The highly regarded Pew Research Center has gone to exhaustive lengths involving 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80 languages to evaluate the views of global Muslims on a wide range of important issues. The Pew Research Center is an American think tank, based in Washington D.C. and headed by Alan Murray, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal.
The just-published study of Muslim beliefs and opinions involved every country with more than 10 million Muslims, with the exceptions of China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, where interviews were not an option. This second part of the report which has been published in stages. “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society” follows the earlier publication, “The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity.”
Credit is given to James Bell as the primary researcher. Fieldwork was carried out under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International and Opinion Research Business. Amaney Jamal, Associate Professor of Politics at Princeton University, served as a special adviser.
We focus here on some of the more timely matters addressed in the Pew Report.
Should adulterers and apostates be put to death? An apostate, we recall, is an individual who renounces Muslim beliefs, in whole or in part. More than half of the global Muslim population believes in death for adulterers. In Afghanistan, 84 percent of Muslims would support death. In the Palestinian territories, the figure is 75 percent. Sixty percent in Egypt, and 53 percent in Iraq support death. Fifty-two percent in Malaysia favor stoning as a lethal punishment for adultery. A majority support death for those who convert away from Islam: in Afghanistan 78 percent, in Pakistan 64 percent, In Egypt 64 percent, and in the Palestinian territories 59 percent.
The majority of Muslims reject honor killings; some, particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Middle East/North Africa, deem them acceptable. In honor killing, it is usually the girl’s family who feels justified in putting the girl to death to protect the family’s honor. This relates to both pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Twenty-four percent of Muslims in Afghanistan, 22 percent in Iraq, 31 percent in Egypt, 44 percent in the Palestinian territories, and 45 percent in Lebanon say they think such killing is sometimes justified. Men are treated far less severely on similar issues.
A high percentage of Palestinians and Afghanis say suicide-bombing of civilians is justified.
There are two schools of thought as to the enforcement of Sharia (Islamic religious convictions as law). Some now believe that Sharia should be the law of the land, while some believe it should prevail in household matters. Iraqi and Afghan respondents believe Sharia is the only law, the revealed word of God, at the rate of 69 and 73 percent respectively. In Jordan and Pakistan the number is 81 percent. In most areas those who favor Sharia as the ultimate law are at 20 percent or lower. Overall, the Pew reports seem to indicate that Muslims “tend to be most comfortable with using sharia in the domestic sphere, to settle family or property disputes.”
The majority of Muslims worldwide consider drinking alcohol, suicide, sex outside of marriage, and homosexual behavior to be morally wrong. Except for in Azerbaijan, most now consider abortion to be wrong. Not a single respondent in Pakistan said abortion was morally acceptable. Muslims in Bangladesh, despite its growing population, have only 18 percent approval for abortion. Throughout the Middle East, approval for abortion was in the low single digits. Some regions consider polygamy and pluralities acceptable.
Thirty percent of Pakistani respondents said they believe in evolution. Only 26 to 27 percent of Iraqi and Afghan responders believe in evolution.
The choice by women to wear or to not wear a veil is an issue important in all regions. Twenty-three percent of Afghan men and 38 percent of Iraqi men said the choice is a woman’s to make. Still more liberal were the Egyptian, Palestinian, and Jordanian men.
Given a choice between having a strong leader and having a democratic form of government, most Muslims expressed a preference for democracy. Afghans and Pakistanis prefer a strong leader, as do Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan.
Nearly all Muslims worldwide consider the consumption of alcohol to be wrong. Only one percent of Iraqis, Afghans, and Palestinians found it acceptable. In westernized countries such as Albania, Turkey, and Tunisia, about 10 percent approved the drinking of alcohol.
The Pew Report showed that time and events change patterns of belief. Following several cases of alleged defamation against Islam’s founder, Muhammad, Muslims are now more likely to view Christians as being antagonistic, with those holding that view, particularly in Egypt, at about 50 percent.
The Pew Report is a highly significant tool for evaluation and decision making. I include some links above, and of course the World Wide Web contains a vast store of information.
Photos: Truthnet (org), PewForum(org)