03 February 2011

A cry for freedom? Perhaps, but what kind?

Sandro Magister has an excellent article exploring the results of a recent survey (December 2, 2010) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, recently conducted in six Islamic countries, including Egypt. His text follows, with my emphases:

ROME, February 3, 2011 – Much of the Egyptian population that in recent days has rebelled against the thirty-year regime of Hosni Mubarak says that it prefers democracy to any other form of government.

At the same time, however, and in an overwhelming majority, they want those who commit adultery to be stoned, thieves to have their hands cut off, and those who abandon the Muslim religion to be put to death.

This is the result of a survey conducted in Egypt and in six other majority Muslim countries by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the world leader for research in this field:

> Egypt, Democracy and Islam

The other six countries surveyed are Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

The case of Egypt is getting special attention these days. But comparisons with the other countries are also of great interest.

For example, democracy is held to be the best form of government by 59 percent of Egyptians, while in Turkey and Lebanon it gets even more support, 76 and 81 percent respectively.

In Egypt, however, 22 percent of the population maintains that in some circumstances a nondemocratic government is preferable.

On the relationship between politics and religion, almost half of Egyptians think that Islam already has a strong influence on politics. And among those who think this way, 95 percent believe it is a good thing.

In general, 85 out of 100 Egyptians believe that Islam has a positive influence on politics, against only 2 percent who see it as a negative. But in Lebanon and Turkey, the unfavorable views exceed 30 percent.

In a runoff between modernizers and fundamentalists, 59 percent of Egyptians say that they side with the fundamentalists, against 27 percent who root for the former. In Lebanon and Turkey, the sides are flipped: 84 and 74 percent respectively are with the modernizers, while 15 and 11 percent align themselves with the fundamentalists.

More than half of the Egyptians, 54 percent to be exact, among both men and women, are in favor of the separation of the sexes in the workplace. While in Lebanon and Turkey, those against it are between 80 and 90 percent.

When asked to give their views on Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda, in Egypt 49 percent say they are in favor of Hamas, 30 percent of Hezbollah, and 20 percent of al-Qaeda.

These views are partly influenced by whether one is Sunni or Shiite. The Egyptians are Sunni, as is Hamas, while Hezbollah is Shiite.

In any case, support for Hezbollah in Egypt has been falling for several years. It stood at 56 percent in 2007, 54 percent in 2008, 43 percent in 2009, and 30 percent in 2010.

And although it is in the minority, support for suicide terrorists is growing. In Egypt, 20 percent justify this, while in 2009 15 percent did.

Returning to the death penalty for those who abandon Islam, called for by 84 percent of Egyptians, it must be pointed out that those who want it are men and women, old and young, educated and uneducated, without distinction.

In Jordan, the level of support for sentencing apostates to death rises all the way to 86 percent. It is only in Lebanon and Turkey that support is low, at 6 and 5 percent respectively.
Maybe the freedom they seek is not the freedom we have.


  1. Now I'm wondering about the apparent overlap in some of these countries between people who want to do all these things and yet are afraid of Islamic extremism.

    The Egypt statistics aren't that surprising, and go with what I've encountered before. The corruption and oppression of the Mubarak regime has, in the eyes of many, discredited what it claims to stand for. As it stands, though, these trends are increasing steadily, so keeping the status quo doesn't seem like the way to counter them. As my mother once said, sometimes you need to let the worms out of the can to get a clean can.

    At root for me personally, people I know in Egypt have made their choice, and I'm not going to hope their oppressors triumph because I think I know more about their country than they do.

  2. I'm certainly not hoping for the triumph of oppressors, but I'm also very concerning about militant Islam.

  3. The only Islamist organization likely to triumph in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood. Ayman al-Zawahiri and other salafi jihadists who went on to found al-Qaeda broke with the MB because they rejected its policy of promoting peaceful and democratic change. The only MB chapter linked to terrorism is the Palestinian one (Hamas), and that is tied into the Arab-Israeli conflict and their belief controversial within Islamist circles that all Israeli civilians are combatants by virtue of where they are living.

  4. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Awesome post. Do you mind if I ask what your source is for this information?