WASHINGTON - Large majorities of Muslims around the world want the application of Shari`ah as the official law in their countries, but differ on the degree of implementation, a new global survey has found.
"Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of Shari`ah, says the survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and cited by Reuters.
"Most do not believe it should be applied to non-Muslims."
The survey, titled The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society, shows that large majorities of Muslims around the world support the application of Shari`ah as the official law in their countries.
It finds a strong support for the application of Shari`ah among Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
The application of Shari`ah has the support of nearly 74% in Egypt, 72% in Indonesia, 71% in Nigeria, 89% in the Palestinian territories and 99% in Afghanistan.
The poll, which included 38,000 respondents in 39 countries, shows that Muslims tend to be most comfortable with using Shari`ah in the domestic sphere.
It reveals that over three-quarters of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia want Shari`ah courts to decide family law issues such as divorce and property disputes.
Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political scientist who was special adviser for the project, said Muslims in poor and repressive societies tended to identify Shari`ah with basic Islamic values such as equality and social justice.
"In those societies, you tend to see significant support for Shari`ah," she told journalists on a conference call.
By contrast, Muslims who have lived under "narrow if not rigid" Islamic systems were less supportive of Shari`ah as the official law.
The survey also finds less support for the application of hudud (punishments).
Those punishments have helped make sharia controversial in some non-Islamic countries, where some critics say radicals want to impose it on Western societies.
In Islam, Shari`ah govern issues in Muslims' lives from daily prayers to fasting and from to inheritance and marital cases to financial disputes.
The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
The survey also finds that a sweeping majority of Muslims support religious freedom for non-Muslims.
Overall, Muslims broadly support the idea of religious freedom, the survey says.
It shows that in 33 of the 38 countries, at least half of Muslims say people of other faiths are very free to practice their religion.
According to the poll, Muslims in Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa are generally less likely to believe non-Muslims can practice their faith freely.
Fewer than half in Kyrgyzstan (48%), Tajikistan (47%) and Uzbekistan (26%), for example, say others are able to practice their faith openly.
Similarly, in the Middle East-North Africa region, fewer than four-in-ten Muslims in Iraq (37%) and Egypt (31%) believe non-Muslims are free to practice their religion.
In 15 of the countries surveyed, Muslims are significantly more likely to say they themselves are very free to practice their religion than to say the same about people of other faiths.
The survey also produced mixed results on questions relating to the relationship between politics and Islam.
Democracy wins slight majorities in key Middle Eastern states as Iraq (54%), Egypt (55%), but falls in Pakistan (29%).
By contrast, it stands at 81 percent in Lebanon, 75 percent in Tunisia and 70 percent in Bangladesh.
Moderate US Muslims
The survey also finds that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.
It shows that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.
The survey reveals that US Muslims are much more open to the idea that many religions - not only Islam - can lead to eternal life in heaven.
At the same time, US Muslims are less inclined than their co-religionists around the globe to believe in evolution; on this subject, they are closer to US Christians.
The survey finds that few US Muslims support suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam.
Nearly 81% of Muslim respondents in the US say such acts are never justified, while fewer than one-in-ten say violence against civilians either is often justified (1%) or is sometimes justified (7%) to defend Islam.
Around the world, most Muslims also reject suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians.However, substantial minorities in several countries say such acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 26% of Muslims in Bangladesh, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories.