As many as four in ten Muslims living in Afghanistan and Palestine support the use of suicide bombing, an extensive new international survey has found.
The high support for the desperate tactic in those war-torn regions was nearly matched in Egypt and Bangladesh, where 29 per cent and 26 per cent of respondents agreed with its use respectively.
However, the worldwide poll of Muslims by the Washington-based Pew Forum found that in most countries three-quarters or more rejected suicide bombing and other forms of violence.
Four in ten Palestinian Muslims support suicide bombing, a survey says. And in most countries surveyed, Muslims were more worried about Islamist militancy than any other form of religious violence.
The report, which is based on surveys in 39 countries with large Muslim populations, also found that large majorities want the Islamic shariah code integrated with the official law of their countries.
However, there was widespread disagreement as to what sharia includes, and who should be subject to it, said the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Three-quarters of respondents said abortion is morally wrong and 80 percent or more rejected homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.
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 aftermath of a suicide bomb attack, in Kabul, Afghanistan: Nearly four-in-ten Muslims living in the war-torn central Asian country also support the use of such attacks, the international survey claimes.
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 justified.
Those punishments have helped make sharia controversial in some non-Islamic countries, where some fear radical Muslims want to impose it on Western societies.
The survey shows, however, that Muslim societies are far from monolithic in their views. “Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of sharia,”the study said. “Most do not believe it should be applied to non-Muslims.”
Unlike codified Western law, sharia is a loosely defined set of moral and legal guidelines based on the Koran, the sayings of Prophet Mohammad (hadith) and Muslim traditions.
Its rules and advice cover everything from prayers to personal hygiene. Princeton University political scientist Amaney Jamal, was special adviser for the project, said Muslims in poor and repressive societies tended to identify sharia with basic Islamic values such as equality and social justice.
“In those societies, you tend to see significant support for sharia,” she said. By contrast, Muslims who have lived under “narrow if not rigid” Islamic systems were less supportive of sharia as the official law.
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 per cent of Bangladeshis and 96 per cent of Pakistanis agreed, while the lowest Middle Eastern result was 77 per cent in Egypt.
The survey polled only Muslims and not minorities. In several Muslim countries, Christian minorities say they cannot practice their faith freely and are 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 per cent in Iraq, 55 per cent in Egypt – but falls to 29 per cent in Pakistan. By contrast, it stands at 81 per cent in Lebanon, 75 per cent in Tunisia and 70 per cent in Bangladesh.
Women wear the niqaab: Views on whether women should decide themselves if they should wear a headscarf vary greatly, but majorities in all countries asked said women should obey their husbands.
Views on whether women should decide themselves if they should wear a headscarf vary greatly, from 89 per cent in Tunisia and 79 per cent in Indonesia saying yes and 45 per cent in Iraq and 30 per cent in Afghanistan saying no.
Majorities from 74 per cent in Lebanon to 96 per cent 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 per cent in Lebanon and 34 per cent in Pakistan to 23 per cent in Iraq and 14 per cent in Turkey.
Conflict with other religions loomed larger, with 68 per cent in Lebanon saying it was a big problem, 65 per cent in Tunisia, 60 per cent in Nigeria and 57 per cent in Pakistan.
A section of the survey on U.S. Muslims noted they ‘sometimes more closely resemble other Americans than they do Muslims around the world’. Only about half say their closest friends are Muslim, compared to 95 per cent of Muslims globally.