Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level



Environmental Dynamics


Thomas R. Paradise

Committee Member

Christopher L. Liner

Second Committee Member

Edward C. Holland


Afghanistan, earthquakes, Muslim World, natural hazards, Pakistan, risk perception, seismic risk


How communities respond to a natural hazard is influenced by how they perceive it. This dissertation evaluated the gap between intent and action regarding earthquake hazards in Muslim countries with a focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Cultural biases provided predictions of risk perceptions and risk-taking preferences that were often more powerful than measures of knowledge and experience. In Muslim communities, perception of risk was influenced by the teachings of Islam and related rituals, traditions, and culture.

This study evaluated the seismicity and earthquake hazard in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Assessments of seismic risk and perception of danger were conducted to examine experiences, knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions. In a series of surveys, assessment of perceived earthquake danger was undertaken. Findings revealed (i) an understanding collective earthquake knowledge, (ii) community preparedness for imminent quakes, and (iii) overall trust in religious and/or political institutions. Respondents demonstrated a deeply traditional, and conservative outlook bearing fatalistic attitudes toward earthquakes, and associating them with increased religious impropriety or unfaithfulness, the day of judgement, divine retribution, and punishment for the collective sins of the society.

This crucial research was then compared to similar studies from Morocco and Libya. In the assessment of seismic risk perception in these four countries study findings revealed that participants were (a) not sufficiently knowledgeable, (b) had limited earthquake knowledge had no scientific basis, (c) held strong fatalistic attitudes toward them, (d) mostly unprepared or ill-prepared, (e) governed by religious and cultural attitudes that often censured discussions of quakes, and (6) in the case of Kabul City, everyday worries of armed conflicts and political violence were reported as the primary sources of concern downplaying the dangers of an earthquake.