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Five takeaways from Pew’s comprehensive study on Islam
April 30th, 2013
03:33 PM ET

Five takeaways from Pew’s comprehensive study on Islam

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A Pew Research Center study released Tuesday takes an in-depth look at Islam, including how Muslims around the world view extremism, sharia law and the meeting of religion and politics.

The study is a four-year effort by Pew, which conducted 38,000 face-to-face interview in 80-plus languages for the survey. In total, 39 countries and territories were included, all of which had over 10 million Muslims living there.

Here are the report’s five major takeaways:

1.) Differences between U.S. and international Muslims are vast

While Muslims in the United States share a belief system with Muslims abroad, the Pew survey released Tuesday and a Pew survey on American Muslims from 2011 reveals wide differences between the two groups.

An overwhelming number of Muslims outside the United States told Pew that “Islam is the only religion that leads to eternal life in heaven.” Ninety-six percent of Egyptians and Jordanians, 95% of Iraqis and 94% of Moroccan Muslims responded that “Islam alone” leads to heaven.

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When all Muslims outside the United States were considered, only 18% said many religions can lead to heaven. In the United States, that number is 56%, according to the 2011 survey.

Additionally, U.S. Muslims were more likely to have friends who were not Muslim.

“About half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are followers of Islam, and half say that some (36%) or hardly any (14%) of their close friends are Muslim,” the survey reports.

By contrast, an average of 95% of Muslims outside the United States said “most or all of their friends are Muslims.”

2.) Sharia law favored, especially by more devout Muslims

A whopping 99% of Muslims in Afghanistan told Pew that they favor sharia law – a Muslim code that dictates everything from dietary laws to morals – as the official law of the land.

Though Afghanistan is by far the most supportive of sharia, majorities in countries like Iraq (91%), Palestinian territories (89%) and Malaysia (86%) favor applying sharia to everyone in their respective countries. Support for this viewpoint was particularly strong in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Middle East-North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Analysis of the survey results by Pew found “most Muslims believe sharia is the revealed word of God rather than a body of law developed by men based on the word of God.”

Those who approve sharia becoming the law of the land generally pray more than their Muslim brethren.

Muslims who pray several times a day in Russia, for example, are over twice as likely to favor implementing Islamic law as the law of the land. The same split between those who pray several times a day and those who pray less often can be seen in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Turkey.

3.) Most Muslims believe religion, politics should be intertwined

A majority of Muslims surveyed in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa told Pew that religious leaders in their respective countries should have political influence.

Much like favoring sharia law, religious devotion played an important role in these beliefs.

"Devout Muslims tend to be more supportive of religious leaders playing a role in politics,” the survey reads. “In a number of countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa but also in Southern and Eastern Europe, Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely than those who pray less frequently to say religious leaders should have at least some influence on political matters."

4.) Around the world, Muslims heralded religious freedom

Despite views that Islam should influence politics and law, an overwhelming number of Muslims told Pew that religious freedom was a good thing.

Ninety-seven percent of Muslims in South Asia, 95% in Eastern Europe, 94% in sub-Saharan Africa and 85% in the Middle East and North Africa responded positively to religious freedom, according to the poll.

“Overall, Muslims broadly support the idea of religious freedom,” the study states. “Among Muslims who say people of different religions are very free to practice their faith, three-quarters or more in each country say this is a good thing.”

5.) Islamic extremism widely rejected, but still a concern

Carrying out violent acts in the name of Islam is strongly rejected by Muslims around the world, according to the survey.

While a majority of Muslims, according to Pew, in all countries surveyed said “suicide bombing in defense of Islam” was rarely or never justified, “there are some countries in which substantial minorities think violence against civilians is at least sometimes justified.”

For example, in the Palestinian territories, 40% of Muslims said suicide bombing was often or sometime justified. In Afghanistan that number was 39% and in Egypt that number was 29%.

Despite most country’s disapproval of violence in the name of Islam, religious extremism – and in particular Muslim extremism – is a concern for a majority of Muslims in the world, according to the survey.

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“At least half of Muslims in 22 of the 36 countries where the question was asked say they are at least somewhat concerned about religious extremist groups in their country,” the report reads. “In most countries, Muslims are much more worried about Islamic extremists than Christian extremists.”

Concern over Muslims extremism was at it highest in Indonesia, Iraq and Guinea Bissau, where over 45% of Muslims said they were either very or somewhat concerned about violence in the name of Islam.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Islam • Islamic law • Polls

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soundoff (1,682 Responses)
  1. lollSTF

    this was a reply for ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    April 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  2. lollSTF

    lol Muslim love to ate on other religions like hindu and they love to hate on india. they will say the west a jugemental to muslim infact they are very tolerant you have a lot of mosque in America and a lot of convert etc you have islamic studies in the western university but then when u see islamic country you have no other religion etc look at urself before u speak, I was checking religion and was thinking of converting to Islam but people like you put me off anyway I don't think I will ever be accepted in that religion your people are pretty___________

    April 30, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  3. Tom

    This article is about Islam yet this so called ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION person whoever is replying is only naming Hinudism in every comment. Useless fellow wants to diver the attention of the research. Whole world knows what Islam does to innocent people and its spread of violence , how coward can one be in the name of God

    April 30, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  4. Chris

    Ignoring that people place blind faith into religion, I find it hilarious that many actually believe their "god" cares about what they eat.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      try the bacon!

      April 30, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Eat what stomach can not handle, and see the result your self, plenty of hinduism , negativity. Thing ordered to avoid by truth absolute God, are none other than, harmful to human.

      April 30, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  5. Smitty

    Oh come on. Every knows that good Catholics go to heaven, and everyone else burns in hell for an eternity.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  6. Leonid Brezhnev

    It really doesn't matter....there is no god, no afterlife, nothing. Quit wasting your time.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • craig

      Well, you must know something alot of people would like to know. No afterlife? Believe in Jesus and you will have eternal life.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  7. sly

    All religious folks are pretty much the same.

    Unbelievable that people actually believe in magic fat what men sitting in the clouds. I've flown a whole lot of airplane flights, and I've got news for you – there ain't nothin' living in the clouds.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  8. Punchmaster

    This reads like a headline from The Onion. Might as well say "Who would really win in a fight, Superman or Batman?"

    April 30, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • vancouverron

      Here are some more questions for the next survey...I'd really like to know:
      1. Do suicide bombers get virgins in Paradise?
      2. If yes, how many virgins?
      3. If male suicide bombers get female virgins in Paradise, what do female suicide bombers get in Paradise?
      4. Do you really believe this crapola?
      5. No...really?

      April 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      "3. If male suicide bombers get female virgins in Paradise, what do female suicide bombers get in Paradise?"

      ACTUALLY. fyi.
      female suicide bombers get a much better deal in Paradise compared to males bombers. female bombers get a non-virgin in Paradise!!!

      April 30, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  9. Deez

    No one. Doesn't exist. Cherish this one life you have and don't hurt anyone else's one life.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  10. really?

    Putting all your eggs in one basket leads to broken eggs, the same thing can be said about your soul. I for one don't trust any religion with my life or death.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  11. mique

    Nobody. We break down into smaller molecules through decomposition, feed detritous feeders, which feed larger species, which feed larger species, etc, etc, which procreate, poop, and die and they break down into smaller molecules............

    April 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Amen!

      April 30, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  12. Bill

    I love the way they bicker over who gets to go to an imaginary place when they die.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Punchmaster

      Just wait until the moment you die and you find yourself explaining your blasphemy to the Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe, Mister!! Repent!!

      April 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    Until 99% of Muslims worldwide are horrified that some Muslims are killing in the name of their religion, they will continue to be the religion of evil and darkness. A small % saying that they are "concerned" about the violence is a joke. They are probably also "concerned" about the price of bread and that their favorite TV show has been canceled. "Concerned" means that the violence will continue endlessly because Muslims who claim that they are a peaceful religion (HA!) will not be moved to do anything about the violence. Islam will continue to be a cancer for the human race.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • meifumado

      All religions are a cancer to mankind, But you could say Islam is the pancreatic cancer to mankind.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • TKO

      MEIFUNRNADO: ALL religions are a cancer? What do you know about ALL religions? This is a narrow-minded uninformed opinion just like the opinions of jihadists worldwide. That said, I also would like to see this same survey given to Conservative Christians. I wonder how they would compare.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  14. meifumado

    So 55% of muslims around the world are not concerned about the extreme islamists?
    What ever happened to the majority of islam is against them as all the so called moderate have been saying?

    More proof that Islam is the number one threat to mankind over other religions.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • deep blue

      To say one is not too worried about something is not to deny that it exists or support it. I don't worry too much about organized crime. It exists, and I don't support it, but I have more pressing problems to deal with.
      The poverty level in many Middle East/ North African cultures is high. Instead of worrying about geopolitical conflicts and religious extremists, I'm sure many of these people are worried about putting food on their table.

      April 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  15. Peter

    Sad to see the usual bunch of ignorant troll comments to this article. It was very informative – and Pew has a great reputation for delivering unbiased research.

    April 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  16. Penelope

    In the photo, they are all "assuming the position". I'm just waiting for the guy with the paddle to come along and spank each of them!

    April 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • mique

      He only shows up when you don't assume the position. I have no desire to be beaten to church....any church.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  17. ME II

    "Despite views that Islam should influence politics and law, an overwhelming number of Muslims told Pew that religious freedom was a good thing."

    Whhhaaa?

    April 30, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • trollintraining

      you can be any type of Muslim you want to be.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • meifumado

      While Pew is a known for being good at what it does I would still question the honesty of those being polled.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Religious freedom is not the same as freedom to choose

      So, the religious riots aside (i.e. India, Burma, etc etc), these countries may support the freedom of religion but not the freedom to choose. Muslims cannot convert, apostasy is a crime punishable by death in countries like Afghanistan (oh the irony, that we in the West are supporting this law in Afghanistan), Pakistan, etc etc.

      So, freedom of religion is not the same as the freedom to choose.

      April 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Yeah, it's really a different meaning of religious freedom. The way most of us use that term (which would include the right to chose your religion at an individual level by a given age) is not supported by many Muslims...except when it means choosing Islam.

      April 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • deep blue

      Catholics rule Vatican City, but individuals of all faiths are welcome. To suggest that individuals should respect Islamic traditions and that religious leaders of Islam should have some influence in government, but that all people should be treated fairly is not hypocritical.
      Personally, I rather countries with the freedom to disobey religious law.

      April 30, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • JLS639

      I don't know why you find this puzzling. It is the exact same position of the religious right in politics: our religion should influence politics, but religious freedom is a good thing.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  18. cnn's unholy trinity

    1. Islam
    2. Abortion
    3. Hom.os^xuality

    April 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • mique

      One of the Guns, Babies, and Gawd people?

      April 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  19. Jason

    This article told me nothing new, Islam is the worst of all the foolish religions to follow. Sharia Law = old school treatment of women and children so basically men is king. Gee what kind of person could have thought that up and or agreed with it, well a pedophile by the name Mohammed. He just loved the tight young stuff.
    BOW!!!
    YIELD!!!!
    KNEEL!!!
    AND GIVE ME YOUR MONEY, ERR UMM, I MEAN DONATIONS!!!!

    April 30, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  20. Science

    No heaven !

    April 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
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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.