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Among Muslims, Internet Use Goes Hand-in-Hand With More Open Views Toward Western Culture

August 1, 2013

muslim-internet-1Around the world, Muslims who use the internet are much more likely than other Muslims to have a favorable opinion of Western movies, music and television and are somewhat more likely to see similarities between Islam and Christianity, according to an analysis of a recent Pew Research Center survey.

The survey of Muslims in 39 countries across the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa finds that a median of 18% use the internet in their home, school or workplace. However, internet use varies widely across the countries surveyed, ranging from just 2% of Muslims in Afghanistan to a majority (59%) in Kosovo.

In the 25 countries where there are enough Muslims who use the internet to permit more detailed analysis, the survey finds that internet users tend to be younger and better educated than Muslims who are not online. They also include a somewhat higher proportion of men. But statistical analysis shows that internet use is strongly associated with Muslims’ attitudes toward Western popular culture even when factors such as age, education and gender are taken into account. Holding all else equal, Muslims who use the internet are much more inclined to like Western movies, music and television, and they are somewhat less inclined to say that Western entertainment is harming morality in their country.

The survey also finds that Muslims who use the internet are somewhat more likely than those who are not online to see commonalities between their own faith and Christianity. Statistical analysis shows that internet use is associated with a more open attitude toward Christianity even when controlling for demographic factors such as age, education, gender, level of religious observance and participation in interfaith activities.

When it comes to interpretations of their own faith, however, internet use does not appear to make much difference in Muslims’ views. Regardless of whether they use the internet or not, majorities of Muslims in most countries surveyed say that there is only one true way to interpret their faith and that Islam alone leads to eternal life in heaven. Statistical analysis finds little difference between internet users and non-users on these questions.

In nearly every country where analysis is possible, Muslim internet users are more likely to say they enjoy Western movies, music and television. Differences in opinion between Muslim internet users and those who do not use the internet are particularly wide in Kyrgyzstan (where internet users are 35 percentage points more likely to have a positive view of Western entertainment), Senegal (+32), Russia (+32), Indonesia (+31), Tajikistan (+31), Bosnia-Herzegovina (+30), Azerbaijan (+30) and Tunisia (+30). Read more in the Pew Research Forum.

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