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Majority of Muslims want Islam in politics, poll says

They have mixed feelings about the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, the survey shows.

December 06, 2010|By Meris Lutz, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Beirut — A majority of Muslims around the world welcome a significant role for Islam in their countries' political life, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, but have mixed feelings toward militant religious groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.

Muslims in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria and Jordan were among the most enthusiastic, with more than three-quarters of poll respondents in those countries reporting positive views of Islam's influence in politics: either that Islam had a large role in politics, and that was a good thing, or that it played a small role, and that was bad.

Turkish Muslims were the most conflicted, with just more than half reporting positive views of Islam's influence in politics. Turkey has struggled in recent years to balance a secular political system with an increasingly fervent Muslim population.

Many Muslims described a struggle in their country between fundamentalists and modernizers, especially those who may have felt threatened by the rising tides of conservatism. Among those respondents who identified a struggle, most tended to side with the modernizers. This was especially true in Lebanon and Turkey, where 84% and 74%, respectively, identified themselves as modernizers as opposed to fundamentalists.

In Egypt and Nigeria, however, more people were pulling in the other direction. According to the poll, 59% in Egypt and 58% in Nigeria who said there was a struggle identified with the fundamentalists.

Despite an overall positive view of Islam's growing role in politics, militant religious organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah spurred mixed reactions. Both groups enjoyed fairly strong support in Jordan, home to many Palestinians, and Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based. Muslim countries that do not share strong cultural, historical and political ties to the Palestinian cause, such as Pakistan and Turkey, tended to view Hezbollah and Hamas negatively.

Al Qaeda was rejected by strong majorities in every Muslim country except Nigeria, which gave the group a 49% approval rating.

The poll was conducted April 12 to May 7 in seven countries with large Muslim populations. About 8,000 people were interviewed face to face, and the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for Pakistan and 4 percentage points for the other countries.

Lutz is a special correspondent.

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