Pew: 64% of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan support death penalty for leaving Islam

Not surprising, but sufficiently flabbergasting that both the Economist and WaPo are showing off the data. Egypt and Pakistan aren’t the countries with the highest numbers, either. Topping the list at 78 percent are our good friends in Afghanistan. And just to make things a tiny bit worse, there’s reason to believe that Pew’s data is understating the magnitude of the problem. For one thing, they didn’t poll Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, or Syria. Where do you suppose the Kingdom’s Salafist population would have placed in Burn the Apostate Derby? For another thing, the percentages are based on a sample within a sample. Only those Muslims who first said that they support sharia law were asked whether apostates should be executed; the overall percentages I’m giving you, via WaPo’s Max Fisher, are derived simply by multiplying the number who said yes to both sharia and execution. Some who oppose basing state law on sharia might nonetheless think apostasy merits death as a religious matter. They’re unaccounted for here.

Needless to say, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt are all nominally U.S. allies. Another data point about U.S. allies from Pew’s summary:

In most countries where a question about so-called “honor” killings was asked, majorities of Muslims say such killings are never justified. Only in two countries – Afghanistan and Iraq – do majorities condone extra-judicial executions of women who allegedly have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.

We know how to pick ’em. And here’s a nice counterpoint to the apostasy data, also from the summary:

At least half of Muslims in most countries surveyed say they are concerned about religious extremist groups in their country, including two-thirds or more of Muslims in Egypt (67%), Tunisia (67%), Iraq (68%), Guinea Bissau (72%) and Indonesia (78%). On balance, more are worried about Islamic extremists than about Christian extremists.

Sixty-seven percent of Egyptians are worried about “religious extremist groups” in their country, and meanwhile almost exactly the same number support killing people for leaving Islam. I guess “extremist” is in the eye of the beholder. (The Economist notes that huge numbers in Egypt also claim to support “religious freedom,” in case you think the nuance here isn’t deep enough yet.) I recommend following the WaPo link and studying the graph at the top that Fisher put together to see how other Muslim nations ranked on the apostasy question. As a general rule, the more religiously diverse the country, the less likely Muslims who live there are to support executing apostates. There are exceptions, though. Egypt is famous for having a large Christian population by Middle Eastern standards, but that hasn’t stopped them from wanting to put religious defectors to the sword. Malaysia’s the same way — Muslims are just north of 60 percent of the population per the CIA Factbook, but a clear majority of them are in favor of killing apostates anyway. On the flip side, Indonesia’s 86 percent Muslim but execution for apostasy is supported by “only” 13 percent. The disparity in Turkey is even wider, with almost the entire population Islamic but apostasy executions favored by two percent. Maybe the correct predictor isn’t religious pluralism but regional and political culture: You’ll note on Fisher’s graph that, once you get outside AfPak and the Arab Middle East, the numbers drop off. Like I say, we really know how to pick ’em.