Muslim public opinion varies significantly on how free people of other religions are to practice their faiths, particularly when taking into account the level of government restrictions on religion in the country.**
For instance, medians of more than eight-in-ten Muslims in countries with low or moderate government restrictions report that people of other faiths are very free to practice their religion freely (see chart).
By contrast, in countries with high or very high government restrictions on religion, substantially fewer Muslims reported that people of other religions were very free to practice their faiths, 60% and 58% respectively.
Muslim opinion on how free others are to practice their faith also varies considerably by geographic region. Opinion that others are very free is highest in sub-Saharan Africa (median of 81%). A median more than seven-in-ten Muslims in Southern-Eastern Europe (74%) consider that others are very free to practice their faith. But in two regions, far fewer Muslims say others are very free to practice their faith: Asia-Pacific (60%) and the Middle East-North Africa region (56%).
The two countries where Muslims expressed in lowest numbers that others were very free to practice their faith are Egypt (31%) and Uzbekistan (26%). In the Pew Forum's latest report, Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion. For instance, Egyptian law permits people to convert to Islam, but prohibits Muslims from converting to other faiths.
Muslims' views on the freedom to practice other faiths are, however, part of a larger context. Many Muslims also think that their religious leaders should have at least some influence over political matters. And many express a desire for sharia – traditional Islamic law – to be recognized as the official law of their country.
For a further discussion of global trends in restrictions on religion - including in the Middle East after the political uprising known as the Arab Spring - see my recent TEDx Talk, "The Numbers of Religious Freedom."
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* The Pew Research report, "The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society," is based on surveys conducted across multiple years. Fifteen sub-Saharan countries with substantial Muslim populations were surveyed in 2008-2009 as part of a larger project that examined religion in that region. The methods employed in those countries – as well as some of the findings – are detailed in the Pew Research Center’s 2010 report “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.” An additional 24 countries and territories were surveyed in 2011-2012. In 21 of these countries, Muslims make up a majority of the population.
** In separate studies, the Pew Forum has measured restrictions on religion around the globe since mid-2006, scoring countries and territories on a Government Restrictions Index (GRI) measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs or practices. The GRI is comprised of 20 measures of restrictions, including efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversions, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to one or more religious groups..