Most Muslims want Sharia, split on interpretation: Study

Most Muslims want Sharia, split on interpretation: Study

Most Muslims want Sharia, split on interpretation: Study

Muslim men listen to the imam during Friday prayers at a mosque in Myanmar’s Yangon in this photo. Many Muslims favor applying sharia in the private sphere to settle family or property disputes while majority of them want its law to be implemented as official law in their land, according to the PEW study. AFP photo

A majority of Muslims around the world want sharia law to be implemented in their countries, but they are split on how it should be applied, according to a study released April 30. The Pew Research Center survey, titled “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” was conducted between 2008-2012 and focused on 38,000 people in 39 countries drawn from the global Muslim community of 2.2 billion people.

A solid majority, notably in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, were in favor of sharia, traditional Islamic law, being adopted as “the law of the land” in their countries, it found. Support for sharia as the official national law stood at 56 percent in Tunisia, 71 percent in Nigeria, 72 percent in Indonesia, 74 percent in Egypt, and 99 percent in Afghanistan.

Conversely, in some countries where Muslims make up more than 90 percent of the population, relatively few want their government to codify Islamic law. In Turkey 12 percent support sharia as the national law while in Tajikistan, Azerbaijan 27 percent and 8 percent support respectively.

Princeton University professor Amaney Jamal, a special adviser to the Washington-based Pew Research Center, emphasized there is no one common understanding of sharia among the entire world’s Muslims. “Sharia has different meanings, definitions and understandings, based on the actual experiences of countries with or without sharia,” she said. The study also revealed that many Muslims favor applying sharia in the private sphere to settle family or property disputes. However, in most countries, there was less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to another faith. Unlike codified Western law, sharia is a loosely defined set of moral and legal guidelines based on the Quran, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (hadith) and Muslim traditions.

When comparing Muslim attitudes toward sharia as official law and its application in the domestic life, the study showed that three countries are particularly instructive: Turkey, Lebanon and Tunisia. The report said Turkey’s evolution in the early 20th century included sweeping legal reforms resulting in a secular constitution. As part of these changes, sharia courts were eliminated in the 1920s. Today, only a minority of Turkish Muslims back enshrining sharia as official law (12 percent) or letting religious judges decide family and property disputes (14 percent).

Dismissal of violence

The study showed that Muslims strongly reject violence in the name of Islam. Asked specifically about suicide bombing, clear majorities in most countries say such acts are rarely or never justified as a means of defending Islam from its enemies. In the United States, 81 percent of Muslims said such violence can “never” be justified - against a global median of 73 percent. However, violence won 40 percent support in the Palestinian territories, 39 percent in Afghanistan, 29 percent in Egypt and 26 percent in Bangladesh. Seventy-eight percent of Muslims in Turkey say suicide bombing is never justified, while 15 percent say the opposite.

Turks prefer ‘democracy’

A majority of Turks think a “democratic government” is better able to solve their country’s problems than a “strong leader,” according to the study.

In 31 of the 37 countries where the question was asked, at least half of Muslims believe a democratic government, rather than a leader with a strong hand, is best able to address their country’s problems.

In Turkey, 67 percent of Muslims say democratic government is better, while 27 percent of people prefer a strong leader able to solve their country’s problems.
Turks prefer ‘democracy’

US panel slams Europe's ‘aggressive secularism’

WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse

A U.S. panel criticized Western European countries on April 30 for “aggressive secularism” as it released a report on religious freedom that took aim at laws banning full-face veils in public.

For the first time, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom included a chapter on the region in its annual review of tolerance of other faiths around the world. Because Western Europe generally has a very good record, “it’s easy to overlook the fact that there are some problematic issues emerging there” related to religious dress and customs, commission chair Katrina Lantos Swett said. “In some countries a very aggressive secularism is putting people of religious faith in uncomfortable and difficult positions.” The report focused in particular on restrictions in Western Europe on religious attire and symbols, ritual slaughter, circumcision, and the building of mosques and minarets.

“These, along with limits on freedom of conscience and hate speech laws, are creating a growing atmosphere of intimidation against certain forms of religious activity,” the report said. It addressed laws in France and Belgium that ban the wearing of full-face veils in public, noting that Muslim women, who do so can now be stopped, questioned and fined by authorities.