Pew Study: The World’s Muslims – Religion, Politics & Society

Pew have just released (April, 2013) the results of a study conducted over four years (2008 – 2012), aimed at detailing the attitudes and beliefs of Muslims across the globe.  It is a thought provoking read – the full report is available here:

http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society.aspx

Pew are a global leader in research.  Their mission statement reads:

“Pew is a global research organisation, operated as an independent, non-partisan, non-governmental organisation dedicated to serving the public.  Pew applies a rigorous analytical approach to inform the public.”

With respect to this research, here are the top line details:

The study included a sample size of 50,000 people, spread across 39 countries.  The interviews were conducted in the participants’ homes.

This is Pew’s description of the methods they used to ensure random samples:

“Interview teams were assigned to designated random routes at the block or street level and followed predetermined skip patterns when contacting households. Within households, adult respondents were randomly selected by enumerating all adults in the household using a Kish grid or selecting the adult with the most recent birthday.”

Before I get to some of the points I wish to highlight, it should be noted that the figures below represent the percentage of Muslims in any given country, not the percentage of the total populations, although of course in many countries in this study, this is tantamount to the same thing.  It is worth keeping in mind that the combined populations of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia alone equal 700 million people, with approximately 95% in total identifying themselves as Muslims.

To begin what I’m afraid is a most depressing tale, I will include Pew’s own explanation as to why not all results are available for every country:

“In some countries, pre-test results indicated the need to suppress certain questions to avoid offending respondents and/or risking the security of the interviewers. In other countries, interviewers considered some questions too sensitive to pre-test. Thus, not all questions were asked in all countries.

For example, interviewers in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Morocco indicated that certain questions about sexual preference and sexual behaviour were too sensitive to be asked. Questions on these topics were either eliminated or modified in these countries.”

Finding out that your interviewers lives may be at risk simply for asking questions must have been an ominous beginning.

The research dealt with attitudes towards issues including suicide bombing, Shari’a, honour killings, wearing of the veil, sexuality, sexual equality, abortion, western culture and many more.  Below I’m only highlighting four charts, but I would implore you all to view the entire study.

 

For this first chart, the results represent the ‘no’ responses.  So 70% of Muslims in Afghanistan believe men should decide what women wear.  I’ve chosen to include only those countries who came in at under 50% in relation to the question.

 

In this second chart, the results represent the ‘yes’ answers.  I have included only those over 50%.

No selection was necessary to highlight the problem for this third set of results

 

All available responses are also included for my fourth example – the results represent those who answered ‘yes’ or ‘often justified’

 

It’s impossible to exaggerate the alarm bells these results should set off in our minds.  With regards to the question on suicide bombing, the answers for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Egypt alone represent 100 million people.  It also seems fair to conclude that over a billion Muslims think that homosexuality is immoral.  To say that at least 80% of Muslims believe a wife must always obey her husband, appears on this evidence to be a generous, conservative estimate.

As a snapshot of the levels of tolerance and commitment to sexual equality in Muslim majority communities, this study deals a tragically disheartening blow.  The response from liberal Muslims and non-Muslims alike must be an urgent call for reform.  This can only be initiated by a commitment to honest conversation and a preparedness to critique Islamic doctrine (ideas, not people).  An over willingness to obfuscate the truth or cry ‘Islamophobia’ (a disingenuous term that conflates the criticism of a book with racism ) can only hope to hinder progress.

None of this is a denial of the existence of anti-Muslim bigotry, which is abhorrent, unjustified and must be resisted with every sinew.

Finally, please remember that those who suffer most at the hands of religious fascists are Muslims themselves, especially Muslim women, homosexuals and free thinkers.  I choose to stand with them.  Please join me.