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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. STFU

    muslims religion was not bad, not until Saudi Arabs started spreading Wahabi ism, started funding poor muslim countries to spread Wahabi ism poison through Islamic schools.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • tnourie

      islam was bad from the moment it started. Ask momo's second wife how she felt when he claimed her body and soul as a "reward" for doing God work. Her dad was not happy, until his bully boys told him to allow it or. . . .

      Read the hadith, suras, quran, ect for confirmation. This IS an evil cult.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  2. hubert39

    Many of my Christian friends here in the US don't believe in the heaven or hell teachings.
    I say, what ever makes you happy.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Unfortunately, what makes some happy is to spread hate about others.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  3. tnourie

    I am a Pastafarian, the Flying Spagetti Monster (May you be touched by his noodly appendage) is the one and true God. How do I know this? He said so in his book: Al Dente is Meo.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • idontknowandneitherdoyou

      Arrrrrrrrrrrrrg.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  4. Ami

    There is no God but Jesus Christ!!

    April 30, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • tnourie

      Jesus was Gods "son".

      April 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • GrowUp

      And he wore robes, didn't marry and hung with dudes. Just sayin'.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • skarphace

      Prove it.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  5. Bobby

    According to liberals, extreme Islamic law should be the law of the land.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      That's just an intensely stupid statement to make.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • Akira

      Troll is obvious troll.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Bobby has no brain.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • skarphace

      On the contrary, it is Evangelicals who believe that our civil laws should be based on "God's Law". As most Evangelicals associate with the Tea Party (have, in fact, taken over control of the Tea Party wing), it would be ignorant to refer to them as "Liberals".

      April 30, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • ALLuh

      Yeah Bobby, still buttsore after the elections? It's gonna get worse for you in 2014, buy some assault rifles and go buy a cabin in Alaska or something.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • STFU

      it is as good as saying "According to Bobby, extreme Islamic law should be the law of the land."

      April 30, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Perry

      Palin bought the last cabin on the ice flow on its way to Russia.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Lisa

      I doubt very much you know any liberals.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  6. Bryan

    And that is why many Muslims still live in mud huts, believe women are property and boys are for pleasure.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • tnourie

      hehehe – I gotta say, you have something there. That stuff has basis in fact.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  7. STFU

    God is already punishing 1 billion muslims for following Mohammad. Gods made them poor and miserable, a punishment for not following true Gods.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • GrowUp

      But, but He gave everybody rainbows!

      April 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • skarphace

      So according to your faith, God favors the wealthy and punishes the poor? That sounds more like India's Hinduism than it does Western Christianity.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • STFU

      FYI – "most of them sleeping on streets of India" are followers of Mohammad, as you call them hindus, punished by Hindu, Christian Gods.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • tnourie

      islam is of Satan. Proof? Look at the one who started this "religion", and who he "did" (Aeisha – at six years old) and who he killed and had killed. It's all there in their holy books, they don't even try to hide it.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  8. agathokles

    Note that, although a majority of Muslims support religious freedom, a majority also wishes Sharia law was the law of the land. How can those views be reconciled? If you impose Sharia law on me, a non-Muslim, where is my religious freedom??

    April 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • STFU

      Sharia is a primitive system used by desert tribes, it is like measuring distance in actual foot, or feet

      April 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "Sharia is a primitive system used by desert tribes"

      That might come to a shock for those in southeast Asia and eastern Europe.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • neken7

      Well I think they're saying that while they're fine with allowing people to practice other religions, as in not making that a crime, they want their laws to be based upon their religion. Basically they won't arrest you for praying to Jesus, but if violate some Islamic code, you're going to jail. Unfortunately even in America, where the separation between church and state is one of our guiding principles, there are a lot of people and politicians who believe that not only is Christianity the only way to get into heaven, but our laws should be based on the Christian faith.

      This is a problem that every country shares in some manner, it's just a matter of degree.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • STFU

      Uncouth, Sharia was/is practiced by Saudi Wahabi followers, but morons around the world picked it up as some kind of Islamic standard.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • idontknowandneitherdoyou

      agathokles >>
      Note that, although a majority of Muslims support religious freedom, a majority also wishes Sharia law was the law of the land. How can those views be reconciled? If you impose Sharia law on me, a non-Muslim, where is my religious freedom??
      -----
      Or better yet, religious freedom for a muslim.
      Let's hypothetically say I believed in the nonsense.
      Let's say my particular flavor of insanity was islam.
      Let's say I decide to become a xian, or worse yet, a non-believer.
      What does islam say about my freedom to change belief systems? The answer is the most permanent of freedoms....

      April 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  9. JJ

    So, they are no different than their fellow Abrahamic bretheren, Christians and Jews. They can't all three be right.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • Athy

      But they can all be wrong!

      April 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • GrowUp

      But they can all make $$$$$$$$

      April 30, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • JJ

      True, which is what I strongly suspect.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • skarphace

      Athy: that is only true as long as Athiesm is not considered a religion. Many do consider Athiesm a religion, although I am willing to bet few Athiests do. However, that is not surprising. Most religious people do not consider their religion to be a religion, but rather "The Truth". To call something a religion implies that it is not the only religion.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Athy

      Agreed. But considering atheism a religion is a bit of a stretch. I certainly don't consider it as such.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • skarphace

      The BBC page on world religions does, and I guess it fits their definition of religion, but personally I don't consider Athiesm a religion either. However, that would not be surprising if you considered that I am an Athiest as well.

      www. bbc. co. uk/religion/religions/ (remove the spaces)

      April 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Athy

      Well, we run into a bit of paradox then, don't we? If atheism is a member of the set "religions" but atheists don't believe in any religions, then they don't believe in atheism either. The only way to resolve this is to place atheism outside the set "religion."

      April 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  10. Psycho Pete

    Heaven? You must be kidding? We are preparing to go to Mars in 10 years and you still think this ancient notion of god and heaven is real? You would think after thousands of years of this we would out grow this concept but I guess humans take a long time to mature. It's only been a drop in the bucket of time since the earth is in the billions of years so I shouldn't push it. Everyone can believe whatever they wish to believe, that is your right, but not your right to impose your beliefs onto me. Be it a religion, be an atheist, belief in aliens, alien ships behind comets or even the belief in gremlins none of it matters because we all die in the end and you'll never know when you're dead, because at that moment you die it's over, no worries. I believe in what I can understand, touch and feel. I believe in life all through the universe. I believe everything is very much more complicated then you think and I believe humans are capable of the anything. Imagine not too long ago how we lived in dirt and then think about now going to Mars, is that not astounding to happen in a few thousand years? Imagine a few more? So drop the god crap for all humanity and concentrate on the planet and the rest of the universe, that's reality.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Well said!

      April 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Perry

      Psycho Pete, you're less psycho than the religious wingnuts.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  11. bostontola

    "Most Muslims believe religion, politics should be intertwined".

    I wonder what percentage of American Christians would believe religion and politics should be intertwined?

    April 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Athy

      Unfortunately, there are a few.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  12. kevin3g

    OMG, they're as crazy as Christians!

    April 30, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • holam

      I resent that, Christians do not advocate killing others because they don't believe. If you don't want to believe you have that right and no one is going to drag you out of your house and make you go to church or make you believe, or kill you because of your non belief. Christians want to tell you about God and Jesus but if you don't want to hear or if you don't want to do anything that is your right.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
  13. K from AZ

    'islam' is an EVIL religion! It's core is world-domination and infidels as 2nd class citizens that can be killed & lied to. koran & hadith!

    April 30, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • skarphace

      So the core of Christianity is not world domination? Then why send out so many missionaries if not to convert? If you truly are a Christian, shouldn't you believe that everybody should be "saved", which means converted to Christianity?

      True, Christianity has become civilized, for the most part, and does not pursue conversion through fear, as many Muslims do, but the core of most religions is world domination.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • STFU

      "religion" is a kafir aka non-islamic word, and Islam refuses to accept it.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • holam

      this is a reply to skarphace
      Yes we would LIKE for people to know what we do and would like for them to have eternal life in Jesus christ, but again that is your choice of whether you believe or not, It is not going to affect my salvation any if you believe or not. Jesus said he would knock at the door, not break it down.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • skarphace

      holam: true, but at the core you would LIKE for everybody to be a Christian. So do many of other faiths. Some just go about conversion in a different manner. Unfortunately, fear is a very big motivation technique, and Muslims have the edge there.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  14. GrowUp

    They believe in freedom of religion–and freedom to kill you if you don't practice their religion. What a lovely cult.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • skarphace

      All religions are cults to somebody not of that particular religion.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Yep. They are all cults in my book. Klanish behavior= religion. There is some need for people to feel like they belong to a special ("chosen") group. Makes them feel more secure in some primitive way.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • skarphace

      It also makes them feel better to believe that when they die, they don't "really" die. Most people fear death, for some reason.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • GrowUp

      You are right. It's the greatest marketing tool ever that plays squarely into the one instinct that overrides all others: survival.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  15. lol??

    "................Despite views that Islam should influence politics and law, an overwhelming number of Muslims told Pew that religious freedom was a good thing...................." If nobody was different there couldn't be anybody to victimize.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • skarphace

      Wrong. There would always be Shia vs Sunni. Even when most everybody in Ireland were Christian, there were still wars between Catholics and Protestants. People will always find a reason to hate one another.

      One of my favorite books, from C. S. Friedman, had a quote, "There is no more constructive emotion than hate." I have found it to be quite true especially regarding religion. Which is quite ironic if you think about it.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • lol??

      You do realize before the invasions of Iraq that the 2 muslim sects there were getting along enough to even intermarry? Look at it this way. It's like prison where the choice to survive is a black, latino, or a white gang for protection.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:12 am |
  16. skarphace

    "I choose to believe as I was programmed to believe".

    – Bender

    April 30, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Aletheya

      Which is true, and applies equally to all people, of any religious persuasion.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
    • skarphace

      Well, it is only true if we were really "created" and did not "evolve". If God created us, then he programmed us to have the ability to believe in Him. If not, then we evolved this ability on our own. The former implies preconditioning, and the latter implies personal choice. Personally, I believe in choice, not programming.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  17. T

    ....GUESS who says gets into Heaven.............and it aint these Muslims.................

    April 30, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • skarphace

      Chupacabra?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • charles e ousley

      God will take you to heaven with or without religion, he and only he alone is all you need.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  18. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    hindus, don't touch that Report Abuse, denier of Truth Absolute button.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  19. skarphace

    There are people in every religion who can say with certainty that their religion is the one true religion and all other religions are false.

    Therefore, there can only be one Truth: either all religions are correct, or all religions are false. Only the latter makes any sense whatsoever.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Athy

      Actually, that would be the answer even if there were only one religion.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • lol??

      same ol', same ol' dialectic. Looks like the professors had a one track mind.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • skarphace

      lol??

      Wrong. Very, very wrong. My grandfather was a Baptist minister. My parents were very relgious. I went to a Catholic high school that forced us to take religion class and was taught by priests and nuns.

      You could not have been more wrong if you tried.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
    • lol??

      Wrong about what?

      May 1, 2013 at 3:18 am |
  20. RA

    Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me."

    April 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • skarphace

      Yes, but did Jesus actually say those words? He did not write them, you know. For some reason, the person held at the pinacle of the Christian faith did not write a single word in the Bible. Every word was written by somebody else.

      Don't you ever wonder why this is? You should.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • lol??

      He wasn't into having lazy followers??

      April 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • skarphace

      lol??

      Really? Jesus was into delegation? This is your answer?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:59 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.