The Pew Research Center just issued a report on Islamic beliefs: “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society” (a one page summary here). The researchers surveyed over 38,000 people in one-on-one interviews in 39 countries—all countries having more than 10 million Muslims. Unfortunately, they left out Saudi Arabia and Iran, where, they note, “political sensitivities or security concerns prevented opinion research among Muslims.” This alone suggests that including those countries would have given the data an even more extremist slant than they had. Here’s where Pew surveyed:
For a quick overview, read the executive summary at the second link above; I suppose those who are both pro- and anti-Islam will find succor in that summary. For example, here’s how the countries rank in how their inhabitants see the compatibility of science and Islam:
and this may reassure those people who argue that support for terrorism is not a majority Muslim view (I’ve never maintained that, by the way, only that supporters of terrorism aren’t a tiny fraction of Muslims):
(One could, however, question whether 13-40% is a “tiny minority” of extremists.) Overall, 8% of Muslims interviewed said that suicide bombing iseither often justified or sometimes justified to defend Islam, with numbers near 40% is Afghanistan and Palestine.
On the other hand, much of the data are like this, and not heartening at all:
Stoning, noted as proportion of those (see above graph) claiming that sharia should be “the law of the land”:
That’s scary in view of the high proportion of Muslims that think sharia should be the law. Equally scary are the data on how to treat apostasy:
The morality of homosexuality, from among all Muslims surveyed:
The place of women (usually to STFU):
Remember again that these data exclude Saudi Arabia and Iran. There’s little doubt that adding those nations would increase the oppressiveness factor in these data.
But go and see the survey yourself, as the pdf is free, and those who see Islam as no worse than other faiths will be able to find something to support that view.
One things worries me about these results, and it’s not because I’m determined to find Islam as an pernicious faith (that’s already known). It’s that these data were obtained by face-to-face interviews rather than anonymous written questionnaires, and I suspect that people want to appear less extreme when they’re being asked to answer verbally. What makes me think this is the disparity in the results of the Pew survey on the evolution-friendliness of Muslims with those of a previous survey conducted by written response. Here’s the results from this Pew survey, which, frankly, surprised me:
Compare these figures with those published in 2008 by Salman Hadeed (Bracing for Islamic creationism. Science 322:1637 – 1638), with data taken from a 2007 study of Riaz Hassan (On being religious: patterns of religious commitment in Muslim societies. The Muslim World 97:437-478). The disparity is striking. The Pew Survey shows 30% of Pakistani Muslims accepting evolution (and 38% creationists), while the Hassan survey shows only half that degree of evolution acceptance. Pew shows that 37% of Malaysian Muslims are down with evolution; the Hassan survey’s figure is about 12%.
The difference? Well, it could be how the questions were framed, but given the historically high resistance of Muslims to evolution, I suspect it reflects a difference between verbal interviews (Pew) and written questionnaires (Hassan). Indeed, Hassan’s survey concentrated on the Muslim elite. Hassan notes in his Appendix:
After considerable consultation with local colleagues, it was concluded that the only way to capture the elite dimension was to focus on highly educated groups occupying professional, economic, social, religious, cultural and bureaucratic positions in the mainstream social structures of their respective societies. The sample in each country was therefore stratified by those who were active in major legal religious organizations and highly educated respondents who were actively involved in professional, business, bureaucratic and cultural organizations. About 30 percent of each sample was chosen from the general public. In each group, between 20 and 45 percent of the respondents were women.
I’m not nearly as concerned with the effects of Islam on creationism as I am on other things, like oppression of women, enforcement of despotic sexual mores and other behaviors, and pervasive prosyletizing. The disparity in the evolution data makes me wonder if the other data given by Pew are really a good overview of Muslim belief. (Do note that other surveys of Muslims show more extreme opinions than does Pew).
I’m also aware that these data aren’t compared to those of other faiths, but I doubt that as many Quakers or Catholics would like to see their religious dictates become law of the land, or would favor stoning for adultery or death for leaving the faith (Catholics just excommunicate you).
But I’ll leave it to you to read and interpret the data for yourselves.