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. nonyabidnes2

    In order to get to heaven, all one needs to do is love your Father (GOD) as he loves you. Why do some want to make it about themselves and what they do? It isn't about performance. Only the law will make you feel you have to do something. Jesus at calvary said "it is done"...

    May 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Answer

      Your nonsense gets regurgitated a lot.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Atheist

      Delicious sky cake!

      May 1, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  2. HFM

    Organized religion appeals to those whose IQs would not warm a glass of water....being taken in by other human beings who claim to act on behalf of some unseen deity strongly suggests that several million brain cells went missing when that individual was born. At the end of the day, almost every organized religion is interested in two things: 1-money 2-controlling another person's actions and thoughts....yet, who gave the one telling everyone how much they should donate and what they should do and think the enormous intellectual power to do this on behalf of the same unseen deity? Only morons buy into this nonsense.

    May 1, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Athy

      Right on, man!

      May 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • lol??

      ".......At the end of the day......."

      How long is the day?? Doesn't a 360 day year seem more practical and pleasant??

      May 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Hrmm

      "How long is the day?? "

      depends on whether you believe that nonsense about God making the sun stand still...

      May 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • lol??

      Magnets can't hook up? What kinda science is that??

      May 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  3. Raman

    " God knows everything , God knows future. God knows what I will do next"

    If God Knows everything and my future , I have just lived my life according to God's expectation.
    Why would he punish me with hell, if I have lived up to his expectation?

    If you say, I shouldn't have done that to get heaven, I have done something which is not expected from me. That means God doesn't know what will happen next..what I will do next. so
    " God does not know everything , God does not know future. God does not know what I will do next"

    "God created earth"
    Billions of planets out there and millions of planets are being created. Cant he create one more earth which supports life?

    What is heaven?
    You be a good person for 60 years and enjoy 60 bilion years+ in heaven ?
    Or get punished for 60 bilion years+ in hell for the sins done in 60 years?

    I have lot of questions..

    May 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Athy

      Yeah, and you won't get the answers from the religies.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • lol??

      What makes you presume that time is endless? When you're in the Lake, maybe you are just there? BTW, the mormons are lookin' for ya with more inhabitable planets, that will be a gas for gays.

      May 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  4. Geoffrey

    I, at one time in my life, worked hard to be good enough to enter heaven; just like any good Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or even Christian. I was always so frustrated when I failed in achieving self righteousness. Then I realized that I was flawed. My carnal mind would frequently lead me astray. I could never achieve righteousness on my own efforts. I certainly was also guilty of passed sin. I could never stand before a holy God in judgment in my own feeble good works.

    Then I realized that Jesus Christ already achieved the righteousness that I was working so hard towards. Jesus Christ did it all for me. I was freed from my carnal limitations. I am holy in Christ. I can stand before God in judgment and have Jesus Christ plead my case for me. Thank you Jesus.

    May 1, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • Answer

      The poor cretin thinking process.

      You're a failure, loser, sick and rotten til you finally come to your jeebus whereupon you are then saved. What broke you? What convinced you that you were a loser that you had to go to a delusion to feel better about yourself?

      May 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Hang in there Jeff

      What answer fails to realize is that everybody has a right to their own thoughts.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Hang in there Geoff

      Oops. I meant Geoff. And for the record I don't care if you want to pray to Allah, J.C., or whatever it's your own death and nobody is going to die it for you.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Athy

      Don't you people recognize a poe? And one who can't spell "past."

      May 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Answer

      It's always the story of the "broken man" - a sob story.

      With their emotional undertone that makes you feel like "ah poor fella.. he went through such tragedy, look at his pitiful life and then he comes to his god and finds salvation."

      The only thing people don't like to hear for themselves about themselves is that they needed human company. A few good words and a helping hand that they didn't see, but gave credit to a delusion. Ya thank that delusion but don't pay attention to your own self worth and you own desire for getting out of the dumps.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Atheist

      Oh, sky cake. Why are you so delicious?

      May 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • DavidTX

      " I certainly was also guilty of passed sin"

      I find this funny because he doesn't realize how much closer his misspelling get's him to the real issue. Christians believe we are all sinners because of an inherrent sin "passed" on to us by our forefathers and convince themselves of their unworthy nature because of it. It's the easiest way to separate fools and their money, make them think they have an infectious malady that only you can cure, for a fee...

      "Well the symptoms of the disease start to really show as you reach 12 to 13 years of age and certain parts of your body start to stiffen or moisten, that proves you are infected so no use denying it, you need to be saved... that'll be 10% of your income for the rest of your life please, thank you..."

      May 1, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  5. YeahItsMe72

    This isn't as much of a paradox as it first seems. You have to keep in mind that Religion is made up, and much like all works of fiction the 'rules' are bendable by the author.

    For a devout Muslim, heaven only includes devout Muslim
    For a orthodox Jew, maybe have contains mostly Jews
    For Christians same thing.

    This isn't science, you don't need consistency from everyones perspective. You can make up whatever you want.

    May 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • HiMe73

      I know right? Personally I've always made up my own religion as I went along. I don't know what everybody is fighting about.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Atheist

      Religion is fandom, and scripture is fanfiction!

      May 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  6. Lenny Pincus

    I don't see a lot of difference between Islam and Christianity when it comes to these five points.

    1. The differences between American Catholics and Rome (for example) are vast.
    2. Biblical law is favored by more devout Christians.
    3. Most Christians believe DC should reflect the Bible.
    4. Christians generally don't burn down opposing religions' houses of worship.
    5. Christianist radicalism is generally rejected, but most Christians don't mind when wars kill off local populations as long as the war is won.

    May 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • bostontola

      Sad but true.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  7. Dan

    they are both just a mental bowl of emotional pudding so why should it matter?

    May 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  8. mb2010a

    There are NO Muslims in Heaven. Period.

    May 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • snowboarder

      muslim heaven or christian heaven?

      May 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Science

      Agree.......splat goes a fairy in the sky !

      Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet

      Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before.


      May 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • CleerLee

      My guess is you're never going to find out.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Atheist

      There's no one in heaven. Damn thing is too hard to get into.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell


      get your Magnetar outa this conversation! everyone knows theres only the Sun which runs around the earth....except when God wants it to stop so he can watch his lackeys can take down a city wall.

      May 1, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Science

      R.M. Goodswell....................and the sun sets in the east ?

      May 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      no that was only once after a rough night...

      May 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  9. Trance


    May 1, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  10. bostontola

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

    This is the key finding. Islam within a (relatively) tolerant culture is like most religions in a tolerant culture. When Islam is dominant and tied to the civil Government that the radical wing can fully express itself with impunity. It still shocks me that there are quite a few Americans that want Christianity as a state religion. We would likely go right down the tubes like the Muslim countries if we did that.

    May 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      The difference between US and International Muslims is really just because they lack the numbers of, say Europe, is now collectively realizing the mistake of multiculturalism.

      Once they have the numbers, look for them to be increasingly aggressive.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • bostontola

      Do you think multiculturalism exists in the US? If so, s it a mistake here?

      May 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Yes, It is failing here too – see Detroit and Minneapolis – Islamic cabbies will not pick you up if you have alcohol....If they feel safe in doing that now, how long before they openly insult women on the street for how they dress? as is happening across Europe right now. How long before there are Muslim only district in our major cities? like in Paris and London.

      there is no difference in their teachings...none whatsoever ...the only difference is numbers.. America works because everyone comes here and assimilates...Asians, Latin Americans, everybody...except the adherents of Islam – by their own choice.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  11. Charles M.

    Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Western values and morals.

    May 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • BobPitt

      What does it has to do with heaven? did you read the article?

      May 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • Atheist

      So is Christianity.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  12. History Bear

    I believe that everyone is free to practice what ever type of non-violent religion they wish- no animal or human sacrifices – but they may not dictate that to anyone else or use that religion to control secular life. Period, no exception. Keep it to your self.

    May 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • Thanks Giving Turkey

      I think you'll have problems in the US with the "no sacrificed animals" category.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • lol??

      In the USA human sacrifice has been blessed like in other countries.

      May 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  13. My 2 cents

    Christian is a very broad term. What is referred to as Christian or christianity in these politial/religious dialogues is in fact denominationalism not christianity.
    "Narrow is the way and few there be that find it"
    "No man cometh unto me unless my father draw him"

    May 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!

      Nice, thinly veiled No True Scotsman falacy.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • ..

      Honey Badger: yep. It's their "get out of free" card way of distancing themselves from anything that a Christian may do that could be frowned upon. It's überhypocritical, too.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • g

      Jesus had no religion!

      May 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  14. STFU

    DJR wrote: "Muslim should be free to convert to Christianity – or Judaism"

    I say bad idea, these group of violent people are not going to bring any value to Christianity – or Judaism, except bloodshade.

    May 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • Ignorance like yours...

      is the problem, not the solution.

      May 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    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"


    May 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care!


      May 1, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  16. R.M. Goodswell

    @ tarheel6268

    you d have a deal if religion would keep to itself..... Ignoring religion is a very good way to have your right curtailed, your kids indoctrinated ....and on the far end, outright killed because you don't believe in some BS afterlife.
    the live and let live approach is gone...the stakes are too high, and unlike the past there is nowhere to run to get away from religious lunatics.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      ... blown reply – I need a new mouse I think:)

      May 1, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  17. Lydia

    Thank you Tamsyn for definition of Sneech, thought I had read all the Dr. Seuss. To add to, it is important to remember that you do not need to EMBRACE in order to TOLERATE. So much anger seems to be directed at people who do tolerate but won't say I agree. Thank you Bill Deacon for stating more clearly my view on the "differences" in the definition of marriage. And David, thank you for thought provoking responses and a lively conversation. Good Day All.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  18. Humanist11

    Nobody goes to heaven. There is absolutely no evidence that heaven exists. Its idea only exists to control people's actions. Don't let them control your actions with BS. Live in the real world and you will be happier.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
  19. DJR

    The missing religious freedom question – Should a muslim be allowed to convert to another religion ?
    I expect that to most of Muslims in Muslim countries religious freedom means allowing a Christian to be a Christian. Period. Even that is compatible with Sharia law.
    How many of these would say a Muslim should be free to convert to Christianity – or Judaism ?

    May 1, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Dippy

      Who cares? It's all bullshit anyway.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Mike

      How about "converting" to atheism?

      May 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  20. Bill

    We are all familiar with the Democrat's approach to guns. Out of the millions and millions of guns in the US, a relative few have caused murders. So Democrats say we should ban guns - "for the children."

    Let's apply that approach to Muslims. For the children.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • Daniel

      "So Democrats say we should ban guns"

      Stop being a dishonest liar Bill, no one is trying to take your hunting rifle away. If you have at least half a brain you can see why right now you cannot go buy a shoulder fired rocket launcher from any legal gun shop, so apparently you are fine with some regulation when it comes to weapons of death, why not add the high capacity magazines and assault rifles to the list that includes switchblade knives, live grenades and many other restricted weapons?

      May 1, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Bill you knucklehead, no-one is saying ban guns. There are still hundreds of types of guns you can legally own. Is that not a big enough choice for you to kill things with?

      May 1, 2013 at 3:49 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.