April 30, 2013

The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society

Appendix A: U.S. Muslims — Views on Religion and Society in a Global Context

gsi-300x20018In their attitudes toward modern society and their relations with people of other faiths, U.S. Muslims sometimes more closely resemble other Americans than they do Muslims around the world.

According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, about half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are followers of Islam, and half say that some (36%) or hardly any (14%) of their close friends are Muslim. By contrast, Muslims in other countries nearly universally report that all or most of their close friends are Muslim (global median of 95%). Even Muslims who also are religious minorities in their countries are less likely than U.S. Muslims to have friendships with non-Muslims. For example, 78% of Russian Muslims and 96% of Thai Muslims say most or all of their close friends are Muslim.

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A majority of U.S. Muslims (56%) believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Most Americans (65%), including nearly two-thirds of American Christians (64%), share this view. Across the world, however, this attitude is far less common among Muslims: a median of just 18% of Muslims worldwide think religions other than Islam can lead to eternal life.

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Most U.S. Muslims (63%) say there is no inherent tension between being devout and living in a modern society. A nearly identical proportion of American Christians (64%) agree. Around the world, somewhat fewer Muslims (global median of 54%) share the view that modern life and religious devotion are not at odds.

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The picture is more complicated when it comes to matters of science and religion. Roughly six-in-ten U.S. Muslims (59%) say there is generally no conflict between science and religion. Globally, about half of Muslims (median of 54%) agree. But among U.S. Christians (39%) and the U.S. general public (37%) smaller shares view religion and science as generally compatible. On the question of evolution, U.S. Muslims are split: 45% believe humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 44% disagree. U.S. Muslims are about as likely to believe in evolution as U.S. Christians (46% of whom say they believe in evolution). But Americans overall (52%) as well as Muslims worldwide (median of 53%) lean more clearly toward accepting evolution.

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More than eight-in-ten American Muslims say suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified (81%) or rarely justified (5%) to defend Islam from its enemies. Worldwide, most Muslims also reject this type of violence, with a median of 72% saying such attacks are never justified and 10% saying they are rarely justified. Just 1% of U.S. Muslims and a median of 3% of Muslims worldwide say suicide bombings and other violence against civilian targets are often justified, while 7% of U.S. Muslims and a global median of 8% of Muslims say such attacks are sometimes justified to defend Islam.

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Download selected questions and results from the 2011 and 2007 Surveys of U.S. Muslims PDF (30 KB, 2 pages).

Photo Credit: © Scott E Barbour