Center for Strategic Communication

I have been fascinated by some of the findings of a massive
new Pew Research Center
global public opinion survey
of Muslims in 39 countries in every region of
the world. Pew conducted 38,000 face-to-face interviews in more than 80
languages between 2008 and 2012. What makes The
World’s Muslims
especially interesting is that it doesn’t ask questions
mainly of interest to Americans, such as how Muslims feel about America. Instead,
it asks a series of questions about their own understanding of Islam and their
own religious practices and beliefs. The findings reveal some really
interesting differences across regions, countries, and generations. [[BREAK]]

instance, the survey found a really disturbing and widespread belief in most
Arab countries that Shias are not real Muslims. Interestingly, in Iraq (82
percent) and Lebanon (77 percent), countries with Shia majorities but notably
torn by sectarian strife, Sunnis are significantly more likely to say that Shias are Muslims than are Muslims in Arab
countries with small Shia populations. But 53 percent of Egyptians, 50 percent
of Moroccans, 43 percent of Jordanians, and 41 percent of Tunisians — all
countries with very small Shia populations — said that Shias are not Muslims. In
Indonesia, 56 percent said they were "just a Muslim" and rejected
identification as "Sunni."

to the conventional wisdom that the Middle East is being reshaped by a rising
Islamist generation, Muslims older than 35 are significantly more religious
than those under 35. They are more likely to pray several times a day, to
attend mosque, to read the Quran daily, and to say religion is important in
their lives. And the margins are pretty wide. In Morocco, the older generation
is 19 points more likely to read the Quran daily; in Tunisia, the older
generation is 17 points more likely to attend mosque once a week; in the
Palestinian territories, the older generation is 23 points more likely to pray
several times a day. This generational divide was the widest in the Middle East compared to any other region of the

interesting question had to do with the question of interpretation. Asked
whether there was a single interpretation of Islam or multiple interpretations,
more than 50 percent answered "single" in every African country surveyed, as
did more than 69 percent of every Asian country. Seventy-eight percent of
Egyptians and 76 percent of Jordanians said "single," but no other Arab country
had more than 50 percent.

a lot more in this important
and intriguing report
. Anyone interested in how Muslims today think about
their own religion should definitely check it out — and also look for the
second report focused on political and social issues promised for later this