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Pew survey: Middle East Muslims support democracy, Islam in politics
Egyptians in Cairo's Tahrir Square listen to a speech last month by Mohamed Morsi, who is now president.
July 11th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

Pew survey: Middle East Muslims support democracy, Islam in politics

By Laura Koran, CNN

(CNN) -Just as an Islamist president takes office in Egypt, a major survey shows that most Muslims in nations in or close to the Middle East want both democracy and a strong role for Islam in politics and government.

The survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, finds that most people in many predominantly Muslim nations remain optimistic that democracy can succeed in the Middle East, more than a year after the Arab Spring began sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.

Conducted in six countries between March 19 and April 20, the survey found that a majority of people in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan believe that democracy is the best possible form of government, as does a 42 % plurality in Pakistan.

In Lebanon, where support for democracy is strongest, 84% of people surveyed said they preferred democratic governments to nondemocratic ones, a preference that was pronounced across religious groups.

Even among Pakistanis, who expressed the weakest support for democracy, only 17% said that nondemocratic systems of government are sometimes preferable.

The study also showed that Muslims in and around the Middle East believe that Islam has a major role to play in politics and government. Majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt believe that laws should strictly follow the Quran.

Support for strict Islamic law was lower in Lebanon, Turkey and Tunisia, but big pluralities in the latter two said they wanted the values and principles of Islam to be reflected in their laws to some degree.

When the importance of having democratic government was weighed against the need for a strong economy, support for democracy weakened.

Majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Tunisia said that having a strong economy is more important than having a democratic government, while Egyptians were evenly split on the question. Of the six countries surveyed, only those in Lebanon and Turkey gave a preference for democracy.

The survey found that people in the countries surveyed have largely negative assessments of their economic situations but that they are generally optimistic that democracy will spread in the region.

When it comes to Islam, majorities in five of the countries surveyed reported that Islam already plays a large role in their political systems. In Egypt, that figure jumped from 47 % to 66% in the past year, even though the poll was conducted before Islamist President Mohamed Morsy recently took office.

Only the Lebanese did not see Islam as an important player in political life. However, those perceptions varied significantly across religious communities, with 81% of Shia Muslims believing that Islam plays a role in government, compared with 53% of Sunni Muslims and 21% of Christians.

The surveys are based on face-to-face interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates and included sample sizes of at least 1,000 people in each of the 6 countries. Margins of error ranged from 4.2% to 5.2%.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Middle East

soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. nader

    As long as the holy quran is not misinterpreted, why not?!

    My own opinion though is, to forget about politics and finding a more peaceful way to live together.
    this includes, respecting other religions, races and so on.
    As Ayatollah Muhammad Rosa Khani has said, we shall not misinterpret the holy Quran!

    August 8, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  2. Matt

    I was the old testament fire and brimstone, Jesus would cure this person, but let another suffer a horrible death. The Muslims pray five times a day, their in touch with God, devotion, what do the infidels do no grace, no church, nothing, until Malik comes, then grab the near pedo last rights. The Christians deserve to suffer and be driven out of the Middle East. Jerusalem has nothing to do with them. Some has to pay and it is them.

    August 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  3. Matt

    I should add they are the easiest to make suffer.

    August 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  4. Matt

    We they should have got there own country then, it is Gods will that Christian brothers and sisters pay for the sins of their Christian brothers and sisters. We all go an get our last rights ( the favorite of the police man) it is all cool, who is giving the last rights some pedo. It is God will, pack your bags.

    August 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  5. Raymart

    Anti-gay, Anti-hispanic, Anti-equal rights, Anti-abortion, Anti-poverty atsissance . PRO millionaire bailouts and billionaire tax cuts .What's next poll test for blacks, hispanics and people under 25 Oh wait (Newt)The GOP is turning into the most pathetic aspect of American politics. They're on the wrong side of history when it comes to gay rights and a womens right to choose and they'll pay for it big time in 2012!

    July 30, 2012 at 3:43 am |
  6. tallulah13

    I have always supported democracy no country can survive if it is not democratic. Read the const/itution and educate yourselves. Coming to the crux of this whole article we should whole heartedly support Islam in politics and within the elections it has always been important to include sharia law and justify the inclusion of the sharia in politics. Islam has and will have a place in our politics. Allah akbar.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    July 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  8. KK Klaus

    "Experimental Democracy" has failed in India. An experiment that was being shoved down India's throat by western countries too eager to propagate their own values on a country that was trying to decolonize itself while trying to shed the communist skin of being a Soviet ally. India was thus trapped. What has become evident now is that this "Experimental Democracy" has marginalized the country. The marginalized groups of the country – Dalits and ‘backward’ castes/classes, indigenous ‘tribal’ people and religious minorities have been disenfranchised. "The belief that corruption is the important issue in the country is shared only by the minority living in urban areas and towns who have been beneficiaries of economic liberalization policies mandated by western countries. The most important challenges of Indian society remain as follows: justice, social and economic equality and equal access to certain standards of life for all Indians. “While India seems too eager to please its western masters and put on a progressive and softer face for CNN for public consumption, people see through it. The consequences of this "Band – Aid" approach will be brutal for India geo-politically when it realizes that the GDP statistics that it has been relying to gage its progress has not amounted to much in the long run

    July 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Jeff

      ThomasARickhoff on March 6, 2011 @lunhil12 I cannot link the page but if you go to the NASA Human Spaceflight Webpage. On the put your mouse over Shuttle and then you'll see Reference. Go to Shuttle Reference Manual. Go to Crew Equipment third from the btotom. And then click on Radiation Equipment. It states that everyone on the flight crew wears a dosimeter. It has to be it because their is nothing else you see on ALL the crew members besides a watch.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.