The Muslim World has largely fallen behind other civilizations because it is still referred shariato as the “Muslim World.” (Modern U.S. policy and historic colonialism have greatly aggravated the situation too)

If the west was still described as “The Christian World” in 2013, we’d also be lagging economically, culturally, scientifically, and spiritually. The best way for countries with Muslim majorities to catch up and return their cultures to historic greatness is to find a way out of the trap of religious fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, it appears that way too many Muslims are holding onto the fantasy that “Islam is the Answer.” According to a new Pew Research survey:

A majority of Muslims around the world believe sharia – or traditional Islamic law – should prevail in the countries in which they live, but at the same time most say they favor religious freedom for people of other faiths, according to a new survey.

The survey by the Pew Research Center is based on more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in countries where Muslims are both a majority and a minority.

One of the key findings was that six in 10 Muslims in the Middle East and nearly eight in 10 in sub-Saharan Africa believe their national laws should be based on the Islamic code of sharia.  In Afghanistan, the figure was 99 percent.

Before we say more, let’s point out that such surveys are not perfect:

Pew researcher Jim Bell acknowledged the difficulties of conducting the survey in countries where such topics may be sensitive or have what he called “socially desirable answers.”

“It’s possible to read into some of the findings that this is obviously a very popular answer to say that sharia should be made the official law of the country,” said Bell.

We should also acknowledge that support for sharia doesn’t necessarily  translate into support for religious extremism. There are other reasons that people support this system of law, as well as different portions of sharia that some may reject:

…specific follow-up questions suggested the understanding of sharia varies from place to place, and is often seen as useful in property and family disputes.

“As we look across regions and countries, there’s often less support in many countries for applying sharia in the form of criminal punishments or enforcing the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith and convert to another religion,” he said.

Bell also said that despite support for sharia, most Muslims think it does not apply to non-Muslims.  He said that in spite of restrictions on non-Muslim communities in a number of countries, many say they favor religious freedom for people of other faiths.

It is also important to point out that American Muslims are significantly more tolerant and have belief systems that mirror that of their American neighbors.

The researchers compared the findings with earlier surveys and found that American Muslims are much more likely to have close friends of other faiths, and more than half say other religions can lead to eternal life in Heaven.  That’s compared to 96 percent of Egyptian Muslims and 92 percent of Pakistani Muslims, and overwhelming majorities in other countries, who say Islam is the only true religion.

Still, if you look around the world, countries ruled by sharia are backward and serial violators of human rights. In such places women are often treated as second class citizens, gays are severely persecuted, and the populations are intolerant of different religions and ideas. Rigid doctrines stifle education, science, creativity, imagination, and create a climate of fear.

If Muslims believe that sharia will improve their standard of living or standing in the world, they are severely miscalculating. It will only bring increased pain, suffering, poverty, and pestilence. It will ensure that they will never compete with the West in the fields of medicine and technology. It means a continued status of government sponsored inferiority for women, gays, and religious minorities. No doubt, such tyranny will lead to further “brain drain,” where the wealthiest and brightest Muslims leave sharia nations and bring their talent and ingenuity to countries that embrace intellectual freedom.

This is not to pick specifically on Islam. In America, fundamentalist Christians hold similar ideologies. They have worked tirelessly to chip away at religious pluralism and install a theocracy. It is no coincidence that the states that most reflect religious models are not-a-churchoften the poorest, backward, unhealthiest, and most uneducated.

Furthermore, the increased presence of fundamentalist Christians in Congress have soiled the atmosphere in Washington and made Capitol Hill nastier, more partisan, more extreme, less compromising, and less productive than ever. Can anyone claim with a straight face that fundamentalists have made Washington more loving and Christ-like?

Even though religious rule is the road to ruin, millions of people (Christan, Muslim, Jewish etc.) still share the collective fantasy that God and government are the same. This might be the most dangerous belief of the 21st century and could hurtle civilization back to the Middle Ages. Such tomfoolery must be vigorously countered and stopped for the sake of humanity’s future.

The separation of faith and state are essential to creating free and prosperous societies. Any culture that does not understand this is doomed to underachievement and ultimate failure.