Sharia Law



In a recent article in The Economist, a new study by the Pew Research Center reported on the different meaning that sharia law has in different countries. Sharia law is the moral code and religious law of Islam. The survey of 38,000 Muslims conducted in 39 countries examined the opinions that Muslims in predominately Islamic nations expressed on a number of issues related to sharia law, such as religious freedom, the use of religious judges, and the execution of those who leave Islam.

In Morocco 78% of respondents think that non-Muslims are free to practice their faith and 79% of those think this is “a good thing.” Yet 83% of this group wants sharia enshrined in their nation’s law. A majority of Thais (77%) and Pakistanis (84%) yearn for Islamic law too. But most also say that other religions are free to worship (79% and 75% respectively) and they agree that this is “a good thing.” Religious freedom, however, is a slippery term, with implications for individuals and for the collective practice of faith. Muslims in some countries both strongly approve of religious freedom and support the death penalty for apostates from Islam. Three-quarters of Pakistanis who favor sharia agree.  

Views vary over how sharia should be applied. Tunisian backers when asked about specific features of sharia law, support the use of religious judges (62%), but have far less appetite for executing apostates (29%). And those countries where most support sharia are not always its strictest followers, though around three-quarters endorse it in both Indonesia and Egypt. And 74% of Egyptians who favor sharia also think it should apply to non-Muslims, the highest proportion among polled countries. To read the full report, please visit The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
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