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First of all, let me say that the results of this poll seem quite disconnected from reality.

As written in the LA Times:

According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.

The poll also suggests that many Muslims think Islam should play a larger role in politics, but yet groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah do not have widespread support.

I find the numbers and ‘results’ of this poll disturbing, not because of what the poll alleges to be true, but because of the extremely small sample of people interviewed. Only 8,000 people in 7 countries with “large Muslim populations” were interviewed (face to face), and Pakistan alone has over 180 million people.

Unlike the US, where pretty much every family has a land line phone and representative samples can be taken at random by calling people’s home numbers, no such equalizer exists in the countries where this survey was taken.

Say they interviewed 2,000 people (out of 180 million) in Pakistan – where did they find those people? How is it possible to ensure a representative sample without knowing each participants’ background information such as education, languages spoken, caste, age, occupation and religious sect?

Having lived in Pakistan for over three years, I’ve met people from almost every social background, and not one person I’ve met supports stoning, hand amputation or death for apostasy. I’ve probably met and talked about politics (in English, Urdu or via translation) with more Pakistanis than were interviewed for this survey, and my unscientific analysis is that 0% of those people would support such an interpretation of Islamic law.



About The Author

Heather Carreiro

Heather is a secondary English teacher, travel writer and editor who has lived in Morocco and Pakistan. She enjoys jamming on the bass, haggling over saris in dusty markets and cross-country jumping on horseback. Currently she's a grad student attempting to wrap her tongue around Middle English, analyze South Asian literature and eat enough to make her Portuguese mother-in-law happy. Learn more on her blog at

  • ShariqH

    Salaam again miss Heather! Islamic laws aren’t half as brutal as they may outwardly seem. I’d love to clear any misconception related to Islam you might have. As an example, see what this link has to say about stoning adulterers. It’ll be a major relief, I’m sure. :
    And as a Pakistani Sunni (orthodox) Muslim, I do support capital punishments for adultery, theft, apostasy and the like (& I’m sure many other Pakistanis would agree) but it’s better to learn about them before commenting on how ethical they might seem (Islamic law has a 4year degree at Al-Azhar university Cairo!) Many westerm Muslim converts also see them as being brutal at first but a good understanding really helps. Dialogue is the way; communication barriers merely make things worse.

    • Heather

      Hi Shariq,

      The most above wasn’t meant to comment on ethics but a comment on the results of the recent survey from Pew. I would disagree that the majority of Pakistanis support the death penalty for adultery, theft (not mentioned in survey, but mentioned in your comment) and apostasy in actual practice. So many Pakistanis I’ve talked to are critical of the Hudood Ordinances and the Zia era in general.

      I have studied Islamic law somewhat during my time at Al-Akhawayn Univ. in Morocco, and there are is not only one interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith that has been codified into law. What we get from Al-Azhar is only one interpretation, albeit one of the most widely respected ones by Islamic scholars. Even the article you linked to offers different interpretations of zinnah: fundamentalist, conservative and reformist.

      The four traditional schools of fiqh (Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki and Shafi’i) all differ in the interpretation of key verses and the system of verse abrogation (verses that seem to contradict each other and end up canceling each other out), so I believe we can never really say one set of laws is “Islamic law,” because so much of it is open to interpretation and the tradition of abrogration.

      So anyhow, that would be a completely different discussion, but my point is posting was to show that the survey results don’t seem very scientific and are only working to promote negative stereotypical images of Muslim that many in the US already have.

  • Jed Worthen

    Interesting. I wonder what improvements could be made in the field of polling among people of the developing world?

    • Heather Carreiro

      It’s a tough thing to try to do, especially in a country like Pakistan with such linguistic, cultural, and socio-economic diversity AND where many women would be inaccessible to male in-person interviewers.

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