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
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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. MrCrewel Dude

    What? Oh yeah, religion, I know how about just say no to religion!

    April 30, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  2. bp

    Ever notice that atheists don't mutilate children's genitals or become suicide bombers? Those acts are performed exclusively by people of faith.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." – Voltaire

    April 30, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • kablooie

      apparently, you forgot the Nazis. they had no problem mutilating children. oh wait, that doesn't fit your liberal minded view, does it?

      April 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • Rev Tim Lovejoy

      Nobody is saying worship this, and Jericho that.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • ChoppedStyx

      All those Nazis were Christians. They murdered atheists, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and anyone else in the name of Holy Christian Germany. You are another clueless person. How sad that so many people talk about stuff they've never researched even a single tiny bit, relying upon the hearsay they heard on right-wing christian radio.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • R.M. Gooodswell

      @ kablooie

      Nazis believed that God was on their side....the SS belt buckle says as much. And for the most part, the Catholic church strangely got a pass....there were compassionate priests that went out on a limb for enemies of the state-and paid the price, but they were very few and far between.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • Rev Tim Lovejoy

      And he was cast into the fiery cauldron of Hell! The searing heat, the scalding rivers of molten sulfur!

      May 1, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • kablooie

      lol @ChoppedStyx. not all nazis were athiests. however, some were. the biased statement being made by the previous individual was that only people of faith commit such vile acts, which is nonsense. athiests are not super humans...they have the same human frailties as everyone else. to assume otherwise is foolishness.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Rev Tim Lovejoy

      I'd like you to remember Matthew 7:26. "The foolish man who built his house upon the sand."

      May 1, 2013 at 12:07 am |
  3. Julie

    No loving God would ever tell his believers to go out and murder someone – He would however defend His elect from those wanting to harm them – Christianity and Islam are as far apart as any religion could be and I would NEVER submit to Islam for any reason and think I could ever go to heaven by murdering someone – that surely would make me question my religion

    April 30, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Athy

      Julie, read about what Christians did to Hypatia. Just google it.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Akira

      Don't you think Allah is instructing HIS elect to do the same things? The very same concept is all OVER the OT.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Answer

      I love the christard apologists way of trying to withhold or stomp out the reference to their god as anything but a "monster."

      They carefully craft their deity away from that "monster" label.

      May 1, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  4. bp

    "It is necessary for salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff." – Pope Boniface VII

    April 30, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  5. lerianis

    Answer: no one because there is no such thing as heaven after death. It's part of the religious brainwashing that is meant to get you to adhere to the personal likes and dislikes of people in the past, out of the fear of a 'god' that never existed.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  6. Religion

    Heaven is a fairytale place.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
  7. Jimh77

    Definitely won't be muslims who kill innocent people because of some dude name Allah. Allah is the devil himself incarnate.
    They are doomed to burn in hell forever.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:34 pm |

      hinduism absurdity of a hindu secular, ignorant self centered, a hindu baboon, ignorant secular by nature could not have done batter.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Chris

      Get an education Jimh77, Allah is God. The same God Christians and Jews pray to when they have to deal with people who are ignorant that there are other languages and cultures in the world. IF you read the Bible, Torah, or the Qur'an you will see that the message is the same, treat others as you would like to be treated...among other peaceful things. It is only when man interprets God's word for his oe her own purposes that we come into conflict with each other. Rather than waste your energy on the negativism that feeds hate and war, pray for peace and understanding. I will pray for you Brother.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • brokenHeart

      Chris you are ignorant. It's ok if you don't believe in any of the two Gods but never say they are one. The God of the Bible and the Islamic God Allah are as different as between light and darkness. I can quote thousand differences here. God of the Bible is a Triune God who promised Salvation of human kind through Jesus who was born in flesh through the descendants of Abraham and Issac. Muslim God- salvation is through good works and his people are the descendents of Ishmael. on and on .......

      May 1, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • G to the T

      Sorry Broken – you are using modern theology to describe your version of god. The "god" of the Torah, the god of the New Testament and the god of the Koran are all the same god – Yaweh Elohim. Try looking into how the translations of the bible were done and keep in mind hebrew doesn't have any way to differeniate between "god" and "God"...

      May 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  8. are122

    Why would anyone even want to spend eternity with a god that seemingly approves of killing his own creations? How miserable. As for sharia in the US? ...you haven't got a prayer.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • CROM

      We've got plenty of Christian sharia laws here already. These religious idiots here constantly violate our laws with their religious rules. Christian sharia dominates, but Jews and Muslims have also violated our laws with their religious rules.
      I would support religious freedom if all religions were barred from interfering in our country, but that's not gonna happen.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  9. MilitaryAF

    Watch Innocence of Muslims

    April 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  10. MC

    Don't most Christian denominations teach that only Christianity leads to Heaven?

    April 30, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Reality

      That they do but that is easily refuted by the following update:

      The Apostles’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion knowWarn today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      April 30, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Ruby


      April 30, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • ChoppedStyx

      Judaism: Jews are superior and are specially chosen by their god, all other people are filth. Lying is always okay. Murder and violence can always be justified.
      Catholicism: Jews are evil and damned. Only those who worship the Pope are superior and specially chosen by their god, all other people are filth. Lying is always okay. Murder and violence can always be justified.
      Christianity: Catholics are evil and damned for worshiping the Pope. Jews are special. Muslims are crazy. Only those who worship Jesus are superior and special. Everyone else is filth. Lying is always okay. Murder and violence can always be justified.
      Islamicism: Jews, Christians, and all others are filth. Only those who submit to Islamic rules are worthy of rewards after death. Lying is always okay. Murder and violence are easily justified.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  11. Universe

    God in Quran says, (Islamic scripture)

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    “The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate!” [5:75]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.”[22:74]

    “O people, here is a parable that you must ponder carefully: the idols you set up beside God can never create a fly, even if they banded together to do so. Furthermore, if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it; weak is the pursuer and the pursued.” [22:73]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Reality

      And now for the koranic passages that make Islam the terror and horror religion that it is:

      o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)
      "Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)

      "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)

      "...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)

      "Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:27-)

      "It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)

      "If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)

      "Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)

      "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)

      "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

      "'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

      "Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)

      "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)

      "Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)

      "Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)

      April 30, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  12. R.M. Gooodswell


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

    lets assume that Taqiyya isn't at play here in the US...... either the International Muslims or the US Muslims are right about the dogma ......or neither is right and its all a bunch of garbage......

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

    Islam will always try to dominate....its the nature of religions..... google "british sharia courts' sometime – they are working overtime to override the laws in their host countries to, at the very least, govern themselves....they are succeeding in Europe to a degree, and trying but not making as much headway here. – we in the west are not supposed to notice this...and if we do and voice concern, then we are intolerant and "bigots"...

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

    they want to make the world the ME.... looks like fun should the succeed....ill lose my head for sure....

    4.) Around the world, Muslims heralded religious freedom

    Then why is it so threatening to allow a foreign religion into a Islam dominated country? - and Atheists?.....

    April 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  13. Reality

    Pew forgot to ask these Muslims the most important question:

    Only for the eyes of newbies:

    To wit:

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means.

    Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

    Until then, no Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................
    (and that includes the 38,000 Muslims who Pew interviewed)

    April 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  14. fibsernum

    I wish we did not have to create hell on earth so people can try to get to heaven.
    Why did this article not discuss the percentage of American Muslims who believe and understand that Sharia Law is not and should not be the law in a free country. Religious leaders have no role in governing our country and should never have any more influence than any other citizen. We all have the right to speak out and vote, but not the right to impose our religious beliefs on others. To be American is to accept that.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:19 pm |

      truth abolute God is foundation of america, and only a hindu secular, ignorant self center can make a claim, such as your. sharia is fecundation of every consti tution on earth, and USA is no exception.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  15. Bostontola

    The differences in the responses of American Muslims versus those in countries where Islam is the state religion is interesting. It suggests that it's not the religion, it may be the system of state religion that breeds extreme views.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • CROM

      What? I think you've been surfing too long. You can be programmed to kill. All it takes is the right leverage in your brain.
      Whether the person lives under sharia or not, each person is different. Yet the message is the same: a god that hates and will support anything you want to do, including murder, who will reward you no matter what you do. Anger can be channeled, hate can be guided. Delusions are delusions whatever the source or environment. The reality of the believer has nothing to do with their actual surroundings or culture, for they are delusional. They will perceive what they want and act however they want, justifying all things through their religious delusions.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Bostontola

      If you were right, then there would be little difference between the response of American Muslims and Muslims from Islamic countries.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  16. allenwoll

    Split - Down the middle, vertically thru the nose.
    If Islam can be corrupted so easily, what can one say ?

    April 30, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  17. Horseman

    Many are misinformed about the 72 virgins in the after life for Muslims. It is not atttributed to Islam it is only in a hadith that was written after Muhammad's time. Many hadiths were writen by Muslim scholars and preachers. Some of this even contradict many of the aspects of Islamic philosopy. To keep on beating the drum of 72 Virgins is basically a straw man arguement.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Lew

      Promise of 72 virgins is the founding principle of Islam. No Muslim would do suicide bombing or any of those abominable things which Islam asks them to do without the incentive of 72 virgins. 72 virgins define Islam.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Rex

      That's the foundation of Islam. Islam will not have any followers without those 72 virgins.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Answer

      The 72 raisins schtick will definitely make them change.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  18. Dawn Webb

    Will one of the atheists who have made comments on this study please explain why you need to fiercely and eloquently defend your views about God, or the lack thereof. I am a Christian and I never feel the need to go into such long and speechs defending my views. I really do want to know why atheists go into making long statements about how God does not exist.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Answer

      You're not the others of your kind. You should pat yourself on the back for your own "leave them be" composure.

      However your other 'fellows' want to incite. We take the fire right back to your not so proper "christians."

      April 30, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  19. MagicPanties

    Who goes to heaven?
    No one but Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

    Please get a clue.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Rex

      I do not know who goes to heaven. But I do know that Mohammed did not go to heaven after what he did to 6 year old Aisha.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • OdinVonTogan

      Do some research on the recent developments using protein to write data, process it, and retreive it. Then ponder the reality that your brain is made of protein. Then realize that we send data all over this world, and up into the heavens where the satellites live, as invisible radio waves – moving parts not required (other than a fan for cooling). You could replace the fan blowing air across the device to cool it with a pump sending some liquid through it. Now ponder that your heart is a pump. Stuff like that. Do you have the IQ for stuff like that? Now upon your death, your wee little brain stops functioning, but your memories, your thoughts, your self-developed algorithms have all been copied to a file-folder in the sky (the heavens). Noting that your file folder is now off-line, somebody, perhaps the Easter Bunny, perhaps not, takes a look at your collective data and algorithms, you could call all that your soul, if you would like. So looking at your soul, that somebody does what? Judges it, to decide if they want to reincarnate you in their heavenly neighborhood, or send you to a hellish neighborhood, for another lesson or two. Magic enough for ya? Class dismissed.

      April 30, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  20. Horseman

    What a joke. People learn about another religion from their own religion as the source. For the idiot who has wrong information. Hindu comes for the region of the Indus valley. It is a name for the folks who lived in the region of the Indus valley. Hopefully you can find it on the map and educate yourself. Shesh. The level of ignorance is schocking.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • G to the T

      Save your breath – it's been explained to him a thousand times. He appears to reference the "Dictionary for Crazy Mofos".

      May 1, 2013 at 1:37 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.