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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. thd

    Jesus is the only way PERIOD. Anything else is FALSE doctrine.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • t3chsupport

      Muslims have Jesus. Muslims love Jesus. Christianity is more like Islam than it is like Judaism.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • sam

      Mohammad is the only way PERIOD. Anything else is FALSE doctrine.

      Thor is the only way PERIOD. Anything else is FALSE doctrine.

      Horus is the only way PERIOD. Anything else is FALSE doctrine.

      Zeus is the only way PERIOD. Anything else is FALSE doctrine.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Ya, hinduism fabrication of hindu Pharisees, ignorant secular s, self centered, the one never existed.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU

      April 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • dirk

      I thought the big spaghetti monster in the sky was the only way PERIOD.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      I thought a fast chick with big hoo-ters was the only way. PERIOD. Unless she's on her period.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • ..and for the good news;there is no Satan either !

      So sayeth you

      April 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  2. Darlene Buckingham

    In Christianity I was taught that those who believe in Jesus all go to heaven and those that don't go to hell. NEedless to say I am said NO to CHristianity and believe that those who care about life and do the best they can while here on Earth are the ones that create their own heaven. Anyone who lives with hatred in their hearts is going to create a living hell. Peace and prosperity to ALL. Every single living thing on Earth is sacred. EVerything matters. We need to care for ALL life, live with dignity, integrity and create beauty wherever we go.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Nicely said!

      April 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • A Conversation

      A beautiful thought, but patently misleading. God is sovereign.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      @ A Conversation: which god? Thor? Zeus? Ra? Allah? Vishnu?

      April 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  3. Cronus

    Just a reminder, god-less athiests have killed more people in less time then all the religons put together. Add the numbers up from the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Angola, Ethiopia and I can name many more nations and plus many movements like the FARC and Shining Path. Let's not be too quick to judge religons without looking at the behavior or should I say worse behavior of the non-religious.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • sam

      This bullshit argument has been shot down so many times that it isn't even worth trying again. Here's the short form: you're wrong, and stupid. Take your hard-on for atheists and jam it sideways in your crack.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • DB Cooper

      "God is not great." – Christopher Hitchens

      April 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Akira

      This ridiculous argument gets tedious. It wasn’t atheism that killed these people, it was totalitarianism. Do get a clue.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Just a reminder – your argument is fail.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • .

      Sure, like anyone anywhere can ever imagine some crazy person running around yelling "FOR ATHEISM!!!" before they kill someone.

      Sit in the corner with a dunce cap on, Cronus!

      April 30, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Billy

      I am an atheist and I have not killed anyone. This whole god thing has all you religious people brainwashed. We are
      The only saviors of this planet and your so called god will never intervene or save anything. Get over it already.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • ..and for the good news;there is no Satan either !

      Maybe you could provide one(ONE),quote by a leader of one of these movements,that declares that their crimes were done in the name of atheism.ONE !..I'll wait...................

      April 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  4. Islam4fools

    The reason there is a difference between US and international Muslims is because US Muslims are only 1% of US population.

    Muslims always play victim and claim innocence when they are minority. Once their population reaches a certain number, they start genocide of non-Muslim population to become supreme religion.

    Study growth of Islam in any country and this is the pattern you will see.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  5. B.

    No one goes anywhere, Heaven and Hell are part of the Mythology designed by Man to control the ignorant masses.

    You don’t have to be religious to be moral or evil to be immoral, it is personal choice decided by many things. We need to learn to make intelligent choices by education of the truth not Mythology.
    Evolution of the truth takes a very long time..

    April 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  6. Ur MOm

    ur mom made teh univerzez

    April 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  7. lathebiosas

    Ant, your "Jefferson Bible" was born of the fact that Jefferson looked upon Jesus as a philosopher, not as the son of God. If Jefferson was a Christian why did the Texas public school system take him out of their textbooks?

    April 30, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      He was not a christian by religion, but he was follower of truth absolute GOD, and he made sure HIM to be foundation of American consti tution.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      HINDU TROLL HAD TEXTBOOKS EVEN WORSE THAN TEXAS'

      April 30, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      hinduism absurdity of a hindu secular, ignorant self centered fro hind hole of the world called india.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU
      HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU HINDU

      April 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  8. William House

    Religion is the Delusional Belief that all your enemies will go to hell and that you will live forever.

    Religion is the vehicle which the wealthy teach you to scape-goat your neighbor and sell you on the idea you deserve poverty.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  9. Uncouth Swain

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

    I've always thought that the complaints of the athiest fundies revolve more around culture than religion. Most people of faith in the US are more open to human rights and freedom of the individual, while this lacks with most of the other nations. So when a anti-religious person complains about religions being violent and may point out Islam as an example....it's actually the culture they are having a problem with instead of the faith.
    That goes for the far right nutjobs that really have more of a problem with a culture than the faith.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Akira

      The people I see complaining about Muslims the most are Christians.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "The people I see complaining about Muslims the most are Christians."

      Christians do of course but maybe what I should have said was that the atheist fundies that complain about religion cite examples quite a bit from Islam that is not in the US but abroad. They are in fact complaining more about them from a cultural perspective than a religious one and should separate that in their arguments.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      SWAIN THINKS 'ATHEIST FUNDIES' IS AN ACTUAL LEGIT TERM

      PRETTY DEFENSIVE

      NO ONE IS BITCHING LOUDER ABOUT MUSLIMS THAN CHRISTIANS

      April 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @IFOB

      "SWAIN THINKS 'ATHEIST FUNDIES' IS AN ACTUAL LEGIT TERM"

      As much as any term I made up I suppose. Did I ever say youre going to find it in a dictionary? Please gorw up a little eh?

      "PRETTY DEFENSIVE"

      Who..you? It would explain the capslock habit of yours.

      "NO ONE IS BI TC HING LOUDER ABOUT MUSLIMS THAN CHRISTIANS"

      And I never once said that Christians was not complaining about Muslims. I would suggest you quit your delusions and focus on what is being said. Now whether Christians are complaining louder than anyone else...that is subjective to your pov. As I explained, those that complain about "religion" and bring up Islamic examples are in fact more complaining about the culture that the religion just happens to be in.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  10. Kelcy

    On all five of these the same things could be said for far right conservative christians. In fact, for the last decade or so they have been pretty vocal about claiming this is a christian nation, that our laws should be based on the bible, that their faith should be the rule of politics, that only those that believe of their faith will go to heaven and yada, yada, yada. It can be summed up (without a pew study) that religious extremists of all varieties believe essentially the same things. It also be said that almost all faiths (even the splits within christianity) believe that only their flavor of religion will be allowed into heaven.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • yep

      they are wackos.. which is why the FBI and CIA watch christian and muslim leaders so closely.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • looselycoupled

      That is true, both I'm not worried about right-wing Christians blowing up marathons...

      April 30, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  11. ctcushing

    Can we at least agree on how many virgins will be waiting there?

    April 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  12. brian

    Hell must by a nice place when you look at the people who are going to heaven.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Full of hindus, deniers of truth absolute in life.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      STOP OBSESSING ON HINDUS, JUST ADMIT YOU ARE HOT FOR THEM

      April 30, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • ..and for the good news;there is no Satan either !

      72...of course they will be dead virgins.Is there s e x in heaven?I'm guessing not.Beer?Movies?Sports?Not.But you will get to worship god FOR ETERNITY-Have fun with that belief.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • SCOTTA.

      yeah brian hell is a great place if you love burning alive 24/7 forever with no end wow people are ignorant. HOPE YOU ENJOY HELL FOOL!!!

      May 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  13. harrisonhits2

    "5.) Islamic extremism widely rejected, but still a concern"
    _______________________

    Bull. The vast majority of the world's Muslims are extremists living in Pakistan, the Middle East, India and Indonesia. How many times have we seen video and photos of angry crowds foaming at the mouth and rioting in the name Islam being insulted somehow ?

    Islam is the greatest evil in the world today. It is modern day Fascism and needs the same treatment that Naziism got.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • yep

      just like christianity is in third world countries. In te free world, we tamed christians.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Akira

      Oh, yes. The Pew study is completely bowled over by your knowledge.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Do not like kick on your hind, hindus criminals, do not act by hindu secular ism, criminal self center ism, or do not cry for having his hind kicked.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Sven

      Some people just can't handle it when facts run roughshod over their stereotypes.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      PAKISTAN IS THE HIND END OF THE PLANET, NEEDS SCRUBBING

      April 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  14. yep

    odd,, p-orn sales are down during Sunday services <– fact.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  15. Woody

    The only place we go at death is into the ground . We are the earth and the earth is us . When we die our brain shuts down like an old broken down computer . That is why we see things as we die that look outside of this world . Heaven is but an illusion from a short circuiting brain . Its that simple .

    April 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • yep

      if we live a good life, we pass in happiness with fond memories. The religious fear death as they begin to doubt the whole heaven fantasy.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      No, nothing as complex as the subject of our existence can be put into a few simple lines.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • yep

      must be why science requires far more books than religion.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Kelcy

      True statement Yep which is why Americans at least will spare no expense (so long as it is not their own money) to try to live as long as possible even if they are spending tens of thousands of dollars for one extra month. Always wonder why, if they are so sure that their god is great and heaven is great they they are less than content to go quietly into that dark night.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Militant Atheist

      The ants go in, the ants go out,
      The ants play pinochele in your mouth.
      Your eyes pop out, your teeth decay,
      And that is the way you look some day.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  16. yep

    again.. - your god that created this vast universe and was tired on the 7th day,, he should have been cleaning up his mess – you know, meteors and all.

    Not so perfect, huh..

    April 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  17. John Stefanyszyn

    ...it is clear from the survey that the 1st and most worshipped "religion" ( way of life) for Muslims is the way of life of "freedom of rights / freedom of all religions".
    They worship the same "god of fortresses" as do people of all other "religious faiths"....they worship "freedom".

    But it is Only Christ that will rule as the One King, not according to "freedom of rights", but according to the One Will of the Creator Father.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • yep

      and that was all made-up..

      April 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Akira

      And Muslims think that Islam is the only way to get into heaven.
      Quite the conundrum; quite the reason religions tend to be divisive.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  18. yep

    hey,, your god that created this vast universe and was tired on the 7th day,, he should have cleaned up his mess – you know, meteors and all.

    Not so perfect, huh..

    April 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • 1word

      meteors have their place. They actually protect planets. lol

      April 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      It is hinduism, absurdity of hindu Jews, criminal secular s by faith of Egyptian origin, having nothing to do with truth absolute of creation.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULL SH!T

      IN PAKISTAN ALL WOMEN ARE TREATED EQUALLY

      WITH FORCED MARRIAGE AND RAPE.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
  19. yep

    religions, including their jesus, learned goodness from good people. They can just never get it right.

    A good atheist will show you what good values are.. Religions and dictators will show you evil – Stalin, Mayo, christians, muslims..They love to control and brainwash.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Side view

      Yes a good atheist will show good values, as will secular humanists like myself. However I do not think based on your stereotyping and suggestion that all religious persons be forced to blow eachother away and be banned from civilization qualifies you as one of those "good atheists".

      April 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  20. spudnik56

    Since heaven does not exist...well figure it out...

    April 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      hard for a hindu denier of truth absolute to figure it out.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULL SH!T

      IN PAKISTAN ALL WOMEN ARE TREATED EQUALLY

      WITH FORCED MARRIAGE AND RAPE..

      April 30, 2013 at 6:26 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.