New US study finds diverse beliefs in Muslim world

By AFP
Published: August 9, 2012

Muslims agree on the core principles of their faith, but differ widely in religiosity and religious tolerance: Poll PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: The global Muslim community of 1.6 billion people agree on the core principles of their faith, but differ widely in religiosity and religious tolerance, according to a poll published Thursday.

“Muslims are unified by core beliefs and in core practices” like faith in a single God, believe in the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and fasting during Ramazan, but “there are differences, sometimes widely” in religious interpretation, James Bell, the principal author of the new Pew Research Centre study, told AFP.

The report, which Bell said was “unprecedented” in scope, was conducted in over 80 languages in 39 countries that account for 67% of the world’s Muslim population.

Researchers interviewed around 38,000 people in 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 as part of a larger project on changes in global religions.

Between 85 and 100% of Muslims believe in God and revere Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), the survey said.

Eight of 10 people interviewed in sub-Saharan Africa as well as South and Southeast Asia say religion is “very important.”

But only six in 10 agreed in sample countries of the Middle East and North Africa, and only one in two agreed in former Soviet countries like Russia and some Central Asian republics.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Muslims aged 35 and over are more religious than their younger counterparts. The opposite is true of religiosity in Russia.

In 39 countries surveyed, men are more likely than women to pray at a mosque, which Bell explained “is likely to do with social culture about how women publicly observe their worship.”

Still, “in most countries surveyed… women are about as likely as men to read (or listen to readings from) the Holy Quran on a daily basis,” the report said.

Around 63% of Muslims in surveyed countries believe there is only one way to interpret Islam. Only 37% of American Muslims agreed with that statement.

In countries where Sunnis and Shias live side by side in large numbers – such as Lebanon and Iraq – believers are more likely to accept the other sect.

Conversely, in predominantly Sunni Pakistan, 41% of Muslims believe Shias are not true Muslims.

A quarter of everyone surveyed “identify themselves neither as Sunni nor Shia but as ‘just a Muslim.’”

Nine out of 10 Muslims interviewed were born into the religion.

Conversion rates are highest in former communist countries, with seven percent of all converts in Russia. Many of the converts were raised in atheism.

“When it comes to conversion … it is not playing a large role in expanding or growing the number of Muslims around the world,” said Bell.

Pew plans to publish another survey soon on Muslims’ social and political attitudes.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Gujjar
    Aug 9, 2012 - 10:58PM

    I don’t know whom did this guy surveyed in Pakistan. He says 41% of Pakistani Muslims believe Shias are not Muslims, yet we have got ourselves a President who is a Shia and frankly, I am yet to come across a Pakistani who has apprehensions regarding that!

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  • Muhammad Hassan
    Aug 9, 2012 - 11:29PM

    New study finds the sky is usually blue during the day.

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  • Ali
    Aug 10, 2012 - 12:23AM

    U miss read it……..It says “true Muslims”Recommend

  • PakistaniCanadian
    Aug 10, 2012 - 2:52AM

    @Gujjar:

    So what if the President is Shia? We’ve also had a female Prime Minister twice. Doesn’t mean women are treated equally in the country. The US has a black president. Doesn’t mean there is no racial intolerance in that country.

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  • Raj - USA
    Aug 10, 2012 - 4:04AM

    **”Nine out of 10 Muslims interviewed were born into the religion.”

    “When it comes to conversion … it is not playing a large role in expanding or growing the number of Muslims around the world,” said Bell.**

    Muslims in Pakistan have always claimed Islam is the fastest growing religion. Now we know the real reason for this growth. With such a high population growth rate, no wonder most muslim countries are always in a deep hole….. I mean economically.

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  • Rehan
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:26AM

    First Shi’ite Muslim President – PPP.
    First Woman PM – PPP.
    First Woman Speaker of National Assembly – PPP.
    First Woman Foreign Affairs Minister – PPP.

    Regards,
    Rehan

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  • Laurence
    Aug 10, 2012 - 6:05AM

    Duh… You need research for this?

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  • Saad BP
    Aug 10, 2012 - 6:25AM

    Between 85 and 100% of Muslims believe in God and revere Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), the survey said.

    Can someone explain how a person is called a Muslim when he does not believe in God and revere the Prophet?

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  • drivenCrazy
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:14AM

    Guys from the comments I see on the subject, I am sorry to say that all of them are so irrelevant at the moment !!!

    By saying this, I mean to draw your attention towards the fact that try to see beyond the text of the matter… see how closely are Muslims being studied, why is that so ??? why are they spending their precious resources like time and money and manhours and stuff like that on the subject…

    See it in light of the fact that where Muslims started from 1400 years ago, where they are today and where they are heading… the non believers have a firm grip on our pulse whereas we ourselves don’t… we had it when we started 14 centuries back but unfortunately we lost it somewhere in time, and there was something which made us loose it !!!

    I think I should leave it to all of you to think forward on these lines…

    Just to assist you in that, going through this newspiece is highly recommended (bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19049000)

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  • PakistaniCanadian
    Aug 10, 2012 - 9:33AM

    @Raj – USA:

    So it took a Pew Research Centre Study, conducted this year, for you to ‘realize the real reason for this growth’? That means until this day in the year 2012 you were still thinking there might be another reason? Seriously? Sure Muslims have always said Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. And it is! But I’ve never heard anyone put the reasons down to conversions.

    And if a high population growth is the reason for being in a ‘big hole’ economically, why is the US in the biggest hole of any country on the planet? Its population growth is quite low. What about Spain, or Greece, or Italy? All have low population growths and all are in serious economic trouble.

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  • A.
    Aug 12, 2012 - 7:14AM

    @driven crazy
    uff enough conspiracy theories. These goras research everything. They even research their own country people and religions.

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