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Many Turks, Iranians, Egyptians Link Sharia and Justice
Many Turks, Iranians, Egyptians Link Sharia and Justice
Egyptians most likely to make positive associations with Sharia
The first article analyzed public attitudes about the role of Sharia as a source of legislation, concluding that although perceptions vary greatly across the three countries, most Iranians and Egyptians (and even many Turks) believe Sharia should be a source of legislation.
Saturday, August 2,2008 06:28
by www.gallup.com, by Magali Rheault and Dalia Mogahe

The first article analyzed public attitudes about the role of Sharia as a source of legislation, concluding that although perceptions vary greatly across the three countries, most Iranians and Egyptians (and even many Turks) believe Sharia should be a source of legislation.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "Provides justice for women" is an attribute associated with Sharia compliance by a majority of Iranians, Egyptians, and Turks who favor Sharia as a source of legislation.

Gallup asked respondents who had an opinion about the role of Sharia as a source of legislation (those for whom Sharia should be the only source, one of the sources, or not a) whether they associate certain attributes with Sharia compliance. Ninety percent of Iranians, 91% of Egyptians, and 74% of Turks expressed an opinion about the role of Sharia in national law. The following analysis focuses on the subgroups of individuals who say Sharia should be a source of legislation to better understand why they think Sharia should influence legislation.

Overall, the poll results show that among those who think Sharia should be at least a source of legislation (either as the only source or as one of the sources), Egyptians are far more likely than Iranians and Turks to make positive associations with Sharia compliance. The findings also show that for those in this group, the meaning of Sharia goes beyond compliance with an overarching system of Islamic principles. Instead, Sharia is perceived to promote the rule of law and justice. Although Gallup could not ask questions about several negative attributes in Iran and Egypt, the poll findings show that those who say Sharia should be at least a source of legislation are less likely to make negative associations with Sharia compliance.

Most Respondents Make Positive Associations With Sharia

Although Sharia often connotes the image of a restrictive society, where residents are forced to comply with rules and obligations they would otherwise eschew, the Gallup Poll findings show that majorities of those who favor Sharia as a source of law associate it with many positive attributes. Ninety-seven percent of Egyptians, 76% of Iranians, and 69% of Turks in this group associate it with justice for women. Strong majorities in Iran (80%), Egypt (96%), and Turkey (63%) also think of Sharia as promoting a fair justice system. Additionally, majorities in Iran (77%) and Turkey (70%) associate Sharia with reducing corruption.

Most Egyptians (64%) polled say Sharia must be the only source of legislation, but few Turks (7%) say the same, which is why it is perhaps not surprising that the greatest differences of opinion are between these two populations. Among Egyptians and Turks who favor Sharia to be at least a source, differences range from 44 percentage points on the item about the promotion of scientific advancement (96% and 52%, respectively) to 26 points on the reduction of crime (94% and 68%, respectively) as well as a limit on the power of rulers (49% and 23%, respectively). But Egyptians and Iranians who favor Sharia’s influence on legislation also differ on the associations they make with it. The gap in differences of opinion between Egyptians and Iranians ranges from 37 points on the issue of the promotion of scientific advancement (96% and 59%, respectively) to 3 points on limiting the power of rulers (49% and 46%, respectively).

Most Don’t Associate Sharia With Oppression of Women

Even though Gallup could not ask questions about several negative attributes in Iran and Egypt, the poll findings show that those who say Sharia should be at least a source of legislation are less likely to make negative associations with Sharia compliance. But 69% of Egyptians say they associate Sharia with the promotion of cruel criminal punishments.

While 28% of respondents in Iran associate Sharia with giving government unlimited power, they are more likely (46%) to view it as limiting the powers of rulers. In neighboring Turkey, about one in five respondents associate religious law with giving unlimited power to government and curbing the power of rulers. In Egypt, Gallup did not ask respondents the "gives government unlimited power" question, but 49% associate Sharia with limiting the power of rulers.

Additionally, about one-third of respondents in Egypt (35%) and Turkey (32%) who say Sharia should be a source of legislation associate religious law with limiting personal freedom. But Egyptians (4%) are far less likely than Turks are (26%) to associate Sharia with being an obstacle to scientific advancement. Views about Sharia as oppressing women, which across all three countries is among the least likely of the attributes to be associated with it, are shared by less than one-quarter of Turks (22%) and Iranians (16%) and few Egyptians (2%) who say it should be a source of legislation.

Through the Looking Glass

As the political regimes of Iran, Egypt, and Turkey are dramatically different and the application of Islamic principles across all three countries varies greatly, the poll findings provide a unique look into the opinions each population has of religious law.

Strong majorities of Iranians who say Sharia must be a source of legislation associate Sharia compliance with the promotion of a fair justice system (80%), promotion of economic justice (78%), reduction of corruption (77%), reduction of crime (76%), justice for women (76%), and the protection of human rights (76%). Of the two negative attributes Gallup asked in Iran, respondents were least likely to associate Sharia with the oppression of women (16%). Further, while 28% of those surveyed associate Sharia with giving government unlimited power, they are also more likely (46%) to view Sharia as limiting the power of rulers.

Virtually all Egyptians who say Sharia must be a source of legislation associate Sharia with justice for women (97%), the protection of human rights (97%), promotion of a fair judicial system (96%), and the promotion of scientific advancement (96%). Gallup did not ask respondents the "gives government unlimited power" question, but 49% associate religious law with limiting the power of rulers. Also, 94% of Egyptian respondents mention economic justice and crime reduction as associated with Sharia. Respondents are also least likely to associate Sharia with being an obstacle for scientific advancement (4%) and oppressing women (2%).

Among Turks who say that Sharia must be a source of legislation respondents are more likely to associate religious law with the reduction of corruption (70%), justice for women (69%), reduction of crime (68%), promotion of a fair judicial system (63%), and the protection of human rights (62%). Furthermore, about one-fifth associate religious law with curbing the power of rulers (23%), but similar to Iranian respondents, this doesn’t mean that Turkish respondents associate it with giving government unlimited power (21%). Those surveyed are also least likely to associate Sharia compliance with being an obstacle to scientific advancement (26%), oppressing women (22%), and oppressing minorities (21%).

Across Iran, Egypt, and Turkey, the different levels of positive and negative associations with Sharia compliance may reflect the expectations and desires of each population. The positive associations those surveyed make with Sharia suggest that they don’t view it as a constraining system, which may explain why they want Sharia to be a source of national legislation, albeit at different levels. Instead, for many Sharia connotes good governance and the rule of law.

Survey Methods

For the populations who say that Sharia must be a source of legislation (either the only source or one of the sources): Results are based on face-to-faced interviews with 771 adults, aged 15 and older, in Iran in June-July 2007. In Egypt, results are based on face-to-faced interviews with 900 adults, aged 15 and older, in May 2007 and July 2007. In Turkey, results are based on face-to-faced interviews with 326 adults, aged 15 and older, in May 2007 and July 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points in Egypt, ±4 percentage points in Iran, and ±5 percentage points in Turkey. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For the populations who have an opinion about the role of Sharia in legislation (those who say Sharia must be the only source of legislation, one of the sources or should not be a source): Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 898 adults, aged 15 and older, in Iran in June-July 2007. In Egypt, results are based on face-to-face interviews with 929 adults, aged 15 and older, in July 2007. In Turkey, results are based on face-to-face interviews with 737 adults, aged 15 and older, in May 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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