A majority of Muslims in several countries say that any Muslim who leaves the faith should be executed, with the share who support this nearing two-thirds in Egypt and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, 78 percent say apostates should be killed… the effect is a deeply chilling one for religious freedom, with atheists and converts often persecuted.
A sweeping, 226-page report from the Pew Forum explores attitudes and opinions from Muslim communities around the world. In the process, it turns up some fascinating insights into not just the views held in the “Muslim world” but the wide diversity of those views between Muslim communities. Here, we explore some of those insights using maps and charts.
First, some caveats. The findings here do not represent all Muslims; just as they show diversity of opinion between communities, so, too, is there diversity within communities. After all, a poll of all American Christians would not capture the differences between Baptists and Catholics, much less between New Jersey Catholics and Louisiana Catholics. There is, in other words, no such thing as a monolithic Muslim worldview.
Also, Pew unfortunately did not survey the world’s third-largest Muslim population, which is that of India, and does not include Muslims from Iran, China or Saudi Arabia, much less those who now live in the Western world. But it does offer a wide, comprehensive view of many of the world’s largest Muslim communities and their opinions.
Now the data.
- Most want to implement sharia, disagree about what that means
Majorities of Muslims in wide swaths of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa say they support making sharia the official law of their country. Support is highest in Afghanistan, where 99 percent of respondents support sharia, followed by the Palestinian territories, Malaysia, Niger and Pakistan….
- Most Muslims prefer democracy
Wide majorities of Muslims in most countries say they prefer democracy over a “strong leader,” which is Pew’s standard question for determining support for democracy. Support is particularly high in Africa and Southeast Asia. It’s more mixed in the Middle East, with opinion varying between countries but generally leaning pro-democracy. Support is weakest in post-Soviet countries, as well as in Pakistan….
- Few support suicide bombings, with exceptions
Unsurprisingly, most Muslims say that suicide bombings in defense of Islam are never justified; majorities in every Muslim community surveyed reject the tactic. The only exception is the Palestinian Territories, where only 49 percent say they’re never justified….
- Most Muslims reject alcohol, often by wide margins
I admit that I was surprised by this: Across dozens of surveyed countries, a majority of Muslims in every single one said that drinking alcohol is “morally wrong.” The percentage of Muslims who reject alcohol soars well into the 90s in several countries, including in hard-partying Thailand….
- Mixed views on honor killings
Pew asked asked survey respondents “whether honor killings are ever justified as punishment for pre- or extra-marital sex.” In the practice, a person is killed — often by his or her own family — for having sex out of wedlock. The victim is typically a woman….
- Wide support for Islamic political parties
Most people surveyed tended to say that they prefer Islamic political parties to other parties, with exceptions in the post-Soviet world and, surprisingly, in Turkey….
- Majorities in six countries support the death penalty for anyone who leaves Islam
A majority of Muslims in several countries say that any Muslim who leaves the faith should be executed, with the share who support this nearing two-thirds in Egypt and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, 78 percent say apostates should be killed….
- Religious conflict seen as a big problem in Pakistan, Nigeria, Tunisia
In most countries surveyed, less than half of Muslim respondents said religious conflict was a very big problem in the country. But majorities do believe this in Tunisia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Niger….
- Most see Islam as compatible with modern society
Earlier Islamist movements have argued that Muslim communities should return to conservative, traditional practices because their faith is somehow incompatible with modern society. But, with a small handful of notable exceptions, this view does not appear to have taken hold; most Muslims say their religion is not in conflict with modern society….