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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. no more lollypops from priests

    so... what happens when the guy in front of you farts last nights curry dinner right as you put your head down to pray to the non existent god?

    May 1, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • MarkP

      Same as when the guy in front of you in church turns to shake your hand after you've been watching him pick his nose before.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  2. Rosslaw

    Sounds like most Moslems living outside the United States are natural republican voters if they moved to the United States. Definitely share the same values, particularly given the implemenation of abortion and contraceptive related sharia law by republican state and federal politicians.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • BB

      Oh please! What the heck is wrong with you?

      May 1, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • brad

      Same can be said of demecrats, always taking what isnt' theirs. I'm neither repub or dem, your both idiot parties that are destroying this country.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • MarkP

      BB
      They'ed both be considered ultra-conservative, right?

      May 1, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  3. Dyslexic doG

    the essence of religion enables people to make illogical statements and be perplexed when people accuse them of being illogical.

    "I believe in religious freedom but you have to be muslim and obey my laws"

    "Islam is a religion of peace but we're quite justified to kill in the name of our religion"

    "There is no proof that my god exists but you just have to have faith"

    ALL RELIGION IS THE CANCER OF THE HUMAN RACE!

    May 1, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • no more lollypops from priests

      I agree with you. Religion is a plague to our species.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • MrSmiley

      Organized religion is the cancer...not personal spiritual beliefs.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  4. philtration

    No one is going to Heaven or Hell.
    They do not exist and the world would be a better place if people stopped believing in magic instead of using their minds instead.

    Let go of your stupid belief in make believe friends and the boogieman.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      amen!!

      May 1, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • MrSmiley

      I guess your viewpoint automatically trumps someone else's?

      Yes people of organized religions are usually just sheep following the herd and can't think for themselves, but to those who are not (a minority I know) it's not fair to belittle their beliefs that they have a right to. You doing so makes you no better than the radical with a bomb strapped to his chest, same goal in mind.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  5. Waiting for a candidate

    Actions speak louder than words. Muslims kill innocent people all over the world in the name of Allah. They obviously do not believe that there should be any freedom or that there is any possible way other than the extremist way. I wish they were never allowed to immigrate to the US. Just like dupped American politicians want to spread democracy to every third world country with a dictator, the muslims want to spread their hate and death and subjegation. They would wish us all dead so that they could obtain our resources. Some cultures can only be forced to live next door to one another so a dictator is required. Topple the dictator and destroy an already fragile stability for people who are unable to chose a leader and civilly live together. Great strategy.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Thoth

      "Actions speak louder than words"

      Yes they do. So what of Christians murdering in the name of their creed? What of the over 90% of prison population that claim affiliation with some god? The few studies available indicate less than 3% of criminals are 'godless'. So yes....actions do speak loudly; and look at what those actions are saying.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • cedar rapids

      so to sum up....some people need to be controlled by a dictator and therefore should live in a dictatorship for their own good?

      May 1, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Waiting for a candidate

      To sum it up, yes.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  6. fsmgroupie

    satan -- gets billions of souls
    god -- gets a handful of souls
    winner - satan

    May 1, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      God created satan, knowing what would happen, so satan is doing exactly what god approved...so ultimately god must be winning as satan works for him.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  7. Jeebusss

    More conjecture from the religitards on their pretend sky friends.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      perfect!

      May 1, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • brad

      Hey, that invisible sky dude is a blessing, he set back science hundreds of years in the dark ages. Who knows what horrible technologies and cures we would have now if he hadn't done that. Phew.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  8. fsmgroupie

    f

    May 1, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  9. TiredOfPaying

    In other words, Islam is completely incompatible with the rest of the world. Yeah, we already knew that. In the long run, either Islam has to be destroyed or it will destroy all other points of view.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  10. Thoth

    ok, let's see if I have this correct. The majority believe sharia should be the law of the land, but Pew also finds that the majority claim to believe in religious freedom....something doesn't quite add up here. At least the Muslims are more honest then their Christian counterparts about the desire for theocratic rule.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      the very nature of religion enables people to make illogical statements and be perplexed when people accuse them of being illogical.

      I believe in religious freedom but you have to be muslim and obey my laws

      Islam is a religion of peace but we're quite justified to kill in the name of our religion

      There is no proof that my god exists but you just have to have faith

      ALL RELIGION IS THE CANCER OF THE HUMAN RACE!

      May 1, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • BB

      You're afraid of maybe 4 million evangelicals, but pooh-pooh 1.5 billion muslims who have no problem telling you what their plans are? Wow, modern western education has really indoctrinated the likes of you. Society abhors a vacuum. When Judeo-Christianity recedes, Islam will willingly fill the void.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • brad

      Yeah, and they day islam feels the void is they day I pick up my guns.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  11. b

    can't wait to read all the racist responses that are going to be posted for this article

    May 1, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • yassoor

      lol .... I normally don't read comments on articles, but I opened the comments on this wondering if people will take this as positive or negative.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Kevin Lawton

      "Who goes to heaven? Muslims are spit"

      May 1, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Jeebusss

      What does racism have to do with it. If you have pretend sky friends you are a delusional loon, regardless of your skin color.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • BB

      Uhhhh...what race is Islam? Thanks for playing!

      May 1, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  12. Colleen Kelly Mellor

    Supplant the words "Muslim" and "Islamic" and replace them with "Catholic" and the article pretty much reads the same...

    May 1, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Vic

      With all due respect to Catholicism, I see the resemblance Colleen!

      May 1, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • CosmicC

      With one big difference: Christianity, by definition, is an evangelical religion. There is an imperative to "spread the good word" enshrined in the New Testament. In contrast, the Koran states that believers should respect the beliefs of others.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • momo

      @CosmicC
      the Koran states that believers should respect the beliefs of others.

      Right up until the time you kill them for not believing.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • nclaw441

      Cosmic, I don't see that spreading the Gospel and respecting the beliefs of others are mutually exclusive. I can respect, and yet disagree with, those of other faiths, and try to convince them that my faith is the one true faith, just as they try to do the same to/for me.

      If you truly believe that your faith is correct, would you not feel a duty to try and convince others? (Not at the point of a gun or knife, of course, as this is not truly convincing, nor would it be faith to "convert" under threat of violence.)

      May 1, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • sam stone

      "If you truly believe that your faith is correct, would you not feel a duty to try and convince others?"

      Just how do you CONVINCE someone about the correctness of a FAITH?

      Did someone convince you into your current state of faith?

      May 1, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • brad

      Oh no, we can't have that, I love it when the funny little Christians come to my door. I start asking logical questions and they start stumbling all over themselves. Eventually, they turn into a broken record that just repeats, "Well, you gotta have faith." LOLOLOL

      May 1, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • sam stone

      "I don't see that spreading the Gospel and respecting the beliefs of others are mutually exclusive"

      Really? You are trying to convince someone that your god is more real than theirs is.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  13. Vic

    In short:

    It is worth noting that surveys of that sort do not really reveal the REALITY of Extreme Ideologies like Islam! When people are surveyed on the above five points, the POLITICALLY CORRECT ANSWERS are pretty much given by common sense!

    Since Islam's Sharia Law is not viable, Muslims exhibit Dual Personality! They publicly & theoretically embrace Sharia Law while in private & practically violate it!

    Christianity is based on the fact that we humans are all sinners and incapable of earning our Salvation by the Law on our own merits; therefore, we need a Savior!!!

    Islam, on the other hand, is based on that you can not be a sinner and you have to earn going to Heaven by fulfilling Sharia Law on your own!

    BTW, Sharia Law is a spin off from the Mosaic Law!

    May 1, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Science

      By the way vic ..................in short...............facts work best for teaching children !

      Evolution wins hands down ..........time for god(s) to get the HELL out of the way................so humanity can evolve !

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

      May 1, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Science

      By the way vic you could have been on the menu too !

      Fish Was On the Menu for Early Flying Dinosaur Bye Bye doogie !

      Apr. 22, 2013 — University of Alberta-led research reveals that Microraptor, a small flying dinosaur was a complete hunter, able to swoop down and pickup fish as well as its previously known prey of birds and tree dwelling mammals.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130422154925.htm

      May 1, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  14. Logic & Reason

    Grow up humans. Your mind makes your reality. YOUR mind, not my mind or the mind of the world. You are not born with a religion. You are not born with a name. You are born a life form that can contain a mind from another universe. Embrace your life. Join with other people to help them embrace theirs. There is plenty of room in this universe for all of you.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • nclaw441

      Logic: While we are not born with a religion, all societies develop religions of some sort, which suggests (but doesn't prove) that there is something about being human that points us to religion. We can argue about whose is the true faith, but this issue is as old as man.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Science

      You on the men you to....................... nclaw441 ?

      Fish Was On the Menu for Early Flying Dinosaur Bye Bye doogie !

      Apr. 22, 2013 — University of Alberta-led research reveals that Microraptor, a small flying dinosaur was a complete hunter, able to swoop down and pickup fish as well as its previously known prey of birds and tree dwelling mammals.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130422154925.htm

      May 1, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Science

      You know nclaw441.........that damn thumb got in the way.................menu.

      Also follow link below..............cool science...................read all comments ................then comment OK ?

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/29/new-film-examines-science-vs-religion/#comments

      May 1, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • MrSmiley

      You know Science......................the FACT of the matter is that an ellipsis is only 3 dots.................................

      May 1, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • brad

      NCLAW441: Yes, it's called brain washing. From the time you are born to the time you die you hear god god god, It's hard not to believe when that is what is taught to you by over 6 billion people around the world.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Scienec

      MrSmiley...........................................

      Unusual Anal Fin Offers New Insight Into Evolution

      Apr. 10, 2013 — An unusual fossil fish that has fins behind its anus

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410082201.htm

      May 1, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  15. AmericanVoice

    this article is full of lies and does not make any sense.

    May 1, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Hooray!

      This entire news station and all of the comments are full of lies and don't make any sense.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  16. snowboarder

    heaven is the construct of superst itious men fearful of death and the unknown.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Amen!

      May 1, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  17. Ollie

    Given the fact that Muslims are specifically trained to lie (taqiya) it is well advised to ignore anything "polled" from a Muslim, and instead use this shining community's actions as a true indicator of their beliefs.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Felix Sinclair

      On the other hand, admitting that they lie in the name of their faith puts them ahead of every religious person I've ever met.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  18. michaelarchangel

    does anyone actually think any religion on earth is a favorite of god?? with 20000 children dying each day good try...the Christ not only hates organized religion, he had only one..thats one who judges mankind....each and every one who killed and tempted in the name of god is already lucifers.....

    May 1, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • God

      I like the moonies better than anybody else. I thought I told you that.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      God allegedly made your satan, according to your story book...so blame god...he knew what he was doing when he created your satan.
      Or.....
      join us in reality.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  19. snowboarder

    people in countries dominated by islam don't have a reference for religious "freedom".

    May 1, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  20. William Demuth

    I wonder what percentage of Muslims use indoor plumbing?

    Primitive beliefs from primitive peoples.

    It's the same in the US, the more backwards the location, the more devout the population.

    May 1, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • snowboarder

      very true. it is no coincidence that the areas of the world with the least education are the most religiously devout.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:51 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.