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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
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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. lol??

    Are the JW's and Unitarians sects from allah?

    May 1, 2013 at 4:08 am |
  2. useful in parts

    this post http://bit.ly/13L7hV5 on a gallup poll on islam and a 2009 video about it – "What a Billion Muslims Really Think" may also be of interest

    May 1, 2013 at 4:04 am |
  3. Fritz Hohenheim

    Theres the brown, arab moslems and then there's the black moslems. The difference is:

    The black moslems want to kill all the white people, and the brown moslems want to kill everybody else

    May 1, 2013 at 3:51 am |
    • Casual Observer

      Derp derp

      May 1, 2013 at 4:04 am |
  4. ScottCA

    Who goes to heaven? You might as well debate who goes to OZ; they are both fictional places that do not truly exist.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:44 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Sounds like you have pretty strong Faith that your view of Heaven is right Scott. 🙂

      May 1, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • Eric

      I'm sure his "faith" is equally strong with respect to the tooth fairy, faeries, and Santa Claus.If the default is to believe in something that cannot be proven to exist and is not distinguishable from things that are imaginary, doesn't that mean that someone with "faith" should believe in all religions and myths? They are all equally provable as true, i.e., none at all.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:02 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Well, if his Faith in those items is his Faith then the converse has got to be true in that as soon as the first person states their belief. Once that happens an effort must be made to believe or to not believe. The default is what that is, that the listener must make a choice and have the Faith that it is the right choice.

      As a person of Faith in the God of Abraham my Faith is in that God. On a personal level I also accept that there are many Faiths outside of the Abrahamic Faiths but, I am open that this is the same God in all of them. Call me a different kind of Christian but I am cool with it. 🙂

      May 1, 2013 at 4:22 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Hey, Mark, faith is when you DO believe something for which there is no evidence.
      What do they call it when you DON'T believe something for which there is no evidence?
      Common sense.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:37 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Richard. Common Sense to a person of Faith is to hold that there are God or Gods. Basically, you are still saying that it only makes sense if I and everyone else agrees to accept your reasoning and beliefs.

      Basically, no different that Fred Phelps and the late Bin Laden.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:44 am |
  5. an islam sympathizer but...

    Sharia law? Sharia law really? Wow. this really gives an impression of how backward these muslim communities are. When will they move themselves into the 21 st century? When o when. one despairs....

    May 1, 2013 at 3:43 am |
  6. Bobo

    75% of Muslims in the U.S. are liars.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:24 am |
    • ScottCA

      The other 25% are fibbers.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:47 am |
  7. Wigglymump

    Hiya.

    I immediatly though of Henry Ford: "Sure! You can have any color you want...as long as it's black!" Pretty much the same thing as "Sure! You can follow any religion you want...as long as you obey Islam!" o_O ...I'm pretty positive the world is hooped now...

    May 1, 2013 at 3:22 am |
  8. Muhammad

    Bismillah, all of these atheist devil worshipers think by denying God it will spare them his punishment

    May 1, 2013 at 3:13 am |
    • a famous brony

      obvious troll is obvious

      0/10

      May 1, 2013 at 3:16 am |
  9. a famous brony

    headnote: *not religious debate bs comment*

    I am confused about some of the results in this study...
    -"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."
    -"majorities in countries like Iraq (91%), Palestinian territories (89%) and Malaysia (86%) favor applying sharia to everyone in their respective countries."
    -"Most Muslims believe religion, politics should be intertwined"

    then on the other hand you have:

    -"Around the world, Muslims heralded religious freedom"
    -"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.”"

    either there is something wrong with the results or the people being interviewed are completely confused. those things are completely contradictory. If you think that your religion is "the way".. you can't get to heaven without it, it should be part of law and government, you by definition do not think being part of another religion is positive or even acceptable.
    Am I missing something here?

    May 1, 2013 at 3:07 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      I think all you're missing is the marvelous ability of the human brain to hold many contradictory thots simultaneously.
       
      It's probably a survival skill, since it seems to be endemic in the entire species.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:40 am |
  10. Linda Koenig

    Organized religions tear people apart-it doesn't unite them-it creates hatred and violence.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      So do European Football/Soccer matches.

      Hate to tell you this but its part of being human and that part is that we are pretty violent. We did create a bomb that wiped out two cities in WW2.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:44 am |
  11. PR

    Know who goes to "Heaven"??

    NOBODY. Because it DOESN'T EXIST. Ergo, why all this "my god's ego is bigger than your god's ego" killing, oppression, and mental enslavement is just setting Humanity back eons.

    Religion is the very worst invention Humanity has EVER unleashed upon itself. It is a cancer from which there might be no cure...the poison and lies and controls have been implanted too deeply inside the "devout".

    So sad...

    May 1, 2013 at 2:48 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      I guess your Faith that you are Right must be pretty strong. 🙂

      May 1, 2013 at 2:50 am |
    • Robert

      I’m happy to say there is a cure for this cancer. I was born and raised immersed within this cancer. I believed it so purely and so deeply that I sought to prove it was true. I thought if God is true, he is inseparable from truth, therefore I can only find him thru truth. Religion is the cancer, while an open minded, critical thinking, reality based search for truth will always kill the cancer, every time.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:57 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Sounds like when Muslims tell us that if we only are presented with Islam then we will naturally see the right path each and every time.

      In the end, you are not that much different.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:46 am |
    • PR

      You have chosen "faith" in a "god" over rational thought and reality. Sounds like a horribly unfair deal...as are most of the ones I have witnessed between people of your "faith" and your "God".

      Scoff at me from your foundationless moral high horse all you want about how incorrect I am for believing in fact over fiction, but that won't change reality.

      Remember, if the Xtian Bible proves that "God" exists then, by that logic, a Marvel comic is proof Spider Man does, too.

      But, if you have already given your free will and brain to your "God" so that you don't have to be responsible for your own thoughts, opinions, and/or actions anymore, then this little tete-a-tete is over I am afraid.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:14 am |
    • lol??

      God is Spirit, PR
      "Jhn 4:24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth."

      May 1, 2013 at 4:30 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      PR, that is Faith. It is holding that there is something that does not hold to logic. That there are miracles that happen each day that Atheist can not fully declare why or how. This would be cool but most work from the starting point that it is anything but God or Gods. It is why Atheist are fighting a losing battle when they declare that Atheism is not a Religion or Faith. For many the Faith that it is anything "but" God is no different than Westburo Baptist saying that it is only the action of God.

      I do like the snips and snipes but, that's ok. Ridicule is always the last option for a losing argument.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:30 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Mark, I know it's a central mission of preachers and evangelicals to continually tout the benefits of faith, and to try to get people to conflate it with similar (but worthier) ideas like trust and confidence (both based on track records), but the fact remains that FAITH IS THE WORLD'S ALL-TIME CHAMPION *WORST METHOD OF MAKING DECISIONS _EVER_ !*

      May 1, 2013 at 4:42 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      >>>"Mark, I know it's a central mission of preachers and evangelicals to continually tout the benefits of faith,"

      Yes, but I am not a preacher or a evangelist. Just a guy that is blogging with yah for the last hours of the night. 🙂

      >>>" but the fact remains that FAITH IS THE WORLD'S ALL-TIME CHAMPION *WORST METHOD OF MAKING DECISIONS _EVER_ !*"

      Your problem with that are ones such a your Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa's, your Ghandi's. While there are the Bin Ladens and your Fred Phelps, there are too many folks that make decisions based on Faith alone. Take for example Saladiin and others. Even Rosa Parks to many of the Founding Fathers held that their Faith was part of their decisions in life.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:52 am |
    • BornInATrailer

      As has been said many times before, atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      May 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  12. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Kill religion before it kills you.

    May 1, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Is that the same as kill gays, blacks, Jews.... Nice to see folks not of Faith keep up the hatred angle of life.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:49 am |
  13. Theo

    I cant believe this is the year 2013 and people still belive in 2000 year old, Rediculous religions

    Stories that defy common sense, physics, science its a complex universe out there more so then anyone can imagine

    Do you really think that all boils down to an old man in the sky looking at who is wearing robes and praying ? and thinking snakes and donkeys can talk ? Adam and Eves kids screw to populate the earth ? its a joke

    May 1, 2013 at 2:42 am |
    • Sue

      The only thing that defies common sense is that a person in the 21st century thinks the only experience that has any validity or truth is their own.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Wow...you can not believe that folks still have Faith? Where have you been? I would say that I am still surprised that folks still get their panties in a bunch because folks look, love and believe differently than themselves. Theo, time to let that go... we live in a diverse society.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:47 am |
    • cheeseroll

      I can't believe that in the year 2013, where education is prevalent and widespread, there are still people who can't spell simple words like "ridiculous".

      Damn, you could even have used the integral spell-checker before posting your comment, but then you were too lazy and ignorant.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • CROM

      Yes, let go of your self-preservation instinct and allow psychotics to roam the streets with guns. Because diversity means more if you let them kill you in a different way than usual. Yeah. Diversity is more important than the lives of your children.
      Got it.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:45 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      CROM, sorry but the lives of all of our children depend on two paths. Either we all have a Battle Royal until there is one race, se'xuality and one belief. Basically, until everyone thinks, believes and looks the same. Or, for the sake the generations to follow we find a way to coexist. Just like the bumperstickers. For every Atheist who dreams of the future without people of Faith, there is some factor within themselves that some other group wishes wiped from the Earth.

      Diversity is for the sake of the kids and ourselves.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:37 am |
  14. yoda9999

    I would take these numbers with a grain of salt. They know what the "safe" answer to put down. They can't be sure if the pollster is someone from the state finding out if they're extremists.

    May 1, 2013 at 2:41 am |
  15. trent

    I believe in one God, one that accepts us for wh8 we are despite of our religion, socio-economic background, race, or creed. God created us in His image, and I believe that that image is one ove mutual love and understand and tolerance

    May 1, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • Gimp

      I believe in 32768 GODs the odd numbered ones are evil the even numbered ones are good
      The ones that are power of 2 decides who gets into heaven and float around for eternity ( BORING )

      May 1, 2013 at 2:38 am |
    • Robert

      Yes, and he rides a sparkling unicorn across and endless rainbow to the land of endless Christmas with his best friend Santa Clause. Wow, you’ve really nailed down the toughest questions of our existence, well done!

      May 1, 2013 at 2:40 am |
    • Seyedibar

      It's true that you're the image of god, because all the tales in Abrahamic folklore are based on real kings. Your god was nothing more than a vast number of human governors. The entire concept of a god is based on bronze age ancestor worship. It doesn't exist in reality.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Lee

      "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out."....It will not be a cake-walk.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:05 am |
  16. Epidi

    First the Christians terrorized & bullied Pagan & Islamic nations to convert and now the muslims are doing it today. History is doomed to repeat itself because we never seem to learn from past mistakes of the ancestors.

    May 1, 2013 at 2:17 am |
  17. Christina

    I would rather die than be a muslim. Training for psychopaths, is a better description than religion.

    May 1, 2013 at 2:17 am |
    • Epidi

      I am Pagan. Come over to the "dark side", we have cookies. 😉

      May 1, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • ScottCA

      Are they chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chunk cookies, because this makes a world of difference.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:47 am |
  18. Muslim dumb turdies

    These retards just need one of those endless pools where you don’t have to turn. Nice. The goonies need all the help they can get.

    May 1, 2013 at 2:09 am |
  19. eno

    And then Kabooooom!,,,,

    Hhhhhm peaceful religion indeed!,,

    May 1, 2013 at 1:56 am |
    • eno 2

      Islam is a peaceful religion. Terrorism is not. The only people who equate the two are those that want to capitalize on the situation and make sure that a two-state solution never happens.

      But the love of the Prophet (SAW) will never be removed from our hearts except from those who subject themselves to salafi/wahabism.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:13 am |
  20. eno

    Allah Ahkbar!!!

    May 1, 2013 at 1:54 am |
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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.