Wednesday, August 20 2014

'Most Muslims want democracy, personal freedoms, and Islam in political life'


The US-based Pew Research Center has published a report looking at attitudes towards democracy, freedom and Islam’s place in political life in Arab and other predominantly Muslim nations. The findings come from a survey conducted by Pew in six countries; Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Lebanon. The report also contains a special section on Tunisian public opinion following the revolution. The poll is part of the broader spring 2012 Global Attitudes Survey which is conducted in 21 nations.

The survey finds that “More than a year after the first stirrings of the Arab Spring, there continues to be a strong desire for democracy in Arab and other predominantly Muslim nations.” Many publics support specific features of a democratic system, and a significant number want Islam to have a larger role in political life, though there are differences as to the nature of this role. The economy also remains a top concern for many in Muslim majority countries.

Some of the key findings are summarised below:

Views of democracy

•  Solid majorities in the Arab nations surveyed believe the 2011 popular uprisings will lead to more democracy in the Middle East, including nearly three-quarters in Egypt and seven-in-ten in Tunisia. Roughly two-thirds in Jordan and Lebanon agree.

•  Majorities in five of the six nations polled (and a plurality of Pakistanis) believe democracy is the best form of government.


•  Consistently, majorities in Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan and Jordan say is it important that a democracy have specific rights and institutions, and large numbers say these features of a democracy are very important. For instance, majorities in all four nations consider free multi-party elections and freedom of religion very important, and in Lebanon, Jordan, and Pakistan, majorities say free speech is very important.


•  Majorities in four of six nations believe they should rely on a democratic form of government to solve their country’s problems, rather than relying on a leader with a strong hand.


•  Other goals are also clearly important. Many say political stability is a crucial priority, and even more prioritize economic prosperity.


•  When respondents are asked which is more important, a good democracy or a strong economy, Turkey and Lebanon are the only countries where more than half choose democracy. Egyptians are divided, while most Tunisians, Pakistanis and Jordanians prioritize the economy.


•  Turkey and Saudi Arabia are seen as supporting the spread of democracy in the region, while the U.S. and Israel are widely viewed as opposing it.


Islam in Public Life

•  In five of six nations, solid majorities say Islam is already playing a large role in the country’s political life, with a larger number in Tunisia, Egypt (where islamist parties have been successful in recent democratic elections) and Pakistan, believing that this is the case than previously.

•  More than 60% believe Islam plays a large role in public life in both Turkey and Lebanon. Jordan is the exception, where only 31% believe Islam plays a large role in public life.


•  Broad majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt believe their nations’ laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Quran, including 82% in Pakistan. Meanwhile, respondents in Tunisia, Turkey and Lebanon are less likely to endorse a dominant role for Islam. Only about two-in ten in each country believe laws should be based strictly on the Quran. Rather, a majority in Tunisia and a plurality in Turkey say the law should follow the values and principles of Islam but not strictly follow the teachings of the Quran. Younger people are less likely to endorse a strict role for the Quran in Egypt and Lebanon.


•  A substantial number in key Muslim countries want a large role for Islam in political life. However, there are significant differences over the degree to which the legal system should be based on Islam.


Gender Equality

•  Majorities in all six believe women should have equal rights as men, and more than eight-in-ten hold this view in Lebanon and Turkey. Moreover, while many support the general principle of gender equality, there is less enthusiasm for gender parity in politics, economics, and family life.


•  Women are considerably more supportive of equal rights than men. With the exception of Turkey, where no gender differences emerge, there is at least a 10 percentage point gap between the sexes on this issue.



Views of Extremism

•  Extremist groups are largely rejected in predominantly Muslim nations, although significant numbers do express support for radical groups in several countries. For instance, while there is no country in which a majority holds a favorable opinion of the Palestinian organization Hamas, it receives considerable support in Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt.

•  Majorities in all the predominantly Muslim nations polled express negative views of al Qaeda, including more than seven-in-ten in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey.


•  Less than two-in-ten in all Muslim countries polled have a favorable view of the Taliban, with majorities in every country holding an unfavorable view. This distaste for the extremist Islamist organization is evident across age, gender and educational groups in each of the countries surveyed.


The research builds on and corroborates the findings of previous studies carried out by Pew looking at Muslim communities and attitudes towards democracy and Islam in public life. Specifically, since the first Pew Global Attitudes survey ten years ago, Pew have “consistently found broad support for democracy among predominantly Muslim publics", and this report in no exception.  One only need look to the Arab spring to see the thirst for democratic change which has swept many Arab countries. Previous research has also found minimal and waning support for violent extremism, and research by Gallup and the Coexist Foundation has found strong levels of national loyalty amongst European Muslims. Pew has also found that tension persists between the west and Muslim-majority countries, which is reflected somewhat in this study’s find that many Muslims believe that America does not supported democracy.

The full report is available to download here










Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 16:19

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