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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. RichardSRussell

    Who goes to heaven? Equal numbers of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, Hindus, Mormons, Rastafarians, and animists. Also coincidentally exactly as many people as go to Oz, Narnia, Gethen, the Matrix, or Hogwarts.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • skarphace

      I went to Nirvana once. Does that count?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  2. Abdul Bun Humpin Kamel

    Their heaven is actually spelled H-E-L-L

    April 30, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  3. coreyjayb

    In favor of imposing Sharia Law on everyone, yet favors religious freedom. Does the hypocrisy never end? Where's the study on the actual teachings of Islam, of the Quran?

    April 30, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • P Script

      oh yeah, freedom of religion, as long as you obey the mullahs and muftas. You can forget about any other freeedoms.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • funkymonkey

      I imagine their idea of religious freedom in-line with Shariah law is something like their Medieval version of religious freedom in which there is religious tolerance of the other Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Christianity, but little for the non Abrahamic ones.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  4. skarphace

    Do Muslims go to Heaven? Do Christians? Do Mormans? Do Hindus? Do Pagans?

    Here is your answer: there is no Heaven. Therefore, nobody goes to Heaven. When you die, the simplest answer is the truth; you simply die.

    You did not exist before you were concieved, and you cease to exist after you die. Only people who cannot handle this simple truth argue about who goes or does not go to "Heaven" or "Hell".

    April 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Bill

      The humorous thing about your perspective is that it's a less than or equal to zero proposition. By that, I mean that you have to be absolutely right in order for everything to be ok with you eternally. If you're wrong, you burn. Oops.

      By contrast, people of faith have what you might call a greater than or equal to zero proposition. If they are wrong (and you are right), then they return to nothingness. No loss. If they are right, then heaven exists and they might go there.

      Interesting how math can help you see the risk you're taking. But maybe you're not the scientific type.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • cjacja

      You are right. But I wonder why humans are so predisposed to belief in the supernatural. Every group seems to have invented religion. Native Americans, the pagans in pre-roman Europe and so on. There must be some psychological reason for this.

      No, please don't say because religion is true. At best only one can be so you'd still need to explain the origin of the others.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • skarphace

      Risk? Why bring up risk? I do not decide what I believe. It makes no sense to decide what you believe. You either believe in something or you don't believe in something.

      If I had a choice, I would believe in an afterlife, but I don't have a choice. If I had a choice, then how is that belief? You are merely saying that you believe if you make it a choice. You are lying to yourself.

      Therefore, I believe as I believe and if there is a God and he punishes me for my belief, then so be it. If I lied and said I believed would God take pity on me? Would my "risk" be lessened? I don't think do.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  5. Wee Fooot

    Going to heaven? Maybe they have booked on the new Space Shuttle run by private business. They tested the craft a few days ago. Surprise for everyone though: there just is no hell, no heaven. It's just a manner of speaking, to control people and give them a chance to find their nobler selves, behave well and love their fellow men. Ain't no heaven. This is it. And the virgins are here. Paradise is not after death; it is here on earth. The premise of the religious promise is false, fake and a fraud. But they who believe the results of the survey above by PEW should be careful to accept them. You see, if I live in a Muslim nation say like Egypt or Saudi Arabia, what are the chances that 100percent of my friends will be Muslim? Gotta be 100percent, don't you think. Conversely, what are the chances that most of your friends in a Christian country would not be Muslims. That is not research to state what people already know. Nor is it research to speak to US Muslims and get a straight and true response; I mean, they have to cover their real feelings and lie to be politically correct. How will it look? All Muslims I met believe all other folks are infidels, and the entire planet should be a Caliphate. Phew on PEW.

    April 30, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  6. us_1776

    .
    "HEAVEN" WAS CREATED SO THE GREEDY COULD STEAL ALL YOUR MONEY AND YOU WOULD STILL HAVE A REASON TO LIVE !!

    .

    April 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • Hemlock

      Weak minds always need to follow someone or something. Blaze your own path!

      April 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Hemlock

      I hear you! It's like children at a magic show

      April 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  7. mark

    the five things I learned bout (insert you preferred religion here)...
    Well, actually only one relevant thing

    IT IS A LIE AND IS THERE ONLY TO CONTROL YOU

    April 30, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  8. us_1776

    .
    NOBODY GOES TO "HEAVEN".

    IT'S FICTION.

    .

    April 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  9. matic

    This is why we can't have nice things.

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

      ONLY MOHAMMAD, PAKISTAN DENIER OF ABSOLUTE TRUTH, HINDU, HINDU LOVER, ISM, SUCKULAR IDIOT OF LANGOUR, MORON, IDIOT, FILTH

      April 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  10. Adam

    No one knows who is going to Paradise. We can only make a guess. Why, because judgement belongs to Allah the Almighty.The best man can do is to pray for God's Mercy on him/her on that Day..... the day of reckoning. In a hadith of the Prophet... a woman would be sent to hell because she chained a cat and did not give her food nor let it go free to seek its sustenance. While in another case a woman would be given Mercy and her sins forgiven because she gave water to a dog who was dying of thirst. So even cruelty to animals will be punished...forget cruelty to another human being.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Paradise by the dashboard lights?

      April 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      But what about infidels, making partners to truth absolute GOD, HE promised to make them fuel of hell, did HE, not.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • skarphace

      We are already in Paradise. Unfortunately, we are destroying it bit by bit. Usually because we believe that "Paradise" is a unsubstantial place that we cannot travel to until after we die. Therefore, why care for what we have?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • cjacja

      You'd be a powerful person if you could get people to believe stuff like that. I suppose that is why there have been so many attempts at it.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  11. I AM GOD

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS HEAVEN, IT'S AS REAL AS FLYING PIGS

    April 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      MOHAMMAD A. 'GOAT PIG' ADAR

      LOVER OF HINDUS AND ANYTHING ELSE THAT WLL STAND STILL LONG ENOUGH

      April 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  12. Dan

    Aside from the fact that many Republicans would agree with the role of religion in politics – they'd really only disagree on which religion – someone please tell me how we are supposed to find any common ground with these people upon which to build a peaceful relationship?

    April 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Jonathan

      who is we?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  13. Scott f.

    I'm sure the muslims think only men go to heaven

    April 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • MeInSac

      Very funny! NOT!
      And, no, they don't!

      April 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • skarphace

      MelnSac: Really? So if a woman Muslim performs a suicide attack, does she get 72 male virgins?

      April 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  14. GnatB

    My takeaway? 44% of muslims in the U.S. don't really believe their own religion.

    From what I understand of judeo/christian/islam, If you don't believe your religion is the only path to heaven, (and you aren't just being PC) then you don't really believe in your own religion. They all have a "why" certain somethings gets you to heaven tightly tied into the foundations of that religion. If that "why" isn't true... the none of it is. If you believe your religion is "real" then it behaves like reality. And in reality, there typically actually is *truth*. You hold something in the air, let go, and gravity WILL make it fall.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • Dan

      Yep. What he said. they are really just agnostics disguised.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • JohnC

      depends what "believe in your own religion" means to you. For some their religion is a guide to how one should behave and if you basically behave well according to that religion then you can find your way to heaven. Behaving well certainly includes the major rules such as the ten commandments for many or simply Jesus' rules about loving one another, giving to the poor, etc. For others the key rules leading to heaven are much broader and stricter. Yet others focus less on behavior and more that only those that actually truly believe certain things will go to heaven. This latter group are more likely to feel that only their own religion leads to heaven.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  15. Sadened

    I don't know what is wrong with all of humanity but why doesn't everybody see that hate is the same hate it always was. It's not any prettier if you change it's direction.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Grammer police

      That should be 'its'.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  16. Pasha Utt

    Whether you read the Torah, New Testament or the Quran one point is common, that God is the judge not man. We do not know if when judgement comes if Allah will grant paradise for all the Muslims or all the Jews and Christians or even if He'll grant it to anyone other than the prophets. It is His choice since He took the name of Master of the day of Judgement.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • dirk

      As long as it's not the Mormans, those people are just too weird.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Dan

      Or... not. May just be that you are all completely wrong in every single way that you could possibly be wrong. May not be anything like a god or that if there is something like a god then it doesn't actually care about any of the things you think it does.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Utter Nonsense Is What Religion Is.

      What Dan said. Amplified 10 Billion times so as to be heard over the cacaphony of religious nutbars everywhere.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  17. thd

    God, who created you, is calling you today to come into fellowship with Him through Jesus.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      the one never existed.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      HE IS CALLING YOU HOME

      QUICK HURRY TO MEET HIM

      April 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Come to truth absolute GOD, through the one son of blessed Mary predicted to be savior of humanity, SPIRIT OF TRUTH, MOHAMMAD, AND FULFILL PROPHECY OF SON OF BLESSED MARY.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF BULLSH.IT

      WHATEVER WHATEVER BLAH BLAH HINDU ABSOLUTE ISM BLAH BLAH HINDU HINDU

      April 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      He's calling, is he? What, cat got his tongue? I don't hear anything but the deluded cawing of religious nut bars

      April 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  18. thd

    Who on earth since it's existence, that has portrayed themselves as savior of the world, has ever died for the human race. None but Jesus.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Two words too many.

      None.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      the one who never existed, he never died.

      April 30, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • One one

      You mean he tortured and killed himself to remove the curse he placed on us in the first place ?

      That doesn't make much sense.

      Perhaps it's because the people who created that myth didn't think it through we'll enough.

      April 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • G to the T

      "...has portrayed himself..." – He hasn't, others have portrayed their versions of him (different in each book).
      "....has ever died for the human race..." – Again, a later interpretation of the event.

      Most of Christianity Theology starts with a premise and then works backwards to confirm the premise.

      May 1, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  19. Nick Rymond

    GOOGLE" WELCOME BACK TO ISLAM JERALD DIRKS" He is just one of the many Priests/Pastors in America that have converted to Islam despite all the negativity Islam receives here in America. Stop watching FOXNEWS if you want the truth about Islam.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  20. t3chsupport

    Actually, I'm fine with that.
    Those countries who are really high in their support for sharia, closed off to the non muslims, they have those little margins of people who think differently.

    Those are the Muslims who come to stay with us. Those are the ones who have mostly broken through the brainwashing, and know better. If they hate freedom and democracy, they'll stay over there. If they want freedom, democracy, and openness between cultures, they come here. Sure, we get a crazy once in awhile, but we have plenty of our own as well.

    We should welcome the ones who wish to break the mold.

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

      TRUTH ABSOLUTE IS ALL YOU DO IS FANTASIZE ABOUT HINDUS

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

      April 30, 2013 at 6:34 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.