July 29, 2010

Concern About Extremist Threat Slips in Pakistan

Chapter 4. Religion, Law and Society

Many Muslims in Pakistan say there is a struggle between groups that want to modernize their country and Islamic fundamentalists, and most of those who see a struggle say they identify with the modernizers. Still, Pakistani Muslims welcome the influence of Islam in their country’s politics, and solid majorities say they would favor making gender segregation in the workplace the law in Pakistan as well as strict punishments such as whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery, stoning people who commit adultery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion.

Modernizers vs. Fundamentalists

More than four-in-ten (44%) Pakistani Muslims say there is a struggle between those who want to modernize their country and Islamic fundamentalists; just 12% see no struggle, and 44% do not offer an opinion. In 2009, four-in-ten saw a struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists, while 22% said there was no struggle and 38% did not know.

Muslim men are much more likely than women to say there is a struggle between those who want to modernize Pakistan and Islamic fundamentalists; 54% of men see a struggle, compared with 34% of women. A year ago, Muslim women were about as likely as men to say there was a struggle in their country (38% and 42%, respectively).

As was the case in 2009, the more affluent and the better educated are more likely than those with lower income and less education to say there is a struggle between modernizers and fundamentalists. For example, 56% of those with at least some secondary education see a struggle in their country, compared with 46% of those with at least some primary education and 34% of those with no formal education.

A majority (61%) of Muslims who say there is a struggle between those who want to modernize Pakistan and Islamic fundamentalists also say they identify with the modernizers. Still, fewer say that is the case than did so a year ago, when 73% of those who saw a struggle said they sided with the modernizers. The drop in the percentage identifying with groups who want to modernize Pakistan is especially notable among men in that country. In 2009, nearly eight-in-ten (78%) Muslim men who saw a struggle said they identified with the modernizers, compared with 56% who say the same today. By comparison, the percentage of women who see a struggle and identify with the modernizers is virtually unchanged from last year (67% in 2009 vs. 68% today).

Islam’s Role in Political Life

Pakistani Muslims are less likely than they were in past surveys to see substantial Islamic influence in the political life of their country. Fewer than half (46%) now say Islam plays a very large or fairly large role, while 36% say the role of Islam in Pakistani politics is small. In 2005, a solid majority (63%) said Islam played a large role and just 20% said it played a very small or fairly small role in politics.

Muhajirs and Punjabis are more likely than other ethnic groups to say that Islam exerts considerable influence in Pakistani politics; 53% and 48% of Muslims within these groups, respectively, see Islam playing a large role. By comparison, 39% of Pashtun and 38% of Sindhi Muslims say that is the case.

Pakistani Muslims overwhelmingly welcome Islamic influence over their country’s politics. Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) of those who see Islam playing a large role say that is a good thing. Similarly, 79% of those who say Islam’s role is small say that is a bad thing for their country. This pattern is true across all demographic groups.

Support for Gender Segregation, Strict Laws

Pakistanis overwhelmingly support making segregation of men and women in the workplace the law in their country (85%), and comparable percentages favor instituting harsh punishments such as stoning people who commit adultery (82%), whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery (82%), and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion (76%). Support for gender segregation and for severe punishments is pervasive across all demographic and regional groups.

Majorities among those who identify with modernizers and among those who side with Islamic fundamentalists in a struggle between the two groups endorse making harsh punishments the law in Pakistan. However, those who identify with fundamentalists are much more likely than those who side with the modernizers to support harsh punishments under the law. For example, 88% of those who say they identify with Islamic fundamentalists favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion, compared with 67% of those who side with the modernizers.

Both groups express similar views on gender segregation, however; 88% of Muslims who side with fundamentalists and 85% of those who identify with groups who want to modernize Pakistan say they favor the segregation of men and women in the workplace.

Cite this publication: “Concern About Extremist Threat Slips in Pakistan.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (July 29, 2010) http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/07/29/concern-about-extremist-threat-slips-in-pakistan/, accessed on July 23, 2014.