Most Muslims agree on certain moral principles. For example, in nearly all countries surveyed, a majority says it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. There also is widespread agreement that some behaviors – including drinking alcohol, sex outside marriage, homosexuality and committing suicide – are immoral.
God and Morality
Muslims widely hold the view that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values. In nearly every country surveyed, at least half of Muslims say an individual’s morality is linked to belief in God. This is true especially in the countries surveyed in Southeast Asia, where more than nine-in-ten Muslims say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. At least eight-in-ten say the same in most countries surveyed in South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa region; only in Lebanon does a smaller majority (64%) share this view.
Beliefs about Morality
The survey asked Muslims around the world if they considered a range of behaviors to be morally wrong, morally acceptable or not a moral issue. Respondents also could volunteer that “it depends on the situation” or that they don’t know. The survey finds that most Muslims agree that certain behaviors – such as drinking alcohol, suicide and sex outside marriage – are morally wrong. However, significant minorities of Muslims in some countries consider such behaviors morally acceptable or say they are not a moral issue.
Most Muslims surveyed say that drinking alcohol is morally wrong.21More than half in all countries surveyed hold this view, including more than nine-in-ten in Thailand (98%), Ghana (93%), Malaysia (93%), the Palestinian territories (92%), Indonesia (91%), Niger (91%) and Pakistan (91%).
Suicide and Euthanasia
Majorities of Muslims in all countries believe that suicide is morally wrong, including three-quarters or more in 29 of the 37 countries where this question was asked22 This view is almost universal in Thailand (nearly 100%), Cameroon (98%) and Kenya (97%).
Most Muslims say that having an abortion is morally wrong, including three-quarters or more in 24 of the 37 countries where the question was asked.23 Azerbaijan is the only country where fewer than a quarter (23%) say terminating a pregnancy is immoral.
Sex Outside Marriage and Prostitution
A strong majority of Muslims in nearly all countries surveyed condemn pre- and extra-marital sex, including three-quarters or more in 29 of the 36 countries where the question was asked. This view is nearly universal in Thailand (99%), Jordan (96%), Lebanon (96%) and Egypt (95%).24
Muslims overwhelmingly say that homosexual behavior is morally wrong, including three-quarters or more in 33 of the 36 countries where the question was asked.25
Morality and Marriage
Although Muslims strongly agree on the morality of a range of behaviors, Muslims hold a range of opinions on the morality of divorce, family planning and polygamy.
In 15 of the 37 countries where the question was asked, at least half of Muslims consider divorce a morally acceptable practice.26 Acceptance is high in Thailand (65%), Turkey (64%), Lebanon (64%), Bangladesh (62%), Tunisia (61%) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (60%).
Muslims in the countries surveyed are divided on the moral status of polygamy.27 At least half view polygamy as morally acceptable in 11 of the 37 countries where the question was asked. Acceptance is most widespread in sub-Saharan Africa; at least six-in-ten in Niger (87%), Senegal (86%), Mali (74%), Cameroon (67%), Tanzania (63%) and Nigeria (63%) describe polygamy as morally acceptable. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, however, the only country where a majority of Muslims say polygamy is morally acceptable is Thailand (66%).
There is no clear agreement among Muslims in the survey about the morality of family planning.28 In just three of the 21 countries where the question was asked do at least half of Muslims say that it is morally acceptable for married couples to choose to limit the number of children they have. Roughly six-in-ten say this in Indonesia (61%) and Tajikistan (58%). About half say family planning is morally acceptable in Tunisia (51%).
The survey finds that Muslims who want sharia to be the official law of the land in their country often have different views from other Muslims about the morality of issues related to marriage and the family. Across countries, however, Muslims who want sharia to be official law do not always take consistent positions on whether divorce and family planning are acceptable practices.
Sharia, Morality and the Family
The survey asked Muslims whether honor killings are ever justified as punishment for pre- or extra-marital sex.29 In 14 of the 23 countries where the question was asked, at least half say honor killings are never justified when a woman stands accused. Similarly, at least half in 15 of 23 countries say honor killings of accused men are never justified. In only two countries – Afghanistan (60%) and Iraq (60%) – do majorities say honor killings of women are often or sometimes justified, while only in Afghanistan does a majority (59%) say the same about executing men who have allegedly engaged in pre- or extra-marital sex.
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