Extremism and Islam – Law and Culture

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Dan Wolf photo for bio150By Dan Wolf

This article ends the series examining extremism and Islam that began with About that 1% on Extremists and continued in Extremism, Islam, and Politics.

In those articles we’ve touched upon some of Islam’s general attitudes and how those are reflected in its views of extremism, politics, and freedom.

This article will continue to use the same surveys[1] to look at some attitudes around law and culture.


The last article looked at the connection within Islam between religion, politics, and freedom – using the survey results around religious freedom to illustrate the points. This article will start by looking at the connections between religion and law. Islamic law is encompassed within what is called shari’a, and is derived from several of Islam’s source documents as outlined in US Law and Shari’a.

The table below shows the percentages of Muslims who say:

  • Shari’a is the revealed word of God.
  • Among shari’a supporters, the median % of Muslims who favor religious judges to oversee family law. All columns denoted with a ‘*’ reflect percentages of the Sharia Official Law column results.
  • Median % of Muslims who favor enshrining shari’a as official law.
  Sharia Revealed Law Religious Judges* Sharia Official Law
Region Pct Number Pct Pct Pct Number
Southern-Eastern Europe 51 12 41 2 18 4
Middle East – North Africa 71 261 78 211 74 271
Sub-Saharan Africa 64 185
Central Asia 51 70 62 10 12 16
South Asia 74 395 78 351 84 450
Southeast Asia 53 123 84 151 77 180
Totals   861   725   1,106

Even though sub-Saharan Africa was excluded from the surveys, over 50% of Islam’s followers in the remaining regions believe that shari’a is divinely revealed law, and almost 45% that religious judges should oversee family law within the courts. This climbs to two-thirds believing that shari’a should be official law, but there is a regional difference within this last result. The areas formerly under control of the Soviet Union (Southern- Eastern Europe and Central Asia) are once again much lower than the rest of the Muslim world. These results demonstrate again that all is Islam, and another reason why Islam is not simply a religion but an ideology with a religious component.

So what do shari’a supporters want? Some responses are shown in the following two tables.

  • Median % of Muslims who favor severe corporal punishments for criminals. Remember these are punishments as sanctioned by Islam’s tenets and embodied by shari’a – such as beheadings, amputations, stoning, and crucifixions.
  • % of Muslims who favor stoning as a punishment for adultery.
  • % of Muslims who favor whippings/cutting off of hands for theft and robbery.
  Corp. Punishment* Stoning for Adultery* Whipping & Cutting
Region Pct Number Pct Number Pct Number
Southern-Eastern Europe 36 2 25 1
Middle East – North Africa 57 154 71 194 74 270
Sub-Saharan Africa 65 188
Central Asia 38 6 32 5 13 17
South Asia 81 365 74 331 82 440
Southeast Asia 46 82 49 88 36 84
Totals   609   619   999
  • Median % of Muslims who favor executing those who leave Islam.
  • Are honor killings permissible? The % of Muslims who say they are never justified when a male committed the offense.
  • Are honor killings permissible? The % of Muslims who say they are never justified when a female committed the offense.
  Execute Apostates* Never Male Honor Killings Never Female Honor Killings
Region Pct Number Pct Number Pct Number
Southern-Eastern Europe 13 1 68 16 62 15
Middle East – North Africa 56 151 47 172 38 140
Sub-Saharan Africa
Central Asia 16 3 64 88 67 91
South Asia 76 342 42 224 40 213
Southeast Asia 27 48 80 186 80 186
Totals   545   686   645

The numbers speak for themselves. Again we see a general trend of lower acceptance within the former soviet-bloc countries. It should be noted that most of these results did not include sub-Saharan Africa (about 289 million followers of Islam). When adjusting for that exclusion, support for various forms of corporal punishment range between 40 – 60% of the surveyed regions. In addition, roughly 50% of surveyed Muslims believe honor killings are never justified – indicating that about half believe there are circumstances where honor killings are permissible.


We’ll turn next to some cultural behaviors, specifically Islamic views on some moral issues and the role/rights of women within society. Things that are considered morally wrong are likely to be subject to the harsh corporal punishment under shari’a as noted in the previous section.

The following tables show the median % of Muslims who say each of the following behaviors is morally wrong:

  • Prostitution
  • Sex outside marriage
  • Homosexuality
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Abortion

The final column in the second table contains the % of Muslims who say polygamy is morally acceptable.

  Prostitution Sex Outside Marriage Homosexuality
Region Pct Number Pct Number Pct Number
Southern-Eastern Europe 90 21 67 16 83 19
Middle East – North Africa 95 347 94 344 93 340
Sub-Saharan Africa 91 263 78 225 91 263
Central Asia 89 122 85 116 85 116
South Asia 84 450 87 466 79 424
Southeast Asia 94 219 94 219 95 221
Totals   1,422   1,386   1,383
  Drinking Alcohol Abortion Polygamy
Region Pct Number Pct Number Pct Number
Southern-Eastern Europe 62 14 71 17 31 7
Middle East – North Africa 84 307 72 263 42 152
Sub-Saharan Africa 82 237 88 254 59 172
Central Asia 66 90 61 83 14 18
South Asia 82 440 64 343 35 186
Southeast Asia 93 217 93 217 32 75
Totals   1,305   1,177   610

Results to questions regarding suicide and euthanasia were similar to those shown above. The results across all regions strongly support these behaviors as being morally wrong (a minimum of 61% in any region). Even if you agree that these behaviors are morally wrong, would you sanction the types of punishment advocated under shari’a and supported by Islam’s followers?

Polygamy is interesting as it is allowed by Islam’s doctrines, yet its support sits below 40% overall and again is lowest in Central Asia and Southern-Eastern Europe. Polygamy also has different interpretations within Islam. Some view it as having no more than four wives in one’s lifetime. Others view the numbers one, two, three, and four as simply the beginning of a numerical sequence, therefore it does not matter how many wives you have over time – only whether or not you are limited to four at a time.

I heard a missionary who has performed Muslim outreach for over twenty years speak last fall. His observations included what life was like in many Middle East Muslim families.

Certainly not all families are like those he described, but they are not atypical. You would likely grow up in a household where your mother is beaten. For those who think otherwise, you should see one of the many videos on how to properly beat your wife. In many cases your father is looking for his next wife.

Divorce is very easy for the male, so you may grow up without your mother’s presence for a significant part of your childhood. Women within Islam are property. They are always owned by a male, either a family member family or their husband.

The following results related to women were presented within the surveys.

  • Median % of Muslims who completely or mostly agree that a wife must obey her husband.
  • Median % of Muslims who say that women have a right to divorce.
  • Median % of Muslims who say that sons and daughters should have equal inheritance rights.
  Women Obey Women Divorce Equal Property Rights
Region Pct Number Pct Number Pct Number
Southern-Eastern Europe 43 10 86 20 69 16
Middle East – North Africa 87 318 33 121 25 91
Sub-Saharan Africa
Central Asia 70 95 70 95 60 82
South Asia 88 472 44 236 46 247
Southeast Asia 93 217 32 75 61 142
Totals   1,112   547   578

Over 80% of those in the regions surveyed say they agree that a women should obey her husband, but less than 45% think that women have the right to divorce or should have equal inheritance property rights. Again, these results were supported less in the former soviet-bloc countries. It is difficult to justify giving a group such rights when they are viewed as being property themselves. It is no different for non-Muslims in these countries as they are dhimmis who are owned by the state. Such treatment is sanctioned by Islam’s documents.

None of the survey items included in these articles represent a fringe element within Islam, instead they represent its mainstream beliefs. Are these beliefs consistent with our values, or are they contrary to them?

Islam presents a tortured form of dualistic thought about life that is grounded in fatalism. Take the sanctioned forms of wife beating that are permitted. One does not have to perform these actions, but if they do it is because another is at fault. Their decisions forced me to do it. There is no accountability from within, as expediency and obedience become morality. Your actions are driven from outside behaviors – as is your freedom. How is this different from the ‘I was only following orders’ defense offered by some accused of committing crimes against humanity?

It is not my intent to denigrate Muslims, but instead to educate about some of its prevailing attitudes so that it can be understood by those of us in the west. The framework for the notions supported in these surveys is as foreign to us in the west and our values are to those who follow Islam. As I have said before, it is not Muslims that are the issue, but Islam’s tenets. Can anyone doubt the values cited within this series are both contradictory and incompatible with our most basic founding values and beliefs – beliefs that also have their basis in living according to God’s commands – such as separation of church and state, equality under the law, and the primary role of government to protect our Creator given rights, to promote the virtue of justice? These two contradictory viewpoints cannot have come from the same source.

Several points in closing. First, those within the Muslim world who claim that our Constitution is of human origin and therefore transitory do not possess any understanding of them or their source. The discussion in the last article about freedom is just one example. We should welcome those fleeing from this ideology, but should we accept those as immigrants who cling to it? Would we have accepted as immigrants avowed communists during the height of the Cold War, or active Nazi supporters during World War II? Why is this ideology any different? Present and support the arguments if you believe otherwise. The proof of what I say is in this, consider what America has been able to achieve when it was turned toward God. Sadly today, and over the last fifty years, many have chosen to turn away from Him. But that is a choice we each make every single day, and one purpose behind the gift of our freedom.

Second, we need a national conversation and response to Islam’s ideas, but to do that we need to have an honest understanding of both their ideology and our own founding principles. Sadly, both are lacking in our society today, and these articles – along with those at the Living Rightly site – are intended to get you started in removing those deficiencies. Third, we need to reassert our national sovereignty and once again take control of our immigration process. While immigration is one of the few powers constitutionally granted to the federal government, they have abdicated much of their responsibility and are acting irresponsibly in ways that put us at risk as a people. But the answer is surprisingly simple. Their power comes from us. All we have to do is say no more.

Our government seems to be taking the approach that if you cannot change a people’s hearts and minds, then change the people. To set things right we need to return to our founding values of faith, reason, virtue and morality, but to do that we first need to understand what they truly are. They are not the social justice expounded by collectivism, nor the moral relativism that they express as an absolute – an inane form of pretzel logic.


[1] Pew Research Center, How Muslims See Themselves and Islam’s Role, July 14, 2005. Other Pew Research Center surveys used in this article include Most Embrace a Role for Islam in Politics: Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah (December 2, 2010) and The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics, and Society (April 30, 2013).

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Dan Wolf
Dan Wolf is a researcher and analyst; examining complex, abstract topics. His writing’s premise is based on one simple idea. We do not receive the benefits of God’s gifts unless we are turned toward Him. Each generation needs to learn this lesson to pass on what’s important. What are those gifts? Freedom, faith, and grace among others. Our Founders considered education, religion, morality, and virtue to be the cornerstones for any successful society. Success requires an education in both the languages of reason and faith, reason alone is not enough. Unfortunately, our education system today no longer teaches what we need to be successful, so we risk losing our way. But it is not too late. In the end we each have the freedom to choose, and the ability to learn. There are many who have already blazed a trail for us; we only need the will to embrace the challenge and make the effort. Together we will restore the societal foundation that our Founder’s, and many after them, fought and died for. The choice is ours. My goal is to assist you on your way. I can be reached at livingrightly@mindspring.com. His site is at:  http://www.livingrightly.net/