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
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

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. Truth Prevails :-)

    All religion can be dangerous if the wrong person/people take it to the extreme and read(s) more in to it than should be there.
    9/11 was the result of Muslim extremists.
    The Boston Bombing Suspects were Muslim.
    Muslims suppress women and children.
    WBC go to extremes whenever they protest a funeral or carry placards claiming what their god hates.
    Andrea Yates believed she was doing what god wanted when she drowned her children.
    Hitler held a firm belief in his god and used that belief to try to eradicate the Jews.

    The human brain is an intricate organ and it takes little to warp it.

    May 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      These are good examples, except maybe for the Hitler one but is it also dangerous when folks take their religion to the extreme of volunteering in inner city shelters or religions that have folks doing missionary work in third world countries? Folks such as Mother Theresa and Ghandi left their lives to dedicate their lives to the service of mankind.

      Can extreme dedication be universal to the human spirit. We have seen folks devoted to making sports teams, colleges or just to another to show that extremes can be found within and outside of the Faiths.

      May 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • reducto ad hitlerum


      May 2, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Logical fallacy

      Guilt by association

      May 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  2. Rynomite

    #2 and #3 conflict with #4.

    So I'm sure they answered that questions as. religious freedom for ME.

    Very much in common with Christian Fundies....

    May 2, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      As the Tears for Fears song goes ...Everybody wants to rule the world. I am not a Muslim but even most people on this planet would not mind or more likely greatly support civil laws that favored them. Be that Muslim or Christian but, it can go further than that.

      If we asked most Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans if they would mind if the laws of the land had at its core Liberal or Conservative principles ...would they think this is positive or negative, I think most would declare it as a positive. If you dive into question 5 I also believe they would not mind because we have to be truthful that the majority of people are pure sheep in their willingness to go along and not question an in place law. So in question 5, of course they believe in freedom because they feel that the average person would grow to accept life under such rule... and if they do not it is not a problem because the generations that follow will be born under that system and it will become natural to them.

      So while I do sorta agree with you, I do not agree with just pointing to a segment of the population declaring that only they have a thirst for power.

      May 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • SwissObserver

      Read the CNN piece, the online infographic at pew, and downloaded and zipped through the 150 page report from Pew. Major method problem… they apparently did not think it was important to make distinctions by age groups within a given country. So, my sense is that this completely muddles the picture if not seriously under weighs the gravity of the extreme views in the troubling places. Take the Palestinian case. They said 40% of the sampled population there supports suicide bombing. But if they did a proportionally weighted average by age demographic sampled, they might actually find the results are way off… if you don’t add weight for age groups as a % of the actual total population, you are missing the serious ah ha message. Who knows, maybe 75% of the actual population would support suicide bombing in Palestine. And this is a could present a threat to international peace and security, which show be a concern for everybody.

      May 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell


      All religions want to dominate...Islam is no different....In fact it is more Rigid and demanding than just about any other religion. Look what happens when they have the majority.....they squeeze out or seriously marginalize all other walks of life.

      look at where they have absolute control – most of the ME.....look at where their numbers are rising quickly, Europe. Whole Jewish communities are packing up and leaving France after a series of murders. Britain and the Scandinavian countries Have serious issues with the religion. Then there's the Netherlands....

      It would be a serious mistake to no pay attention. Their "10 %" of fanatics have succeeded in changing our world in a major way in the last decade.

      and it all nonsense...every last word of it.

      May 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • trollintraining

      I see no conterdictoin here. You are free to be whatever type of Muslim you want.

      @Swiss Observer
      You are assuming that their poll disproportionately pulled from one age group. It would have been useful to know they didn't but you shouldn't try to invalidate the conclusions without knowing.

      May 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River


      Well, as I do agree I find those desires to control and dominate are inherent in most of the general population not only in American society. This can be traced from politics of one party vs another. We have one party declaring that they hope to bury the other forever with only the talk of bipartisanship when they find out they can't. We can even extend the desire to dominate when we hear interviews with the heads of businesses such as Ford,Toyota, Microsoft and Apple. WalMart does not have to talk about domination of their rivals because their game plan is dominate dominate dominate. Should we even bring up Android vs iPhone?

      Your comments are as if the people of Faith are the only ones who desire to dominate and control when such is naturally found in every human on the planet from the sandbox to the gravesite.

      >>>“ Their "10 %" of fanatics have succeeded in changing our world in a major way in the last decade.”

      I am not sure but Margaret Mead stated; do not underestimate that a small group of determined people can change the world. For it has only thing that ever has.

      May 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      @ Mark

      I can agree with your latest post:) Im right there with you with you point about other sectors wanting to dominate.

      The sad fact is The commercial giants that are crushing the very fabric of what made America thrive.....smashing small and medium businesses ... those guys. the Feds will have to deal with (like they ever will) ....I cant do anything about them.

      Religion? all I can do is lend my voice to the stream and hope the collective weight of like minded voices will wake some people up.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
  3. realbuckyball

    Islam is, just like Christianity, all built on lies.
    Read Robert Spencer's book. Mohammed probably never existed. AT least the way he's portrayed.
    Just like Jebus never existed, the way he's portrayed.
    Islam is an adaptation of the Moon-god cult from Arabia. Why do you think the crescent moon is everywhere in Islamic symbolism ?
    Allah is simply a renaming of the moon-god, (named "Sin") from the ancient Near East.
    And CERTAINLY, Yahweh and Allah are not, and could not be the same god.
    Amazing that billions of sheeple are so totally uneducated about their own god(s) and myths. Just amazing.

    May 2, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • realbuckyball


      May 2, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  4. Trance


    May 2, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  5. Reality

    "The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:
    One, man intelligent without religion,
    The second, religious without intellect. "

    , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth."

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/resalat-al-ghufran#ixzz1lI6DuZmZ and http://www.humanistictexts.org/al_ma'arri.htm

    "Death's Debt is Paid in Full

    Death's debt is then and there

    Paid down by dying men;

    But it is a promise bare

    That they shall rise again. "


    May 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  6. Robert

    Who goes to heaven? Really? Seriously? No, seriously?!? Is this now truly considered journalism?

    Who goes to Narnia?

    Who goes to Hogwarts?

    Who goes to never-never-land?

    CNN seems worried that if they stop accelerating their tabloid journalistic slide – tinker bell might die 🙁

    Golly Gee Dorothy, you must click your heals together harder! Click them harder! Harder!

    I don’t understand Dorothy, this works for Fox News…

    May 2, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Dave

      You really think this was about "going to heaven"? This is a strong study – examining how open-minded/tolerant people are within the Muslim faith, by various categories.

      Set your personal agenda aside and attempt to open your mind to value in things done/uttered by others.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Science

      Do an easy search.......... up on top of this page.................Type in Stephen Hawking..........heaven..........

      May 2, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Science

      BY the way gravity wins...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !..............BYE BYE tinker bell !

      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 2, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  7. SlackMeyer

    Who gives a ^%$@! what Muslims think? It's a gutter religion.

    Oh! Liberals/Progressives do! I forgot! They fell in love with Islam immediately after 9/11/2001.

    May 2, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Really muslims?

      Who cares? I know who won't. muslim terrorist murderers, that is who.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Rupert


      Oh! Liberals/Progressives do! I forgot! They fell in love with Islam immediately after 9/11/2001.

      Do you really believe that, or are you just trollin?

      May 2, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • SlackMeyer

      I ABSOLUTELY believe it... Liberals/Progressives hated ANY religion before 9/11. Since that attack, they'll knock you down to protect ANYTHING Islamic and repeatedly say that Christianity is WORSE than anything Islam has ever wrought.

      Believe me! I have working relationships with these people. One actually said that airports should be screening Christians and leave Muslims alone. And he means it... What kind of person thinks like that? Someone who can't distinguish between good and evil. And that would be a Liberal/Progressive.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • sam stone

      Really, Slack? Is that the best you got? Go home, boy, and get yer shinebox

      May 2, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • sam stone

      Gosh, Slack....I got plenty of religious people in my family, and their political views are diametrically opposed, To make a claim that liberals hate religion just shows you to be a mouthy bloward.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Rupert


      You need to get a grip. If there is any truth to you story, you can rest assured that that is not the case.

      May 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • sam stone

      Why should we use you as any sort of authority, SlackJawed? Because you have a "working relationship" with these people? We havewoking relationships with all sorts of people, too. Some of them quite liberal and some quite conservative. I have not run into any who display the characteristics you describe.

      May 2, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • sam stone

      SlackJawed believes only conservatives can discern good and evil.

      SlackJawed is an inbred cvnt

      May 2, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • Dyslexic doG


      May 2, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • mulehead

      Well I'm a Lib / Progressive and don't believe that...so your theory is incorrect. You may want to restate / reconsider your position.

      May 2, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  8. abcd1

    Faust Prophet are among us all on earth .more then any time on earth today . Believing is 100% of the problem , so who is right ? Believe is what it all about ,no matter where you live . Faust Prophet is the problem . The Bible ,which one tell of them ,Both tell same story in a different way . Believing is the key . Amen .

    May 2, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Didn't Faust trade his soul for unlimited knowledge?
      It might not be a bad idea to pay heed to an omniscient prophet, no matter the source of the knowledge.

      May 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  9. wakiash

    Religion is the refuge of those whom are weak of mind and spirit.

    May 2, 2013 at 7:18 am |
    • Logical fallacy

      Don't believe everything you read.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  10. Mindforms

    After 40,000 years of self-proclaimed "civilization," we continue to slaughter each other over which neolithic desert tribe's religious myth we believe. Intelligent species? Nope.

    May 2, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  11. jungleboo

    Abrahamic poison from the Middle East is the culprit , the cancer that will end up destroying whatever goodness there is in our society. It's the inane claim that there is 'one god' (and therefore one spokesmodel on Earth) who will do the interpreting for him/it. The three warring religions that were spawned by this nutcase dogma have damaged native cultures the world over in their 3000 year tirade for world domination. Need proof? Imagine, "The Holy Roman Empire". Imagine, "The Chosen People". Imagine, "Muslim Jihad". Together, they form the three-headed beast that continually bites and snaps at itself. The vicious creature is impossible to approach, with its six eyes looking everywhere at once. This monstrous image may have been digitally visualized in a popular movie, guarding a trap door in a tower, but it is a drop-dead accurate portrait of exactly what is going on. What's the evil thing guarding? It's obscuring the secret that your mind is born to be free. Middle Eastern religious concepts, by their very nature, reject that truth, brainwashing and mutilating their children with unnatural law, hiding behind an obvious set of "revealed commandments" as proof of their validity, and then screwing the rest of the Earth in the name of heaven. Crooked, crazy and cr@p.

    May 2, 2013 at 6:53 am |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    Islam is a cancer that wants the human race reduced to the barbaric, misogynistic life of the bronze age. It is a plague on all hope we have of growing as a species.

    May 2, 2013 at 6:53 am |
  13. John

    Lookee here. Folks fighting over just one more sky fairy. What a surprise.

    May 2, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Science

      It would be good for humanity if the fairy in the sky would go away !

      May 2, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  14. james iv

    Muslims are pagans. Mohammed plagiarized the Bible using all the same characters and places but making himself the final messenger and used the ancient Mesopotamian pagan god of the crescent moon Allah (for arab word association)as a replacement for the real Creator. Its a pagan heathen false religion written in kindergarten script. Worthless trash.

    May 2, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Muslims are not pagan!!! Paganism has been around a lot longer than muslims or christians have. I'm sure most pagans would be slightly pissed that you categorized them under that delusion.

      May 2, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Mindforms

      Said one believer in fairy tales to another.

      May 2, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  15. LAST DAY

    Moses and Jesus and David and Muhammad

    were/are the truthful Messengers of the same GOD (=i.e. YAHWEH ELOHIM = HUWA ALLAH)!

    Here is the Ultimate EVIDENCE:


    May 2, 2013 at 4:33 am |
    • Science

      Chomp Chomp.............in spanish........education for adults too !



      May 2, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • jungleboo

      Consider making this your last day, and move on. No god needs YOU as his warrior. Sorry to burst your bubble.

      May 2, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  16. mmi16

    Talk about sheep and not taking control of ones own life. Muslims are the original sheep – follow the Imanm and abdicate responsibility for your own actions.

    May 2, 2013 at 4:20 am |
    • Rupert

      Correction. Jews are the original sheep.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:50 am |
  17. Jesse Pinkman

    Muslims are not good people. They are told to lie to the non-believers or "infidels" as they call them. Muslims cannot be trusted. They want to kill everyone who does not believe in what they do. The word "Islam" translates into the word "submit" in english. Muslims have an agenda and it does not include other types of people. Muslims want the world all to themselves. Muslims are destroyers of a peaceful earth.

    May 2, 2013 at 3:30 am |
    • MrCrewel Dude

      All religions lie to themselves & others, but who cares, it's all bs anyhoo !

      May 2, 2013 at 3:32 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      You said,
      "Muslims are not good people."

      Yes they are. Muslims are good people. Terrorist are not good people. They aren't the same, any more than Catholics are the same as IRA terrorists. Same exact logic. I didn't invent it. You did.

      You said,
      "They are told to lie to the non-believers or "infidels" as they call them."

      No they aren't. This claim doesn't even merit additional response.

      You said,
      "They want to kill everyone who does not believe in what they do."

      No they don't. They're specifically forbidden to kill innocents of any faith. The only directive to "kill" anyone is to "slay" anyone in an army of another faith that.s trying to kill THEM. Do your homework before announcing such a stupid-a uninformed comment.

      You said,
      "The word "Islam" translates into the word "submit" in english."

      Incomplete and misleading. Not surprising, coming from you. It's full meaning is "Submit to GOD."

      How horrible! Can you imagine a Christian creed suggesting such an awful thing?

      You said,

      "Muslims have an agenda and it does not include other types of people. Muslims want the world all to themselves. Muslims are destroyers of a peaceful earth."

      All wrong. Muslims only want their own survival. If you can't understand that, consider their prohibition against killing innocent people of any faith. Does that sound like they want the world all to themselves?

      Get your head out of Rush Limbaugh's hindbrain and do your own thinking. Islamic terrorists do NOT represent their religion any more than the IRA terrorists represent the Christian religion.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      your reply is well written but still 90% lies. Islam is a cancer that wants the human race reduced to the barbaric, misogynistic life of the bronze age. It is a plague on all hope we have of growing as a species.

      May 2, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      @ Alan

      ME countries are shining examples of Islamic tolerance ....even Indonesia – one of the more moderate Islamic nations has 'witch' burnings, public floggings for morality crimes, and Islamic nuts beheading small children of other faiths.

      Even here in America...Seattle for example, there are Fanatics shouting the same BS on street corners as they did in London before a bomb touched off in the subway. same message – seems pretty universal to me.

      Usually Muslims tell us why we deserve their violence.....They speak of peace the way the Christians speak of love.....I just do not see it in either religion.

      May 2, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  18. dennis


    May 2, 2013 at 3:30 am |
    • Dippy

      Turn off your caps lock, dennis. It's a sign of stupidity. Of course we already know that by the content of your post.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  19. miscreantsall

    "“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.”"

    A total contradiction: Who they are and how they believe is not about religious freedom or tolerance.

    The separation of church and state is so foreign to these people and that is what makes them dangerous (well intended or not). Obviously, there are struggles else where with keeping government and religion separate, but at least the conversation is active.

    Sorry, American Muslims, your affiliation is troubling. Of all the "one god" religions, Islam is a real world problem with dire consequences for the future progress of the human species.

    Oh, and by the way, if there is a heaven, the great majority of Islamists will never ever see it.

    May 2, 2013 at 3:17 am |
  20. gimli420

    Who goes to heaven? Only astronauts (and cosmonauts). And they hope to return safe and sound.

    May 2, 2013 at 2:21 am |
    • Alan DeGolmon

      What does going to heaven have to do with astronauts and cosmonauts? Does the low-Earth orbit where the astronauts and cosmonauts go have something to do with heaven? Why should it?

      Earth is an utterly insignificant planet revolving around a yellow dwarf star (emphasis on "dwarf") in one spiral arm of an utterly insignificant galaxy out of billions of galaxies containing billions of stars each. Why should the microscopic missions of astronauts and cosmonauts into orbit around this dust speck signify anything approaching a "heaven" for this universe?

      If there is a "heaven" associated with a physical location in this universe, space explorers go no closer to it than we do, staying here on the Earth and riding the planet as it revolves around the sun in this backwater solar system.

      You might as well say that the bed lice that jump off the sheets when you lie down for night are heavenly explorers.

      Good grief.

      May 2, 2013 at 2:42 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.