Support for Harsh Laws (Including Death for Apostasy)

More than four-in-ten Pakistanis see a struggle taking place between Islamic fundamentalists and groups that want to modernize the country; and the vast majority of those who do see a struggle identify with the modernizers.

Nonetheless, many Pakistanis endorse extreme views about law, religion and society. More than eight-in-ten support segregating men and women in the workplace, stoning adulterers, and whipping and cutting off the hands of thieves. Roughly three-in-four endorse the death penalty for those who leave Islam.

Thus, even though Pakistanis largely reject extremist organizations, they embrace some of the severe laws advocated by such groups.

Still, Pakistanis differ sharply with the Taliban and al Qaeda when it comes to a tactic associated with both groups: suicide bombing. Fully 80% of Pakistani Muslims say suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians can never be justified to defend Islam, the highest percentage among the Muslim publics surveyed. As recently as six years ago, only 35% held this view.

[Extract from the results of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project published 29 July 2010]

Do you favor or oppose making the following the law
% Who:
Favour Oppose DK/
Segregation of men and women in the workplace
85 11 3
Whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery
82 13 5
Stoning people who commit adultery
82 11 7
Death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion
76 16 8

Survey Details

Sample Design: Multi-stage cluster sample of all four provinces stratified by province (some areas were excluded for security reasons as were areas of instability – roughly 16% of the population) with disproportional sampling of the urban population

Mode: Face-to-face adults 18 plus

Fieldwork dates: April 13 to April 28, 2010

Sample size: 2,000 – Margin of error: ±3.0 percentage points

Representative: Disproportionately urban, (the sample is 55% urban, Pakistan’s population is 33% urban). Sample covers roughly 84% of the adult population.

The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project

The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project conducts public opinion surveys around the world on a broad array of subjects ranging from people’s assessments of their own lives to their views about the current state of the world and important issues of the day. More than 240,000 interviews in 57 countries have been conducted as part of the project’s work.

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does so by conducting public opinion polling and social science research; by analyzing news coverage; and by holding forums and briefings. It does not take positions on policy issues.