Most Muslims want sharia law but split on interpretation: Pew study

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A majority of Muslims around the world want sharia law to be implemented in their countries but are split on how it should be applied, a Pew Research Center study has found.

A comprehensive study titled "The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society", conducted between 2008 and 2012, focused on 38,000 people in 39 countries and territories drawn from a global Muslim community of 2.2 billion people.

A solid majority of Muslims, notably in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, were in favor of sharia - traditional Islamic law - being adopted as the law of the land.

The percentage of those in favour of sharia being implemented as their country's law varied from eight per cent in Azerbaijan to 99 per cent in Afghanistan.

The study revealed that many Muslims were in favour of applying sharia in the private sphere to settle family or property disputes.

However, in most countries surveyed, there was less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to another faith.

A majority of Muslims are also in favour of freedom of religion, even while backing sharia. In Pakistan, for example, 84 per cent of Muslims want sharia enshrined as official law but 75 per cent believe non-Muslims are free to practise their religion.

Around half of Muslims in the survey expressed concerns about religious extremism, particularly in Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia.

In most countries, a majority of Muslims said a wife must obey her husband, although a majority also said a woman should decide whether or not to wear a veil.

Most Muslims said they do not feel tension between their religion and modern life, prefer a democratic regime, enjoy music and Western movies, even if such pastimes are sometimes regarded as undermining morality.

An overwhelming majority viewed prostitution, homosexuality, suicide or alcohol consumption as immoral but there are sharp differences on issues such as polygamy.

Only four per cent polled in Bosnia and Herzegovina considered polygamy morally acceptable, against 87 per cent in Niger.

A strong majority surveyed said the so-called honour killings could never be justified. The only exceptions came in Afghanistan and Iraq, where majorities condoned executions of women deemed to have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.

Violence carried out in the name of Islam was also widely rejected.

In the United States, 81 per cent of Muslims said such violence can "never" be justified against a global median of 73 per cent.

Substantial minorities in Bangladesh, Egypt, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories said violence was permissible.