07/26/2006 - The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has again drawn the world's attention to Lebanon and its complicated mosaic of religious sects. Despite its small population - just under four million people - Lebanon is the most diverse country in the Middle East, with significant Sunni, Shia, Christian, and Druze populations. On many issues, Lebanon's Muslim majority shares the views of other Muslims in the Middle East and throughout the world, especially its antipathy toward Israel (Lebanon's Christian minority also shares this antipathy). But on other issues, Lebanese Muslims stand apart. In particular, data from a Pew Global Attitudes survey conducted in May of last year (this year's survey did not include Lebanon) shows that Lebanon's Muslims are considerably more secular in their outlook than Muslims in other countries.
Although Lebanese Muslims consider Islam an important part of their lives, they place less emphasis on their faith than do Muslims elsewhere. In the six predominantly Islamic countries surveyed, Muslims in Lebanon are the least likely to say religion is very important in their life - just over half (54%) say religion is very important, compared with 69% of Muslims in Turkey, 86% in Jordan, and more than 90% in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Morocco.
Muslims in Lebanon are also less likely to identify primarily with their religion, rather than with their country, with equal numbers saying they think of themselves first as Muslim (30%) and saying they identify primarily as Lebanese (30%). Elsewhere, majorities or pluralities of Muslims identify more strongly with Islam than with their nationality - in many cases by lopsided proportions. Even in Turkey - a country with a long-running tradition of secularism - Muslim identifiers outnumber those who identify primarily as Turks by 13 percentage points.
Moreover, Lebanese Muslims are less concerned about the global role of Islam - just under half (47%) say it is very important for Islam to play a more important and influential role on the world stage. In contrast, 84% of Muslims in Morocco and 73% in Jordan would like to see Islam play a major role. Only Turkish Muslims, at 43%, show less interest in Islam's global influence.
Read the complete findings Lebanon's Muslims: Relatively Secular and Pro-Christian; But Support for Terrorism and Anti-Semitism are Widespread on the Pew Research Center Web site.