Flawed data

According to the viral video doing the rounds on social media, the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia has been named by travel insurance website InsureMyTrip as the world’s safest city for solo female travellers. This “fact” serves as a prelude to various “facts” about Islam and Muslim culture, delivered dawah-style to a grateful audience.

If you happen to be an isnad-junkie who insists on checking sources, then you may at first be perturbed that the website doesn’t say what is claimed at all. That’s because in overall ratings, Medina is ranked way down the list at number 43, with Madrid in Spain named first.

To find Medina’s number one ranking, you must change the filter to “Safety.” This data is pulled in from Numbeo.com, based on 39 perception surveys submitted over the past three years. Lisbon comes in at number 5 based on 438 perception surveys. Istanbul comes in at number 50 based on 1015 surveys.

What inferences does the statistician derive from cohorts so different in size? These surveys, as far as I can see, do not ask the gender of survey respondents. Nor do they ask for verification of status or location. Contributors are self-selecting, and the website appears to have no mechanism in place to prevent multiple submissions. A question pertaining to ask about gender is in fact a catch-all question phrased: “Worries of being subject to a physical attack because of your skin color, ethnic origin, gender or religion”.

Change the InsureMyTrip filter to “Equality” and Medina comes in last. However this is based on two data sources that appear to have nothing to do with travel whatsoever. The first is the Georgetown Institute’s Women, Peace and Security Index, the second the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. The data may nevertheless be relevant to the enthusiastic dawah-fraternity, so intent on whitewashing realities in their mission to convince others of the supremacy of Global Islam™. 

I don’t know why those engaged in dawah insist on doing this. Our maxim is not “by whatever means” but rather to pursue the way of truth.

“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know it.”

Quran 2:42

The InsureMyTrip ranking is flimsy at best. It is not based on authoritative or legitimate datasets. In truth, it teaches us nothing at all, except that those engaged in dawah will grasp hold of anything to cement their claims. If this is the best we can do, God help us.

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