Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan Most Likely to Want Sharia, Least Likely to Oppose Honor Killings, Pew Finds

Poll of Muslims in 39 countries finds strong support for killing religious converts, low support for drinking alcohol.

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A large-scale poll of 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries by the Pew Research Center found that Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq are most likely to support implementation of Islamic Sharia law and least likely to believe in evolution, object to honor killings or believe in a woman's right to decide whether or not to veil her face.

The vast trove of data published by Pew offers seeming inconsistencies in some areas - for example, in many countries there is far greater support for the concept of religious freedom than for the freedom to leave Islam without being executed. There are also limitations, notably the lack of data from significant regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The data indicates that Muslim support for implementation of Sharia as national law is highest in Afghanistan, at 99 percent support, in Iraq, at 91 percent, and in the Palestinian territories, at 89 percent. It's lower elsewhere, including in Egypt, where support is 74 percent. Muslims in historically secular Turkey and Azerbaijan indicated 12 and 8 percent support, respectively, for adopting Sharia.

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Interestingly, despite overwhelmingly backing Sharia Palestinians are the national grouping with the highest percentage of respondents saying religious political parties are "worse" than other political parties, at 29 percent, a figure that outpaces opposition to religious parties in Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Iraqi and Afghan respondents were less likely to believe Sharia is the revealed word of God - 69 and 73 percent - than their neighbors in Jordan and Pakistan - both at 81 percent - suggesting that religious fervency and support for Sharia do not perfectly overlap.

Honor killings of women seen to have shamed their families find the least public opposition in Iraq - only 22 percent said they are never justified - in Afghanistan - 24 percent object - and in Egypt, with 31 percent disapproval. Pew found significantly higher opposition to honor killings in southeastern Asia, the former U.S.S.R., southeastern Europe and western North Africa.

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Iraqi and Afghan respondents indicated the lowest belief in evolution at 27 and 26 percent, respectively. 30 percent of Pakistani respondents said they believe in evolution. In other countries the figure was higher.

Of all respondents, Iraqi and Afghan men were least likely to say women had the right to choose whether or not to wear a veil – 23 percent of Afghan men and 38 percent of Iraqi men said the choice is a woman's to make. Egyptian, Palestinian and Jordanian men were only slightly more liberal on the issue.

Pew found high support in many countries for executing Muslims who convert to a different religion, notably 79 percent of Afghans, 76 percent of Pakistanis and 42 percent of Iraqis support the death penalty for apostasy. The figure is highest in Egypt, at 86 percent support, and the lowest among Muslims in Kazakhstan, at 4 percent.

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Despite high support for executing people who change religions, the concept of religious freedom was supported by 96 percent of Pakistanis, 91 percent of Iraqis and 77 percent of Egyptians. There was no data for Afghanistan.

Many respondents who want Sharia as national law only believe its strictures should be applied to Muslims. 59 percent of Iraqis and 37 percent of Afghans who favor Sharia said it should just be applied to Muslims. In Egypt, where a Christian minority comprises about 10 percent of the population, 74 percent of Muslims want Sharia and 74 percent of that group believes it should apply to all citizens.

Since the 2011 revolution that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, there have been several high-profile cases of alleged defamation against Islam's founder, Muhammad. Egyptian Muslims were more likely to claim that Christians are antagonistic toward them, with 50 percent saying so, than Muslims in other countries.

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