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Religion Dominates Daily Life in the Islamic World

by The Gallup Poll Editorial Staff

The following are exclusive findings excerpted from a report based on Gallup's new survey of 10,000 people in the predominantly Islamic countries of Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.The complete report is being released today at a Tuesday Briefing summit event in Washington, DC. Watch this page and other Tuesday Briefing topic pages in the coming weeks for more detailed findings based on this groundbreaking study.

Religion dominates the daily lives of people in the Islamic countries included in this project and is particularly strong in Pakistan and Kuwait. In these two countries, religion takes precedence over economic comfort and family, and people there say that religion is increasingly important to society. Religion also appears to be a fairly strong element of life in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Morocco. In Lebanon and Jordan, there are signs that the religious foundation is less solid. The impact of religion appears to be lowest in Turkey.

Respondents rated the importance of five institutions in their lives: religion, family, extended family, country and "myself." Two of these -- religion and family -- are by far the most likely to be perceived as important. Religion is paramount over family in four countries: Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. This outlook is particularly strong in Kuwait and Pakistan, where religion is four times as likely to be rated "most important" than family. In Morocco and Saudi Arabia, the ratio is less than 2:1. Religion and family are on more even ground in Iran and Jordan, although family slightly outweighs religion in both countries. Only in Lebanon and Turkey does family take a clear precedence over religion. In both countries, a majority of respondents rate family as the single most important aspect of their lives, while a quarter in each country assign this degree of importance to religion.

Respondents were also asked in a different context to consider six aspects of life, including having a rich religious or spiritual life, having a comfortable economic life, being committed to a cause, being well informed about world affairs, traveling abroad, and having more interaction with Western culture. Respondents were asked to classify each aspect as "the most important (essential/cannot live without it)," "somewhat important (very important/makes a difference in my life)," or "not important (useful in my life, but could live without it)."

Respondents regard three of these aspects as much more essential than the others: religion, having a comfortable economic life, and being committed to a cause (in that order).

Having a rich religious or spiritual life is named as "essential" by a majority of respondents in most of the countries: Jordan (84%), Kuwait (78%), Saudi Arabia (76%), Pakistan (72%), Morocco (67%), Lebanon (60%), and Indonesia (53%). Only in Turkey do less than half of the respondents (41%) consider religion as "essential" in their lives.

Having a comfortable economic life competes with having a rich religious or spiritual life in its perceived importance in several countries -- including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, and Indonesia. In Lebanon, economic comfort actually outranks religious or spiritual riches by a substantial margin. Only in Iran and Pakistan do mentions of religion outweigh mentions of economic comfort by a solid margin. Residents of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Kuwait consider being committed to a social cause more important than do residents of the other countries surveyed.

Perceptions of changes in the influence of religion within the respective societies included in this project reveal stark differences. Most Turks perceive their society to be less attached to religion today than in the past, consistent with Turkey's transformation into an avowedly secular state in the early 20th century. A majority in Lebanon (61%), Jordan (56%), and Morocco (55%) also hold this view.

In Kuwait, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan, these attitudes are reversed. Respondents in these countries perceive that people today are more attached to religion than were their fathers and forefathers. Saudis are evenly divided on this question.


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