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16 September 2014

Pew Research Centre Survey: What Muslims Really Believe


A Pew Research Center survey of the world’s Muslims released earlier this week had many interesting findings. The Daily Caller reviewed the survey and pulled out some of the most fascinating — and sometimes alarming — tidbits:

1.) A majority of Muslims in several countries think adulterers and apostates should be put to death 

According to the poll, 86 percent of Muslims in Pakistan, 84 percent in Afghanistan, 81 percent in the Palestinian territories, 80 percent in Egypt, 65 percent in Jordan, 57 percent in Iraq and 54 percent in Malaysia and Bangladesh favor stoning as a lethal punishment for adultery. 

A majority of Muslims in several countries also support the death penalty for Muslims who convert away from Islam, including in Afghanistan (79 percent), Egypt (88 percent), Pakistan (75 percent), the Palestinian territories (62 percent), Jordan (83 percent) and Malaysia (58 percent).

2.) Muslims in Lebanon are much more moderate than their Middle East neighbours

Only 29 percent of Lebanese Muslims said they wanted Shariah, or Islamic, law as the law of the land. 

In contrast, in every other Arab country surveyed — Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia — a majority of Muslims indicated they supported Shariah. Muslim majorities in these Arab countries, with the exception of Tunisia, also indicated they either supported stoning adulterers or killing apostates, or both.

3.) A much more moderate brand of Islam predominates in Southern-Eastern Europe and Central Asia 

Perhaps not surprising, but in contrast to the other regions surveyed, Southern-Eastern Europe and Central Asia seem to have much more moderate Muslim populations. 

In none of the nine countries where Muslim opinion was measured in Southern-Eastern Europe and Central Asia — Russia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan — did a majority of Muslims favor Shariah law being the law of the land. In most the percentage of Muslim respondents who said they favor Shariah as the law of the land is 20 percent or lower. 

Respondents who say they believe that stoning should be a punishment for adultery or that those who convert away from Islam should be put to death is also comparatively low.

4.) Things aren't so bad in Turkey

While Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party may be gradually Islamicising Turkey, the Turkish population doesn't seem to want to be governed by Shariah law, assuming the Pew poll is to be trusted.  Only 12% of Turkey's Muslims say they want Shariah law as the law of the land.  The Poll also shows that nine percent of Turkey's Muslims think stoning should be a punishment for adultery and eight percent think that those who convert away Islam should be put to death.  These percentages are far lower than the percentages in many other Muslim countries surveyed.

5.) Muslims are more concerned about Muslim extremism than Christian extremism

Here in the West, academics and liberal media-types often bend over backwards in an effort to convince the public that the threat from radical Islam is no more or less serious than the threat from radical Christianity, Judaism, or [insert any religion here].

But in almost every country Pew surveyed, Muslims themselves indicated the threat from Muslim extremism is far more serious than the threat from Christian extremism - that is, if they didn't indicate they feared both equally or neither.

Notably, in Iraq, 45 percent of respondents said they worried mostly about Muslim extremists groups, while only three percent said they worried mostly about Christian extremists groups.  Sixteen percent said they worried about both Christian and Muslim extremist groups.

In Pakistan, 40 percent of respondents said they worried about mostly Muslim extremists groups, while only 6 percent said they worried mostly about Christian extremist groups.  six percent said they were concerned by both.

Even in Lebanon, which has a significant population unlike Pakistan and Iraq, 19 percent of Muslim respondents said they mostly feared Muslim extremist groups, while just four percent said they feared mostly Christian extremist groups.  Some 28% said they feared both.   According to the CIA's World Factbook, nearly 40 percent of the Lebanese population if Christian, while about 60 percent is Muslim.

6.) A high percentage of Palestinians and Afghanis say suicide-bombing civilians is justified.

Forty percent of Muslims in the Palestinian territories and 39% of Muslims in Afghanistan said attacking civilian targets to defend Islam is often or sometimes justified.  Further, 18 percent of Muslims in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories said such actions are 'often' justified.

7.) Muslims in many countries don't a problem with honour killings.

While majorities of Muslims - though rarely large majorities - surveyed in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Southern-Eastern Europe reject honour killings in all circumstances, Muslims in South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa seem to have less of a problem with the heinous practise.

When a female commits the 'offence' of pre-marital or extramarital sex, only 34 percent of Muslims in Jordan, 22 percent of Muslims in Iraq, 31 percent of Muslims in Egypt, 44 percent of Muslims in the Palestinian territories, 45 percent of Muslims in Lebanon, and 24 percent of Muslims in Afghanistan said they think the girl's family is ever justified to kill her to protect the family's honour.  In most of the countries - though not all - men are given more leeway by respondents for similar 'offences.'

8.) Muslims say no to drinking, but yes to polygamy (in some countries).

A majority of Muslims in all countries surveyed said drinking, suicide, abortion (except for Azerbaijan), sex out of marriage and homosexual behaviour is morally wrong.  The results were more split on polygamy.  Pluralities or majorities in Thailand, Malaysia, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt called polygamy morally acceptable.

9.) Most Muslims say they prefer democracy.*

Given the choice between having a strong leader and having democracy, Muslims in most countries surveyed said they preferred democracy.  The only countries where a majority or plurality of respondents said they preferred a strongman were Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

* Given the survey results on Shariah law, it is unlikely that those who said they support democracy meant the liberal democracy that is commonplace in the West.

Other key findings include:

  • At least half of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they are concerned about religious extremist groups in their country, including two-thirds or more of Muslims in Egypt (67%), Tunisia (67%), Iraq (68%), Guinea Bissau (72%) and Indonesia (78%). On balance, more are worried about Islamic extremists than about Christian extremists.
  • Muslims around the world overwhelmingly view certain behaviors – including prostitution, homosexuality, suicide, abortion, euthanasia and consumption of alcohol – as immoral. But attitudes toward polygamy, divorce and birth control are more varied. For example, polygamy is seen as morally acceptable by just 4% of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Azerbaijan; about half of Muslims in the Palestinian territories (48%) and Malaysia (49%); and the vast majority of Muslims in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Senegal (86%) and Niger (87%).
  • In most countries where a question about so-called “honor” killings was asked, majorities of Muslims say such killings are never justified. Only in two countries – Afghanistan and Iraq – do majorities condone extra-judicial executions of women who allegedly have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.
  • Relatively few Muslims say that tensions between more religiously observant and less observant Muslims are a very big problem in their country. In most countries where the question was asked, Muslims also see little tension between members of Islam’s two major sects, Sunnis and Shias – though a third or more of Muslims in Pakistan (34%) and Lebanon (38%) consider Sunni-Shia conflict to be a very big problem.
  • Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa are more likely than Muslims surveyed in other regions to say they attend interfaith meetings and are knowledgeable about other faiths. But substantial percentages of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa also perceive hostility between Muslims and Christians. In Guinea-Bissau, for example, 41% of Muslims say “most” or “many” Christians are hostile toward Muslims, and 49% say “most” or “many” Muslims are hostile toward Christians.
  • In half of the countries where the question was asked, majorities of Muslims want religious leaders to have at least “some influence” in political matters, and sizable minorities in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa think religious leaders should have a lot of political influence. For example, 37% of Muslims in Jordan, 41% in Malaysia and 53% in Afghanistan say religious leaders should play a “large” role in politics.
  • Support for making sharia the official law of the land tends to be higher in countries like Pakistan (84%) and Morocco (83%) where the constitution or basic laws favor Islam over other religions.
  • In many countries, Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely to support making sharia official law than are Muslims who pray less frequently. In Russia, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia, for example, Muslims who pray several times a day are at least 25 percentage points more supportive of enshrining sharia than are less observant Muslims. Generally, however, there is little difference in support for sharia by age, gender or education.

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