|The Pew Research Center has released a report on surveys conducted exploring the unity and diversity of the world’s Muslims looking at areas of doctrine, religious practice, religious commitment, and the boundaries of religious identity and religious practice.|
On the report’s aims and methodology:
This report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life seeks to describe both the unity and the diversity of Islam around the globe. It is based on more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in over 80 languages with Muslims in 39 countries and territories that collectively are home to roughly two-thirds (67%) of all Muslims in the world. The survey includes every country that has a Muslim population of more than 10 million, except those (such as China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria) where political sensitivities or security concerns prevented opinion research among Muslims.
The survey was conducted in two waves. Fifteen sub-Saharan African countries with substantial Muslim populations were surveyed in 2008-2009, and some of those findings previously were analyzed in the Pew Forum report “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.” An additional 24 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe were surveyed in 2011-2012; those results are published here for the first time. This report on religious beliefs and practices, however, is just the first of two planned analyses of the survey data. The Pew Forum plans to issue a second report, focusing on Muslims’ social and political attitudes, in late 2012 or early 2013.
From the report’s executive summary:
“The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are united in their belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad and are bound together by such religious practices as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and almsgiving to assist people in need. But they have widely differing views about many other aspects of their faith, including how important religion is to their lives, who counts as a Muslim and what practices are acceptable in Islam, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
“[I]n addition to the widespread conviction that there is only one God and that Muhammad is His Prophet, large percentages of Muslims around the world share other articles of faith, including belief in angels, heaven, hell and fate (or predestination). While there is broad agreement on the core tenets of Islam, however, Muslims across the 39 countries and territories surveyed differ significantly in their levels of religious commitment, openness to multiple interpretations of their faith and acceptance of various sects and movements.
“Some of these differences are apparent at a regional level. For example, at least eight-in-ten Muslims in every country surveyed in sub- Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South Asia say that religion is very important in their lives. Across the Middle East and North Africa, roughly six-in-ten or more say the same....Some of these differences are apparent at a regional level. For example, at least eight-in-ten Muslims in every country surveyed in sub- Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South Asia say that religion is very important in their lives. Across the Middle East and North Africa, roughly six-in-ten or more say the same.
“Generational differences are also apparent. Across the Middle East and North Africa, for example, Muslims 35 and older tend to place greater emphasis on religion and to exhibit higher levels of religious commitment than do Muslims between the ages of 18 and 34...And the survey finds that in one country – Russia – the general pattern is reversed and younger Muslims are significantly more observant than their elders.
“There are also differences in how male and female Muslims practice their faith...And there are no consistent differences between men and women when it comes to the frequency of prayer or participation in annual rites, such as almsgiving and fasting during Ramadan.
“In most countries surveyed in the region, at least 40% of Sunnis do not accept Shias as fellow Muslims. In many cases, even greater percentages do not believe that some practices common among Shias, such as visiting the shrines of saints, are acceptable as part of Islamic tradition.”
The full report can be downloaded here.
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