Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pew Survey: How does the sectarian divide looks across the Muslim world?

by Salman Hameed

This is a follow-up to an earlier post on the importance of religion across the Muslim world. I know that in Islam, as like other major religions, there are historical schisms. The big one for Muslims is between the Shia and the Sunni - and further variations there in. There are places where Shias are living peacefully, and then there are places where they are killing each other. Pakistan is one of the battlegrounds for Shia-Sunni rivalry, which is played on the larger level between Iran (Shia) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni).

Here are the results from the Pew survey of how do Muslims (this includes both Sunni and Shia) view the religious standing of Shias:

It is interesting that there is a sizable fraction Malaysia and Indonesia have never heard of Shias (this is not that surprising in former Soviet Republics). But I'm shocked to see that over 50% of the respondents in Egypt and Morocco think that Shias are not Muslims! One of the reasons, of course, is that they may not have many Shias in their countries - but still, they must know about them. Interestingly, there is also an almost 20 point difference in the attitudes towards Shias between Pakistan and Bangladesh. On the other hand, Azerbaijan say - Mmeh - of course they are Muslims!

What if we take the relative Shia populations into account? Here are the results and it seems that familiarity does increase acceptance from Sunnis:

But what about groups other than Shias? Here is a breakdown of different regional groups:

I'm again struck by the difference between Pakistan and Bangladesh over the Ahmadiyya sect (by the way, also check out the recent post about A.Q.Khan making a disgraceful statement about the Ahmadis on a Pakistani television program). But hey - check out Islam Liberal in Indonesia. So first the good news: It is fantastic that this is considered a recognizable group (it follows in the footsteps of Mutazillah). The bad news is that only 16% of Indonesians consider them as Muslims - though this is still a higher fraction that the acceptance of Ahmadis in Pakistan.

More to come. In the mean time, you can read the full Pew Report here. In addition, see the earlier post on Muslim religiosity here


Asad M said...

Today there was another major massacre of Shias in northern Pakistan, at least third such incidence in the past 6 months alone. This survey is very recent but I’m sure if the same survey had been done some 40 or 30 years ago in Pakistan the results would have shown a much greater acceptance of Shias as Muslims.

The tolerance level for minority Muslim sects or even other religious minorities has been fast eroding in Pakistan and that coupled with increasing targeted violence/terrorism in the past decade is enough to force them to migrate elsewhere. It’d be interesting if there’s a survey documenting how many Shias, Ahmadees, Hindus, Christians have emigrated for fear of their lives or religious persecution.

Salman Hameed said...

Asad - yes, this is another atrocious and sad incident (20 shias were dragged out from a bus and shot).

And you are right that the acceptance of shias would probably have been higher a few decades ago. But things are not that rosy. After all, there was Sunni-Shia violence even in pre-Partiction British India and places like Jhang have had historic divisions between the two groups.

Anonymous said...

What about Ahmadis?

"In 1974, the Pakistan parliament made a constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadi Muslims as 'non-Muslims'."

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