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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
[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. STFU

    root cause of Islamic EVIL ism is Wahabi ism.

    April 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      No, evil is hindu secular ism, criminal self center ism, way of hindu Lucifer, ignorant self centered, god of hindu secular s, self centered, cause of mayhem, Karma on earth.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Answer

      slam, go, boom.

      Boom, tomorrow.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  2. David Murray

    It is my fond hope that in the next 100 years we'll see organized religions go the way of Zeus and Ra. Sure, we'll study them. We'll even find them fascinating. We'll keep relics around and treasure the history. But we won't BELIEVE the stuff. We won't make decisions for OTHER PEOPLE based on these ridiculous beliefs. Religion is a cancer of human civilization.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • Perry

      David, I so hope that you are right. And I agree that religion is like a cancer on humanity.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • Rex

      Almost all Muslims believe in Sharia Law. That is the real cancer.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • faith

      atheism has run its course–to nowhere, and will be even further discounted as a new age alternative religion than ever before

      April 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • PeterVN

      As that great earlier blog comment said,

      "Religion is for the ignorant, the gullible, the cowardly, and the stupid, and for those who would profit from them."

      April 30, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Faith .In what way have those who understand the world in real terms run their course?

      April 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  3. OOO

    "Additionally, U.S. Muslims were more likely to have friends who were not Muslim."

    Well, duh! When you live in a country the is 95%+ muslim, you don't have much of a chance having as many non-muslim friends as US muslims do.

    And could it be muslims in Afghanistan are afraid to acknowledge they are NOT for Sharia law, in a country that predominantly IS for sharia? Would you stick your nose out like that?
    The numbers are obviously not going to be totally accurate.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  4. JoeSeattle

    It's amazing how willingly people display their ignorance.

    Whether or not one believes in Christianity, their great commission is right there in the Bible for all the world to read: Go out and make disciples of all nations, i.e. share the gospel and CONVINCE others to believe.

    The Islamic great commission is also plainly writting – in the Quran. It says go out and take control of all nations. Hence why Islamics have no quarrel with freedom of relivion. The Quran does not require believers to convince anyone of anything, just to control them (and specifically make them pay tribute (taxes) to Islamic rulership.

    These are very different things. Anyone who has bothered to familiarize themselves with the teachings of Christianity will easily know that its teachings very specifically set politics aside as a separate matter. Islam is a creed of world domination.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • Bob

      Joe, given that your bible contains horrid instructions from your nasty deity like the following, I think we are better to put it away and instead work on solving some of the problems on our planet. From both testaments of your book of nasty:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Leviticus 25
      44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
      45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
      46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      April 30, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • Greg

      Baloney. Christianity is just as serious about controlling nations, starting with the US. Ever hear of Dominionism?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominionism

      April 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • MG

      If what you say about Christianity and politics is true, then most Christians in this country haven't read the bible. They are involved in politics of all kinds based on their religion or imposing their religion. I'm sorry, but the notion that Christians don't think that politics and the laws should reflect their religion in this country is blatantly false.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Archaia

      You're kidding, right? Christianity has been just as horrible for humanity as Islam. You can't condemn one religion without dealing with the failures and atrocities of your own.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Aine57

      Bob, anyone can quote the Bible. Anyone can point how horrible everything in organized religion is. What I don't see if any proof that 95% of all Christians accept the things you have stated as indicative of their beliefs. The only Christians I have ever known of who might support this stuff are either in a cult or Westboro Baptist. I have NEVER met a Christian in a mainstream church who thought that the things you quote from thousands-year-old scripture are good ideas to live by.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Just Sayin...

      So you don't believe the bible, but you believe in the god that the people of its day invented. Then what does describe your religious beliefs? Nothing other than current group non-think.

      Um wait...

      April 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Gus

      All religions = cults. Christianity especially.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  5. Plain_Simple_Fact

    I prefer religions like Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism that acknowledge that there are multiple ways to attain salvation and reach a state of divinity. Religions that work on the assumption of my-way-or-highway are more like cults- radical, brainwashed, violent, exploitative, and nothing spiritual or divine about those kinds.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Secular but sad about it

      I like all of them. I really and truly wish one of them were correct. I have searched for scientific evidence to back up the existence of a soul. I have not found it. I hope one of them is correct. Living on indefinately even in another life is a lovely idea.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  6. TAJW

    Rather glaring misstatement in the article:

    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.

    Yet in the same section of the article, it has the statement:

    “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,” and "...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%."

    It's pretty obvious that the majority of Muslims are not overly concerned about extremism, and a very large percentage feel that suicide bombing is justifed. Can you name any other religion or group of people in which a large percentage feel that way?

    I thought not. Maybe Islam is the problem, despite the deniers.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Ever hear of Northern Ireland?

      April 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  7. Plain_Simple_Fact

    Muslims in South Asia, including India & Pakistan are THE most radical. Unfortunately, India doesnt recognize the problem due to votebank politics, and Pakistan in any case is a country is yet to find a purpose for its existence, other than hating India and non-Muslims. It's plain, simple, fact.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  8. beernpizzalover

    Nobody goes to Heaven. Atheists realize this already. And, someday, everyone else will, too...

    April 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Robert

      What if we are already in heaven, and this is as good as it gets?

      April 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
    • Ryansdad

      Wow, what a contradictory religion. Imagine the outpouring of hatred Christians would endure if 40% of us polled said it were ok to murder (suicide bomb) others to further the Christian belief. It's amazing how this article glossed over that part of the poll and seem to chock up the radicalism to a few when in fact the poll clearly states its not a few but many! Islam is the plague of the world and I'm scared for the future !

      April 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  9. ol' pink

    ThruthBknown...when you keep your lack of belief to yourself then we'll keep our belief in a higher power to ourselves.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • OOO

      We waited 2000 years. That's too long in my book. Now you will have to hear us for a while.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      LOL HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      Religion has been forced down peoples throats for thousands of years. It should be treated like a penis, It's all good to be proud of yours and love it, but don't wave it around in public and shove down other peoples throat.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Promises, promises from those of "faith". If your faith is so strong, why do you have to keep blathering on about it, trying to shove it down everyone else's throat and codify it into law?

      April 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Haha the penis analogy is a good one!

      April 30, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Stephen Jones

      Hilarious Free Thinker! Thanks for the laugh.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Jenna Jameson

      Personally I like it a lot.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Of course you understand that you have it backwards, It's your belief in a sky-fairy that you have no evidence for that prompts the non-believers to point out the obvious inconsistencies and pretzel logic required to have your faith.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  10. STFU

    "Muslims broadly support the idea of religious freedom', yes when muslims live in non-muslim countries, other way around NO. try taking pictures of Jesus through airport security in Saudi airports. Oh by the way, they have religious police forcing non-muslims to observe Ramadan, means you're not allowed to eat or drink in public during month of Ramadan. Ya right they believe in religious freedom.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Rex

      Muslim's idea of religious freedom means that they want the freedom to follow the Sharia Law to freely kill all non-Muslims. Overwhelming majority supports that.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Islam foundation etc.. I hope you get enough education during the rest of your life to allow you to become an atheist, and understand the real truth behind life the universe and everything..

      April 30, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      And the christians in the USA are for religious freedom?. They want their religious symbols on public buildings, their god mentioned on the currency, they want to teach their religion in schools in place of history and science, they want their religious views to dictate the law of the land.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  11. Jesus Is Lord

    Jesus is the answer. He is the ONLY way to the Father in Heaven. Trust your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, obey and be saved!

    April 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Snooze

      April 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • OOO

      Thank you for your meaningless diatribe.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      The same old "obey or else" scare tactic that is primarily used by those who know they have absolutely no evidence to back them up.
      It's pretty sad actually.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Stifle yourself. If all you zealots kept your "opinions" to yourself, this world would be a better place. Religion is the number ONE cause of death and human suffering.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • STFU

      Jesus is Lord or the answer, try that in Iran.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Odin

      I am the real god. If you continue to follow that feeble Jesus wuss, I'll whup yo ass.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Plus Valhalla sounds a lot cooler than the boring Christian heaven of worshipping that vain god for all eternity.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
  12. GrowUp

    Anybody ever wonder why God just doesn't solve all problems, and stop with the "worship me or else" threat? Just wonderin' out loud here.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Because he doesn't exist, God was created by man.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • GrowUp

      Well we could do MUCH better in creating someone to worship.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  13. You People Are Stupid

    Anyone who believes in a god is ignorant.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      AMEN to that

      April 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • GrowUp

      You mean it is ignorant to believe in a guy in the sky who watches and controls everything?

      April 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • Stephen Jones

      The Flying Spaghetti Monster will punish you for your lack of belief!

      April 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • JustTheFacts

      Anyone too stupid to know that God exists is beyond ignorant....

      April 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  14. Rex

    86%-99% of Muslims want Sharia law. It's shocking to know that overwhelming majority of Muslims want to live in the stone age. Muslim immigration to civilized countrie should be reconsidered.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • GrowUp

      The Stoneage utopia is not unique to Muslims.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Rex

      @Growup - Overwhelming majority of Muslims want Sharia Law. I do not know of a non-Muslim country which wants to follow brutal, primitive laws. Name one non-Muslim country which wants to follow such religious laws.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • chuckmartel

      In addition to imposing their dark age ways on the countries they invade, they bring nothing but genocidal horror. At 1 percent the US population, they are already responsible for a disproportionate amount of terrorist attacks and incidents, Every day they blow up other muslims in muslim countries. The US already has more than its share of bible banging religious zealots and nutjob psychos. .

      April 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • GrowUp

      @Rex–ever hear of the United States and antiquated Christian notions being put into law? My, my how objective you aren't.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
    • GrowUp

      And what exactly do Evangelical Christians want?

      April 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Archaia

      ... why? Most Christians I know want to see the US ruled by Christian law. As an agnostic, that sounds just as oppressive as Sharia law.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  15. Karma

    There are a lot of Muslims that will enjoy their next existence, which may seem like heaven, and a lot of them who will not, because it will seem like Hell. Of course Christians have the same to look forward to.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
  16. truthBknown

    Religion will be the ultimate downfall of mankind. If you're religious, keep it to yourself. It's all make believe because you are afraid of the unknown.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Rex

      Please do not generalize. Not all religions. Just one in particular is an outlier.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Akira

      And which religion would that be, Rex? Don't be divisive now, or anything...

      April 30, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Rex

      @Akira - Take a wild guess.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • GrowUp

      I guess Rex has never been to Northern Ireland.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
    • GrowUp

      or Uganda.

      April 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  17. ALLuh

    Religion has retarded mankind far too long, time to grow up, especially the violent ones. If there is an afterlife, certainly it applies to every human.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  18. THETHOUGHTPOLICE

    The wars will continue for a long long time. its really unslovable because Its an idiology thats not compatible in the western world and vice a versa. Throw in natural resources, Israel, educated muslims, technology and the Nuclear weapons and you can say its just a matter of time....

    April 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  19. STFU

    all religions are about practicing, not forcing on someone.

    April 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • Perry

      Well, except for Christianity, Islam, and all the rest of them that threaten torture and hellfire if you don't follow along with their bizarre chorus. No thank you.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • Juliett13

      Really?? What a bunch of contradictory crap! Almost all Muslims want Sharia law to be the law of the land, and they want it to dictate their governments, but almost all of them claim to support others being allowed to practice other faiths?? This is not possible as Sharia law dictates that anyone who does not follow Islam is your enemy and to leave Islam or to practice any other religion is punishable by death as all enemies of Islam should die. Sounds to me like someone is lying to cover up how they REALLY think and feel so that the bleeding hearts who are tolerant of Muslims will continue to sing the praises of their Islamic "friends" against the rest of us who see Islam for what it really is. A dangerous cult and force that destroys the countries that use it's teachings in it's government.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  20. GrowUp

    Why does God allow suffering? Is He petty or a sadist?

    April 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Perry

      Man made him that way.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • GrowUp

      We might to go back to the drawing board.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • skarphace

      Perry: very true. We created God in our image.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • Athy

      We just pissed him off too many times.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Tom

      Read the Bible–your question about suffering is discussed and answered at length.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • Perry

      Practically everyone in North America has read the bible. Some of us are just smart enough to understand that it is all man-made, all the time.

      April 30, 2013 at 8:57 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.