New York - Large majorities in the Muslim world want the
Islamic legal and moral code of sharia as the official law in their countries,
but they disagree on what it includes and who should be subject to it, an
extensive new survey says.
Over three-quarters of Muslims in the Middle East and
North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia want sharia courts to decide family
law issues such as divorce and property disputes, the Pew Forum on Religion and
Public Life said on Tuesday.
Views on punishments such as chopping off thieves' hands
or decreeing death for apostates is more evenly divided in much of the Islamic
world, although more than three-quarters of Muslims in South Asia say they are
Those punishments have helped make sharia controversial
in some non-Islamic countries, where some critics say radical Muslims want to
impose it on western societies, but the survey shows views in Muslim countries
are far from monolithic.
"Muslims are not equally comfortable with all
aspects of sharia," said the study by the Washington-based Pew Forum.
"Most do not believe it should be applied to
Unlike codified Western law, sharia is a loosely defined
set of moral and legal guidelines based on the Qur’ran, the sayings of Prophet
Muhammad (hadith) and Muslim traditions.
Its rules and advice cover everything from prayers to
Politics and violence
More than four-fifths of the 38 000 Muslims interviewed
in 39 countries said non-Muslims in their countries could practice their faith
freely and that this was good.
This view was strongest in South Asia, where 97% of
Bangladeshis and 96% of Pakistanis agreed, while the lowest Middle Eastern
result was 77% in Egypt.
The survey polled only Muslims and not minorities.
In several Muslim countries, embattled Christian
minorities say they cannot practise their faith freely and are in fact subject
to discrimination and physical attacks.
The survey produced mixed results on questions relating
to the relationship between politics and Islam.
Democracy wins slight majorities in key Middle Eastern
states – 54% in Iraq, 55% in Egypt - and falls to 29% in Pakistan.
By contrast, it stands at 81% in Lebanon, 75% in Tunisia
and 70% in Bangladesh.
In most countries surveyed, Muslims were more worried
about Islamist extremism than any other form of religious violence.
Suicide bombing was mostly rejected, although it won 40%
support in the Palestinian territories, 39% in Afghanistan, 29% in Egypt and 26%
Sex and veils
Three-quarters say abortion is morally wrong and 80% or
more rejected homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.
Views on whether women should decide themselves if they
should wear a headscarf vary greatly, from 89% in Tunisia and 79% in Indonesia
saying yes and 45% in Iraq and 30% in Afghanistan saying no.
Majorities from 74% in Lebanon to 96% in Malaysia said
wives should always obey their husbands.
Only a minority saw Sunni-Shi'ite tensions as a very big
problem, ranging from 38% in Lebanon and 34% in Pakistan to 23% in Iraq and 14%
Conflict with other religions loomed larger, with 68% in
Lebanon saying it was a big problem, 65% in Tunisia, 60% in Nigeria and 57% in