety.” Calling this “commotion & anxiety” is an understatement. I’m sure that blasting to the whole community that their youth suffer from an epidemic of suicide did more than raise a little anxiety for many Muslims.

At least he seems to recognize the damage Awaad’s trash has caused. But he also seems to excuse Awaad when he says “Mistakes happen.”

Yes, mistakes do happen. The question, however, is: Were these mistakes the result of gross incompetence? Or is there more to the story? Only the authors and Allah know.

But, what we do know is that Yaqeen needs to make some retractions. They promoted Rania Awaad and her institute specifically on the issue of suicide.

Will Yaqeen demonstrate some accountability here and issue a clarification on their Senior Fellow’s false research that they helped spread in the Muslim community? You would think so given that their own researcher, Umarji, did the honors of debunking her (though it seems he did so in his capacity as an academic and not as a Yaqeen director).

But I’m not holding my breath.

The Unethical Part

Again, falsely telling the Muslim community that their youth are more prone to kill themselves causes serious damage. It not only unnecessarily alarms the community about a communal crisis that doesn’t exist, it also makes it seem like Muslims are incredibly weak and fragile as a community. Think about it. Does the Muslim community in the US face more discrimination and hardship than other marginalized groups? If not, why is our youth turning to suicide more than these other groups?

This casts a huge negative light on the American Muslim community and, by extension, Islam. The irony is that many other studies show that Muslim religiosity is a preventer of suicide. Being Islamically devoted significantly reduces the risk of suicide.

But Awaad’s paper callously undermines this truth.

The fact that the results were completely false make it that much more egregious.

But we move from egregious territory to unethical territory when we realize that Rania Awaad launched her “suicide awareness” institute, Maristan, immediately before these results were published.

Can you imagine the lack of self-awareness, announcing your trash research and admitting that you are “ecstatic”?

You can see from these tweets that the whole operation from start to finish is alongside Dalia Mogahed, who seemed to have played an instrumental role in launching Awaad’s shady organization.

Awaad’s paper no where discloses the fact that she has her own suicide awareness institute that goes around taking big money from the Muslim community in order to “educate” them on an “epidemic” of suicide that, by sheer coincidence, she herself uncovered. In the Conflict of Interest Disclosures section of the paper, Maristan is not mentioned.

How could such a huge conflict of interest not be noted? This is a clear ethical violation and it speaks volumes about who Rania Awaad and her collaborators are. On these grounds alone, the paper should be retracted and a professional ethics case opened to investigate further.

I mean, look at how brazenly Awaad’s Maristan markets the false results:

This is not exactly subtle. The false results are what, according to Awaad, necessitate the need to “further address” the topic of suicide. And how fortunate that her Maristan is dedicated to precisely that.

Create the problem and offer the solution in one fell swoop. It’s a highly efficient business model, actually.

Stanford Medicine should really look into it further.

And if Yaqeen had any shred of integrity, they would dump such an unethical researcher. Again, not holding my breath.

Awaad’s Spiritual Abuse

Maybe Awaad’s husband Shaykh Rami Nsour’s “accountability” organization, In Shaykh’s Clothing, can help investigate too, maybe take some time off from bullying various imams and spend more time investigating the “ethics” of his wife’s work.


What kind of “spiritual abuse” has Awaad inflicted on the Muslim community with her incompetent research at a massive scale? It’s ironic because this is how Awaad defines “spiritual abuse” for Hurma Project:

“Religious leaders misusing authority to coerce or manipulate community members for personal gain, financial gain, sexual misconduct, harassment, bullying.”

Well, did Awaad engage in any emotional manipulation of the community by scaring them about a looming “suicide epidemic” using her authority as a Stanford-affiliate? And did she gain financially from this manipulation? Wouldn’t this make her a spiritual abuser par excellence?

Maybe the MeToo Mufti Abdullah Nana should get on the case, too, given how much of an expert on spiritual abuse he is. He, of course, was among the first to spread Awaad’s hoax.

Wow, jinn stories around a virtual campfire for Halloween! Rami and Rania sure know how to party.

More Amazing Coincidences

I noted above that amazing statistical coincidences seem to follow Mogahed wherever she goes. I also noted that Mogahed was listed as a co-author of Awaad’s study.

Well, it turns out that Mogahed played a critical part in this suicide study as her ISPU provided all the data! This is mentioned explicitly in the Methods section of the study.

Mogahed really went all out for Awaad. This is a partnership of epic proportions.

We have to wonder, if similar audits were done of ISPU reports, would we find similar examples of gross miscalculation, not to mention methodological problems with their sampling, etc.?

Making Awaad a Star

As soon as Awaad’s false research was published, she went on a tour, with the help of the Dawah Mafia, to shill her institute and its services.

She wrote op-eds for national outlets, making American Muslims look like a community of mentally-fragile victims reeling from suicide.

Muslimmatters twice has published articles from Awaad, and one of the articles includes the false “twice as likely” claim:

Will Muslimmatters publish a report about Rania Awaad’s spiritual abuse?

In addition to Yaqeen and Muslimmatters, many of the usual suspects promoted her and her work, including Yasir Qadhi’s seminary, TISA:

Awaad is an esteemed faculty member of Qadhi’s TISA:

Rania Awaad pictured with quite a round up of deviants, feminists, and CVE partners for such a small faculty! The Omar-Suleiman-affiliated Religion News Service, an outlet dedicated to pumping out liberal sludge barely masked in religious garb, of course had to cover Awaad’s stunning and brave work.

 

Red kufi guy and the imam of imam’s.

Zareena Grewal, junior academic.
Cheer up, Dalia. The findings are fake.
Dawah Mafia reunion.
Foreshadowing at the bottom there.

Awaad Wants to “Train” Your Imam

I have written about the liberal activist campaign to destigmatize suicide and how it actually contributes to increasing suicide.

Awaad has launched a fundraising campaign for her program specifically targeting imams. This “500 Imams” training program is analogous to the training programs other liberal Muslim groups like HEART: Women and Girls and Ingrid Mattson’s Hurma Project have launched in recent years. These groups use the Trojan horse strategy I mentioned earlier. They directly target imams because that promises to yield the most influence on masjid communities across the country.

In the promo video, people like Abdullah Oduro of Yaqeen, Yasir Birjas of Almaghrib Institute, Ingrid Mattson, and Yasir Qadhi, praise Awaad’s work. I wonder if any of them will retract their endorsements now that the key data point Awaad used to justify the urgency of her work has turned out to be completely baseless. Basic integrity is in short supply these days, sadly.

In the end, it is outrageous that Awaad has taken advantage of the Muslim community to advance her own career on the basis of “research” that was stained from the start by unethical conflict of interest but, as it turned out, was also completely false.

Mosque leaders and imams in the American Muslim community ignore such outrageous behavior at the expense of the community’s interests.

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Mehmed

Very insightful article. Can’t see any positive future for Muslims in America – the most perverted country in the world.

akh

If she thinks America is so detrimental to people’s mental health and imaan she should heavily promote hijrah.

akh

Why does ISPU distinguish Christians in Catholics, Evangelicals etc. but doesn’t do the same with Muslims?

ISPU should make the distinction between Sunni and non-Sunni groups like Shia, (extreme) Sufis and even non-Muslims like Qadiani’s and NOI (who are counted as Muslims).

Roughly a quarter of Muslims in the US are non-Sunni. Many in this group wouldn’t even be considered to be in the fold of Islam.

akh

A major problem is the definition used. ‘Muslim’ in the US context is too wide and polluted a term. It could basically mean everything as long as that person identifies nominally as a Muslim. It doesn’t necessarily tell you something about a person’s norms, values and beliefs. This isn’t the case when someone is identifying as Sunni. In this case his beliefs become more clear.

Zahid Hasan

Excellent point! Brother Daniel, please consider highlighting this dishonesty.

If numbers of samples of these sects within Christianity are combined, the result would be totally different. Either include all of them under Christianity or break down Muslims into several groups to keep it fair.

Last edited 5 months ago by Zahid Hasan
Fmp

I’m wondering at the journal that published this article if the stats were not up to par? How much of science truly is science…

akh

Psychology is known to be destructive pseudo science. In the West it has basically become a substitute for Christianity. What used to be the job of priests and pastors is now the job of psychologists and social workers. The irony is that as the psychology field has grown so have mental health issues. The more psychologizing there is the crazier and more unhinged people get. Google “In Psychology And Other Social Sciences, Many Studies Fail The Reproducibility Test”

Adam

Subhanallah. May Allah protect us from these people

S.F.

I remember hearing about this when the news first broke. I also remember thinking that the statistic did look quite strange and didn’t square with some basic logic:

Since Islam is true, we would expect Muslims to be the most content of people and therefore have less suicide than other religions.

Adhil

I did read the study, when it was out for the very first time, the p values for the comparison tests for all groups (except the Muslims) >5%, which means the results weren’t “statistically significant”,

I am a six sigma green belt and this kind of study would never have passed my criteria.

I did mention this to her in a reply to Rania’s tweet, but was ignored by everyone, maybe because no one likes math

Last edited 5 months ago by Adhil
Fmp

That’s quite possible. I think most college students actually find statistics to be one of the more difficult math subjects, especially beyond a 200 level course.

Last edited 5 months ago by Fmp