Tuesday saw the release of a major international Pew Research study into the opinions of Muslims on a variety of topics. The full report (PDF) is here, but let’s just take a quick peek:
The study is a four-year effort by Pew, which conducted 38,000 face-to-face interviews 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. …
A majority of Muslims in Asia, Africa and the Middle East favored sharia law being adopted as the law of their countries, with the highest support recorded in Afghanistan at 99 percent. …The study says that 72 percent of Indonesian Muslims favor making Islamic law the official legal code in the country, compared to 86 percent in Malaysia and 77 percent in Thailand having the same opinion.
A strong majority surveyed said so-called honor killings could never be justified. The only exceptions came in Afghanistan and Iraq, where majorities condoned executions of women deemed to have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.
Finally, to Pew’s credit, it didn’t ignore the elephant in the room:
The survey found the global median for Muslims opposed to violence in the name of Islam was 72 percent.
Even though that group includes individuals like the 2009-era Tsarnaev brothers — then still moderate and not yet radicalized — let’s take it at face value and rejoice that a solid majority of Muslims does not openly engage in (or openly support) murder for Allah. 72 percent! Terrific!
Except … well, what about the other 28 percent? There are 1.3 billion Muslims on this planet. If 28 percent of them support violent jihad, that’s 364 million Muslims who condone the murder of apostates, blasphemers, gay people, cartoonists, loose women, and possibly everyone godless enough to attend the Boston marathon.
In the United States, the picture is only marginally better. Eight out of ten U.S. Muslims say it’s not cool to strap a bomb to your chest and kill a bunch of kuffar. But two out of ten say that’s dandy. There are 2.6 million Muslims living in the U.S. … x 19 percent … Yep, almost half a million of them give suicide bombers a big thumbs-up.
Relieved? Reassured? Me neither.
Now let’s take a closer look at the report itself (pages 68-71), rather than the summary:
The survey finds widespread concern about religious extremism in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle EastNorth Africa region. In nearly every country surveyed in these regions, at least half of Muslims say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about extremist groups.
So roughly half a billion Muslims have no such concerns. Got it.
In Indonesia, nearly eight-in-ten Muslims say they are worried about religious extremism (78%), including more than half (53%) who are worried about Islamic extremists.
That’s adorable. That means that 25 percent of Indonesian Muslims are worried about non-Muslim extremists (of which there are very few in that country) to the exclusion of the violent agitators, murderers, and terrorists in their own midst. And in their way, they’d be right. They themselves will likely not be the targets of fellow Muslims. That fate will have to be borne by Indonesian Christians, Buddhists, or agnostics — or by tourists brave enough to visit a Bali nightclub.
My main takeaway from the Pew study is that the Muslim world seems to be radicalizing at breakneck speed.
Consider: After Gallup opinion-polled tens of thousands of Muslims across 35 nations in the mid-aughts and released its report in 2007, we were told that Muslims were almost totally non-violent. They only desire that the West show a little “respect” for their religion.
At the time, Dalia Mogahed, the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, could hardly stop talking about how widespread the Muslim aversion to Islamic violence was. She said she found that 93 percent of her fellow believers don’t want to see a drop of blood spilled in the name of Mohammed. What she left out was that the seven percent who do amounted to 91 million Muslims.
No doubt there is a difference between Gallup’s questions and methodology on the one hand, and Pew’s on the other. But if their respective numbers are even in the ballpark, and in seven or eight years’ time we’ve gone from roughly 90 million devout self-confessed supporters of Islamic violence to more than 350 million, we may well wonder if the message that Islam is “the religion of peace” is getting through to the followers — much less anyone else.
A huge thanks to Pew for gathering and publishing the data. There is much to be learned from the report, and I’ve already spent a couple of hours poring over the fascinating data. Over the next week or two, in dribs and drabs, I’ll share more of the results.
[photo via Sultan Knish; graphic via pewforum.org]
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I find your report thoroughly fascinating and more than a little disturbing. I think that existentially I have lived more with ignorance of what it means to be a muslim than to know what it is to be an American of African lineage. Please keep me informed. Thank you.
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