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. Rainer Braendlein

    I will add Theophanes on Mohammed here when my OCR job finishes!

    UPDATE: Here it is, translated by Cyril Mango:

    [333] In this year died Mouamed, the leader and false prophet of the Saracens (Saracen = Arab), after appointing his kinsman Aboubacharos (to his chieftainship).[1] At the same time his repute spread abroad) and everyone was frightened. At the beginning of his advent the misguided Jews thought he was the Messiah who is awaited by them, so that some of their leaders joined him and accepted his religion while forsaking that of Moses, who saw God. Those who did so were ten in number, and they remained with him until his murder.[2] But when they saw him eating camel meat, they realized that he was not the one they thought him to be, and were at a loss what to do; being afraid to abjure his religion, those wretched men taught him illicit things directed against us, Christians, and remained with him.

    I consider it necessary to give an account of this man’s origin. He was descended from a very widespread tribe, that of Ishmael, son of Abraham; for Nizaros, descendant of Ishmael, is recognized as the father of them all. He begot two sons, Moudaros and Rabias. Moudaros begot Kourasos, Kaisos, Themimes, Asados, and others unknown.[3] All of them dwelt in the Midianite desert and kept cattle, themselves living in tents. There are also those farther away who are not of their tribe, but of that of lektan, the so-called Amanites, that is Homerites. And some of them traded on their camels. Being desti-tute and an orphan, the aforesaid Mouamed decided to enter the service of a rich woman who was a relative of his, called Chadiga, as a hired worker [334] with a view to trading by camel in Egypt and Palestine. Little by little he became bolder and ingratiated himself with that woman, who was a widow, took her as a wife, and gained possession of her camels and her substance. Whenever he came to Palestine he consorted with Jews and Christians and sought from them certain scriptural matters. He was also afflicted with epilepsy. When his wife became aware of this, she was greatly distressed, inasmuch as she, a noblewoman, had married a man such as he, who was not only poor, but also an epileptic. He tried deceitfully to placate her by saying, ‘I keep seeing a vision of a certain angel called Gabriel, and being unable to bear his sight, I faint and fall down.’ Now, she had a certain monk [4] living there, a friend of hers (who had been exiled for his depraved doctrine), and she related everything to him, including the angel’s name. Wishing to satisfy her, he said to her, ‘He has spoken the truth, for this is the angel who is sent to all the prophets.’ When she had heard the words of the false monk, she was the first to believe in Mouamed and proclaimed to other women of her tribe that he was a prophet. Thus, the report spread from women to men, and first to Aboubacharos, whom he left as his successor. This heresy prevailed in the region of Ethribos (=Medina), in the last resort by war: at first secretly, for ten years, and by war another ten, and openly nine.[5] He taught his subjects that he who kills an enemy or is killed by an enemy goes to Paradise; and he said that this paradise was one of carnal eating and drinking and intercourse with women, and had a river of wine, honey, and milk, and that the women were not like the ones down here, but different ones, and that the intercourse was long-lasting and the pleasure continuous; and other things full of profligacy and stupidity; also that men should feel sympathy for one another and help those who are wronged.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • michaelarchangel

      lots of talk lots of consternation...there is one law that levels all churches organizations false beliefs......... its three words....and all other theories fall to it....love thy neighbor...

      May 1, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • yassoor

      There are other books written about Mohammed which are not "negative" point of view. I would recommend reading and quoting those as well so you and everyone else would have a balanced source of information.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  2. PraiseTheLard

    Never have so many been hoodwinked by so little...

    May 1, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • michaelarchangel

      yes satan is an imp spirit easily tempting even the brightest of men and women....thou shall not take thee eyes off of the light of grace.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • snowboarder

      satan is just another boogey man with which to frighten the children.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  3. james of the house

    The Bible says only 144,000, that must be depressing to the 24/7 drive by forgiveness club who wear "Jesus rocks" t-shirts.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • michaelarchangel

      the 144000 are actually living saints and roots of the spring of life....in heaven there are no symbols no argument no hatred or confusion....they were here before we were born they will be here after we leave..each soul in heaven is of each individual saint and may not know they are eternal..the wars and hatred on earth is because satan has whispered to each that we are not eternal......energy cannot be created or destroyed it only changes form..thus the beautiful ones who do not know hatred nor racism nor differential of gender or belief.....the bible Koran and buddist texts teach all of that but as you allow satan to be your master you will argue to all good..only seeking not finding.....if you knew you would know at the present as it is you are on your own path....that's what it means to love Christ with all of your mind...if you don't you will be tempted and fall...as everyone here.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  4. Hellscreamgold

    Islam is a political system under the guise of religion.

    The Qu'ran clearly states that ALL shall convert to Islam, become slaves, or be killed (as non-believers).

    Those who say they are Muslim and don't believe in the above, aren't truly Muslim.

    That should tell you right there.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • yassoor

      This is not true. Please read the full verse and understand its meaning. This is talking about specific incidents and addresses retaliation against the non-believers who attacked Muslims at that time, not aggression against non-believers for no reason.
      If you do read the Quran, you will find other verses where it specifically as "a general rule" states that Muslims should be in peace with the non-believers at least as a chance to let them hear your point of.
      Please continue reading the Quran and you will find that any verses in the Quran where it advises Muslims to be kind to others, family friends, the poor, the orphans…etc, it never limits it to poor Muslims or Muslim orphans. It is general to Muslims and non-believers.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • michaelarchangel

      muslim means submission....and if you are not, you will be punished....why would god punish someone for not being submissive...he does not....Lucifer instills hatred and jealousy easiy which is why 911 happened.... how many muslims are jealous of the usa...hands please...how many westerners hate the middle east....there you go...hatred and ignorance begat hatred and ignorance....who will turn their cheek to anothers freedom of belief? who kills in the name of the living god? the first stone has been cast.......who is honored by anger and hatred....no one. so understand that the war of heaven is not to kill on earth.its not to convince each other we are all wrong.....the war of heaven is to understand gods three daughters...wisdom, patience, and justice...no man can hold these, few men can teach of these and mankind will either learn of them or perish as mankind is already learning

      May 1, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  5. charlie

    John Lennon got it right: Imagine

    May 1, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • George Harrison

      Hari Krishna

      May 1, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • michaelarchangel

      no he didn't...he was a wealthy man while many many needlessly perished, he was an addict afraid to face life..imagining is a cop out and look at the school of thought he produced.....very selfish very onesided lots of words not a bit of works or faith..just a catch phrase to sell records. and so many people turn their backs on the world listening to this kind of music.being sung to eternal sleep.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:13 am |

    To R.MGoodswell you are the first to post this truism regarding Islam and Judaism. This is the reason that Mohammad named Jews and Christians as the pejorative "people of the book" without them as you stated there are no angels and certainly no Gabriel to whisper in his ear. This is the same reason that there is open season on murdering all other people of other religions particularly so called idolotars as Hindus. Islam is a petty rancid belief system that should be shunned by all rational people as it is at best dismissive of other beliefs and at worst virulently murderous as can be seen in the historical murder of close to 80 million people ove the 400 year rule of the Mughal rule and conquest of India.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Science

      KLARGAR. agree.................. No angels the pope kicked them off the team last year !

      From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


      Listening to the Big Bang – In High Fidelity

      Apr. 4, 2013 — A decade ago, spurred by a question for a fifth-grade science project, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago.


      Facts work when teaching children !

      May 1, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • michaelarchangel

      sure people believe what is comfortable for them to believe....and by the way angels do work every second every day for the people who truly love god...and yes they are watching you this moment...maybe not saving you..you seem to be able to save yourself....by the way did you give your daily charity to day? none make it except children of a giving god.....good luck.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  7. Rainer Braendlein


    Mahomet (French: Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophète, literally "Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet") is a five-act tragedy written in 1736 by French playwright and philosopher Voltaire. It made its debut performance in Lille on 25 April 1741. The play is a study of religious fanaticism and self-serving manipulation based on an episode in the traditional biography of Muhammad in which he orders the murder of his critics. Voltaire described the play as "written in opposition to the founder of a false and barbarous sect to whom could I with more propriety inscribe a satire on the cruelty and errors of a false prophet".[19] Voltaire also ascribes to Muhammad a brutality that "is assuredly nothing any man can excuse" and suggests that his following stems from superst-ition and lack of enlightenment.[20]

    May 1, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  8. joe

    6.) All Religion is a sham. I could go on for several more paragraphs, but what's the point?
    Let's stop the perpetual lie and move on as a civilization.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:16 am |
  9. fred

    So 40%, 39%, and 29% believe there is some justification for suicide bombings.

    We'll folks.. there's your "small radical group of muslims" – near 4 in 10. Doesn't leave a lot of room for the moderates I'd say.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Science

      Hey fred..................follow link bellow cool science.............read comments..............then comment OK ?


      May 1, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  10. Rainer Braendlein

    Winston Churchill about Islam (from his book "The River War")

    How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sancti-ty. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.[13]

    May 1, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • yassoor

      I do have alot of respect for Winston Churchill as a politician, but I don't see him as an expert on or knowledgable about Islam to set what he wrote as a guide to understanding Islam. There is no such thing as Mohammedanism. Mohammed is only a massenger. He stated "Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property" please refer to the actual verse(s) in the Quran that specifies this. I can't find it. Verses that tells a woman to listen to her husband, do not make them absolute property.
      The same Quran that stated that I woman has the right to divorce her husband if he mis-treats her. The same Quran that forbids a father from forcing his daughter to marry anyone she does not want, she doesn't even have to specify a reason. The same Quran that forbids a father from denying his daughters marraige if she approve it.

      I do have alot of respect for Winston Churchill as a politician, but I don't think he read or understood the Quran to be able to write about the religion in a book and refer to Islam as Mohammedanism

      May 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  11. chet

    “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.

    But the rest are not – duh! That is a majority who say it is fine to bomb other faiths and people.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Poltergiest

      Well in Iraq I'd imagine drones and artillery were the bigger worry.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  12. rino

    There is no heaven

    May 1, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • A True Conservative

      There is ni "rino"

      May 1, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  13. George Dixon

    Note that the segment on Sharia did not cover the views of Muslims in America.

    Note that nothing was said about marrying prepubescent girls, a Muslim tradition going back to their founder taking a "young girl and her toys to his bedroom".

    May 1, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  14. gosfvr

    The beauty of it all is no one really knows who goes to heaven or otherwise. It is quite farcical for one group to claim superiority over another.
    Lets meet in the afterlife CNN blogs and carry on this discussion there.

    May 1, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • jeann

      Nobody goes to heaven.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • A True Conservative

      Wow Jeann – pretty sure of that, aren't you?

      May 1, 2013 at 8:36 am |
  15. Rainer Braendlein

    Winston Churchill about Islam (from his book "The River War"):

    How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!

    May 1, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

      May 1, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  16. R.M. Goodswell

    "I am not able to understand why you are still failing to realize the broken nature of your argument comparing archeological, historical, etc. evidence against altered, no more authentic sources of religion and dismissing religions and the belief in a creator on the basis of this."

    If Judaism is false...and it absolutely is.....then there were no angels, hence no Gabriel for Mohammad to receive his instructions....The Quran is a book of fiction, just like the bible....all the barbarism we see perpetrated in the name of Islam Month after month, year after year, all of it for NOTHING..... take you blindfold off and if you can do so safely, question it! ask the hard questions....Islam will crumble, after that: welcome to freedom.

    May 1, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      blown reply

      May 1, 2013 at 7:50 am |

      Thank you . Your truth is scorching perhaps others will see it and truly understand the fallacy of Islam as a diminutive of another book of fairy tales. Mohammad borrowed heavily from the Jewish narrative including the 635 so called laws that orthodox Jews adhere to. His presumed aceptance of Christians and Jews usually brought up by Islamic apologists to show how Islam is truly a religion that accepts other religions belief systems crumbles in the light of truth.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  17. junkypimp

    If there is a Muslim heaven one can only hope that another Muslim faction bombs it.

    May 1, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  18. Brooklyn

    I read someplace that there is a company which deprograms muslim and christian kids.

    May 1, 2013 at 7:43 am |
  19. Brooklyn

    I can see it now.. two aliens visited earth thousands of years ago. One nudged the other and said "wanna play the god/jesus thing here too?"

    May 1, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  20. Brooklyn

    a sad and disturbing experience is to see a christian on their deathbed..A life wasted as they now face reality. They now have to deal with all the conflicts in their voodoo beliefs, realizing there likely is no heaven or hell. Very sad stuff.

    May 1, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Jim

      It gets much worse, you die and stand before God in judgment and you have this stupid look on your face.

      May 1, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • derp

      According to your disbelief, brooklyn, one cannot realize anything after death. Maybe you would like to rephrase that.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:00 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.