Most Muslims around the globe tend to be deeply committed to their faith and believe that it should shape not only their personal lives, but the societies they live in, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center (PDF).
Pew's face-to-face survey of more than 38,000 Muslims, including many in the United States, between 2008-12 produced a telling snapshot of attitudes and beliefs.
"In all but a handful of the 39 countries surveyed, a majority of Muslims say that Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven, and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person," the survey released Tuesday concludes. It adds that "many also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia — traditional Islamic law — to be recognized as the official law of their country."
Muslims living in the United States are much more likely than those in other countries to have close friends who are non-Muslim, the study concludes. U.S. Muslims also are much more likely to be open to the idea that religions other than Islam can lead to eternal life in heaven.
However, in a mirror of attitudes of American Christians, Pew says, Muslims living in the U.S. are more at odds with the scientific theory of evolution than those living elsewhere.
Nine out of 10 Muslims (including women) who were surveyed in Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Malaysia expressed the view that "a wife is always obliged to obey her husband."
On the subject of suicide bombing or other violence used in the name of Islam, 81 percent of Muslims in the United States disapprove, with fewer than 1 in 10 saying violence is justified "often" or "sometimes" to defend Islam. However, Pew notes that "substantial minorities in several countries say such acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 26 percent of Muslims in Bangladesh, 29 percent in Egypt, 39 percent in Afghanistan and 40 percent in the Palestinian territories."
Other findings include:
- Support for making sharia the official law of the land was highest in countries such as Afghanistan (99 percent), Pakistan (84 percent) and Morocco (83 percent).
- Some 37 percent of Muslims in Jordan, 41 percent in Malaysia and 53 percent in Afghanistan say religious leaders should play a "large" role in politics.
- Muslims around the world overwhelmingly think prostitution, homosexuality, suicide, abortion, euthanasia and consumption of alcohol are immoral. But attitudes toward polygamy, divorce and birth control are more varied.
- While a majority of Muslims in most countries disapprove of so-called honor killings, majorities in Afghanistan and Iraq say they condone the practice of extrajudicial executions of women who allegedly have shamed their families.
- At least half of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they are concerned about religious extremist groups, including two-thirds or more of Muslims in Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Guinea Bissau and Indonesia.
- Substantial percentages of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa perceive hostility between Muslims and Christians.