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. The Christ

    Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me." And Jesus rose from the dead. Muhammad is still in his grave, rotting.

    May 2, 2013 at 2:06 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      Jesus didn't say "No one comes to the Father but through me." Only the gospel of John did, and it was written 100 years after Jesus lived by somone who never knew him. The other Gospels, also written by people who never new him personally, don't even mention that "No one comes to the Father but through me" pronouncement.

      If true, the prnouncement dooms about a billion people who existed before Jesus did all over the world, and billions of people since who have never even heard of him or don't have complete access to the Gospels.

      Some salvation. All of the people who existed before Jesus are burning in hell because they were born at the wrong time. All of the people who existed after Jesus was born and don't know enough about him are burning in hell because they were born in the wrong place. Really? Really? Why would god create people who didn't know about that one way to the Father?

      Hey – no exceptions! The Book of John says "NO ONE comes to the Father but through me" You said it yourself. Tough luck for the people willingly created by god before Jesus existed, and after he existed without knowing anything about him.

      Now, let's talk about religious intolerance, shall we?

      May 2, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • dennis


      May 2, 2013 at 3:38 am |
  2. lund

    If you suck-on-to-my-johnson, you will see haven even before you die...lol..

    May 2, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      You probably meant to say "heaven". Well, at least you spelled "johnson" correctly. It's important to know something about your organs, even if you have no concept of anything beyond them.

      Hey – I didn't say being stupid is wrong. Know what I mean? Know what I mean?

      May 2, 2013 at 1:33 am |
  3. What

    five takeaways from pews comprehensive study on islam

    1. Bombs are deadly
    2. Islamic extremists love bombs
    3. Islamic extremists use bombs
    4. Islamic extremists are really bad people
    5. Religion blows

    May 2, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  4. Gray

    Religion, especially Islam, is a virus that destroys the potential of the human mind and species as a whole.
    There's no such thing as heaven. There's no such thing as hell. If you believe otherwise, you're probably an idiot.

    May 2, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      If you believe that anyone who does not share your beliefs is probably an idiot, then...

      Well, you get the idea. But try to give the idiots a break. They're just not as good as you are at thinking things out. They can't help it.

      It's lonely at the top, isn't it? Surrounded by idiots. My god, but you're so perfect.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:47 am |
    • Omar

      I've asked a lot of Atheist this question and nobodies ever given me a clear answer. If there is no Heaven or no reward for the person who's lived is whole life on the righteous path. Then what's the point of life? Why are we here? Were we born just to work our whole lives go threw stress and pain and nothing happens at the end? It's like if you go to school or college and you have one person who works hard at school is always studying then you have another person who's lazy never does anything and at the end they both have the same results. What's the point of life?

      May 2, 2013 at 3:00 am |
    • dennis

      YOU are quite wrong GRAY. There is a HEAVEN, and there is a hell. You are not qualified to say what exists, and what does not exist. Do you know where life came from? How did humans arrive? you may have a theory, but you don't know. So, you are not qualified to say what is, and what is not. I suppose you would tell all the people that followed JESUS, saw his miracles, saw him alive from the dead, and wrote about it, that they were deceived. I suppose you would also tell people who have been healed of heart disease as I have, or cancer that they are delusional. When you figure out where life came from, and can resolve all the mysteries of life, then you will have to explain why all these people who lived before you believe in the man JESUS, but more so, how his name has power to those who believe, and how the heck was he able to predict the times you live in.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:48 am |
  5. Me

    God is rational, and does not care about someone's religion. Good is rewarded, and evil is punished.

    May 2, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      If god is rational and does not care about someone's religion, why should there be punishment for what you call "good" or "evil", when there are no consistent definitions of the difference in any of the religions god doesn't care about?

      If god really is not punishing people for "good" or "evil" based on any of our religions, then what are his criteria? Yours?

      Who do you think you are? Do you have the "rational" mind god uses to decide the difference between "good" and "evil"?

      You decided that you know god is rational and is making decisions about punishment independently of religious definitions of "good" and "evil". That's very big of you.

      What if you're wrong about the entire concept of "punishment" for "evil" based on your astute observation that it has nothing to do with religion? Well?

      You thought you were being wise by saying that religion doesn't make a difference. But you drew the line when you said that the difference between "good" and "evil" does. What's the difference between your definition of "rational" good and evil vs. the religious definitions?

      More importantly, who do you think you are, declaring religious definitions of "good" and "evil" to be unimportant in god's eyes, whereas your interpretation of "rational" good and evil is important to god?

      Yeah, god is rational, all right. He's rational like you are. Sure. Keep on thinking "big thoughts."

      May 2, 2013 at 2:04 am |
  6. Nodack

    All the different religions think that they are the chosen ones and that everybody else is going to hell. They are all cults and won't they be surprised when there isn't a bunch of virgins waiting for them in heaven when they die.

    May 2, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      No, they won't be surprised. They won't "be" anything. Why should they, if what you say is true?

      May 2, 2013 at 2:51 am |
  7. Little Drummer Boy

    NO one knows for sure what happens to them after they die!!!!!! PERIOD!!! How can ANYONE "know" what will happen to them when they die? A person can believe ANYTHING you want to believe, but, just because you believe something, does NOT make it absolutely certain!!!! There are many many people in the world who are completely sure that their belief is correct, but, ask yourself this one thing: "Have I or anyone I know told me what has happened to them after they died? I think the answer is a big "NO"... So, get off your high horses and quit telling everyone else that you "know" what will happen to them when they die!!!! It's like Jimi Hendrix said: "I'm the one who's got to die when it's time for me to die, so, let me live my life the way I want to!!!"

    May 2, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • adam

      Of course they know, they have a centuries-old book that tells them so; what kind of lunatic would question the reliability of such a source?

      May 2, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • fred

      thank you adam

      May 2, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Little Drummer Boy

      Fred, Adam, you boys are funny... lol...

      May 2, 2013 at 12:59 am |


    May 2, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • midwest rail

      Well, since you typed it in all caps, it must be true.

      May 2, 2013 at 12:29 am |

      is Austinism Autism hind

      May 2, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • Nodack

      All religions are cults.

      May 2, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      No person goes to heaven unless Jesus says he/she does. Sorry, John Deoh. You don't make that decision. He does.

      I wonder how Jesus feels about you deciding who goes to hell and who doesn't?

      May 2, 2013 at 1:40 am |
  9. Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad

    Where's my virgins?

    May 2, 2013 at 12:18 am |


      May 2, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Dippy

      It's here, dummy, not hear. And turn off your fucking caps lock.

      May 2, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      New Orleans.

      But you have to have a copy of the Blue Book to find them, and you have to pay a lot extra for a convincing performance.

      Otherwise, you're out of luck everywhere else in the world. You're also less safe anywhere else in the world without that "Green Card", if you get my meaning.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:57 am |
  10. neal

    ONE THING IS FOR D A M sure.......TERRORISTS....DO NOT go to "heaven"......

    THEY B U R N in H E L L !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 2, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  11. Ahmadi

    Hi Dan Merica,
    I would recommend that you should do some research on Ahmadiyya Muslim Community as well and write an article. For information you can visit alislam.org

    May 2, 2013 at 12:07 am |
  12. Anom

    What a joke islam promote religious freedom? I was in Malaysia, the largest Muslim country in the world, in 2000 when the governement was debating what to do when a muslim is baptised into christianity – the choice death or life in prison. Oh check other countries's laws on converstion from Islam.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      Your personal experience with Islam in Malaysia makes it true. No doubt about it, Anom. You know everything about Islam everywhere, and the fact that Malaysia is the most populous Islamic country backs you up. Never mind what Allah thinks. It's all those government beaurocrats in Malaysia and that population who tell Allah what to do, not the other way around.

      You are so wise.

      May 2, 2013 at 1:45 am |
    • Omar

      Well if that's true then it's that countries fault not Islam. In the Quran it says that people have a choice at whatever they want to believe in. In Islam you're not allowed to force anybody in to becoming something they don't want to be.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:05 am |
  13. Fuzzy Thinker

    Muslim Law is against Religious Freedom. These people are telling PEW what PEW wants to hear. Muslims that convert to Christianity in the US are being killed when they return to their own country. Muslims are killing Muslims and PEW reports that they are against violence. ha ha

    May 1, 2013 at 11:37 pm |

      Religions are corruption of truth absolute, to justify hinduism, illegality of a hindu secular, criminal self centered person hinduism, illegality, a cover to justify hinduism, criminality, deserving of nothing else, but elimination from face of earth to have peace, Islam on earth according to truth absolute GOD, by following truth absolute in life.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

      So Islamabot, is Islam a corrupt religion?

      May 2, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      Islamics who convert to Christianity in this country can't return to "their own country" because they already ARE in their own country – the United States of America, where Freedom of Religion is guaranteed. Why should they return to "their own country" when they're already in it? Are you saying they're being killed here in this country because they convert to Christianity? Please provide detailed information about American Islamics who are killed for converting to any other religion.

      May 2, 2013 at 1:49 am |
    • Omar

      Like I said to another person who doesn't know anything about Islam. In the Quran it gives people the freedom to believe whatever they want to believe. You can look it up if you want to. Thank You.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:08 am |
  14. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    What Pew should have noted as a preface to their report:

    Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the assassinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, the Filipino “koranics” and the Boston Marathon bomb idiots.

    And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

    Current crises:

    The Sunni-Shiite global blood feud (e.g. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan) and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Omar

      Whats also pretty funny is that Islam is the most hated and scrutinized religion in the world. But for some reason it's the most converted to religion in the world. Now I'm not saying Muslims having kids. No I'm saying that someone was a different religion and converted to Islam.So y'all can talk and hate on Islam all you want but you'll never win. It's been tried before and Islam always prevailed. And hopefully one day you can put your hatred to the side and really open you're eyes and take a better look at Islam and not just believe what other people are saying. Thank You.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:26 am |
    • Reality

      “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

      The Situation Today
      Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

      It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  15. STFU

    Islam – overflowing gutter.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:23 pm |

      by hinduism, absurdity of a hindu secular, ignorant self centered, An atheist, self centered by faith, denier of truth absolute, constant, foundation of america, from hindered gutter of hindu secular ism, criminal self center ism by faith called india.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • ..

      We're not in India, you are in America, would you GET OVER YOURSELF? You aren't clever, you are silly, you make no case for Islam, and you are a fraud. And for the last time, ISLAM IS NOT THE FOUNDATION OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION!!

      May 2, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  16. ELH

    Overwhelming desire of non-American Muslims to live under sharia law and therein lies the seeds of an eventual religious conflict that will involve the entire world.

    It will be Islam against every other known religion. Millions will perish but in the end, those who revere a just and democratic world will persevere. Islam cannot stand as it is a cruel and intolerant religion–sooner or later even its adherents will turn away in disgust.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:19 pm |

      No one has ever been able to defeat truth absolute, constant, and no one will ever be able to defeat truth absolute, GOD,constant, only one to perish are hindus denier of truth absolute, HIM, and their hindu secular ism, self center ism, none other. law of nature, truth absolute is only law on earth, and no one can disobey law of nature, truth absolute and survive.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  17. TheAntiChrist

    Lets test the idea. Some one come and destroy me. I will send you a text message from Heaven if I get there. If not then I will send you a parched letter from hell. If not there and you don't hear from me again then I am really dead and all of you are doomed.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      Why should we do all the work destroying you? If you want to make that point, make it yourself. We have better things to do.

      You should know, though, that if we don't hear from you again, we won't notice. And if we do hear from you, either by "text message" from heaven or "parched letter" from hell, we won't believe it.

      Good luck with your important experiment. Don't slam the door on your way out of reality.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:13 am |

    Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

    These are not of founding fathers definitions, but others, after them, as they desired in their hindu secular ism, ignorant self center ism, founding fathers put end to man gods of religions and their hinduism racism and recognized none other than truth absolute GOD as foundation of America.
    Law of nature is otherwise known as Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute, foundation of Hebrew and Islamic teachings, not religion. also known as Sharia Mohammad, in foot steps of spirit of truth, Pbh, and made foundation of America, as you witnessed in your post.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

      "founding fathers put end to man gods of religions"

      Well no they did nothing of the sort. Of course you are not clear in English, so it's difficult to tell what you mean, but some of the key framers actually wanted Christianity to flourish. Read this and see how Madison is talking about his satisfaction that Christianity was flourishing but *by way of* a secular government (more or less his Establishment Clause):

      The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State. (Madison)

      May 1, 2013 at 11:36 pm |

      Again he confirmed it is beneficial to separate corruption of religions from truth absolute, foundation of America, and his words do not endorse religions any form.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

      No Islam that made no sense. Separation of church and state. Go look that up.

      May 2, 2013 at 12:06 am |

    Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

    Law of nature is otherwise known as Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute, foundation of Hebrew and Islamic teachings, not religion. also known as Sharia Mohammad, in foot steps of spirit of truth, Pbh, and made foundation of America, as you witnessed in your post.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Dippy

      You dipshit, it's CONSTlTUTION, no space needed. If you can't figure that out, stay off the blog.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm |

    Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

    These are not of founding fathers definitions, but others, after them, as they desired in their hindu secular ism, ignorant self center ism, founding fathers put end to man gods of religions and their hinduism racism and recognized none other than truth absolute GOD as foundation of America.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

      I really don't think you are able to express what you really mean, Islamabot.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:47 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.