The vast majority of young Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia appear to disapprove of the traditional acceptance of polygamy but remain reluctant to openly support interfaith marriages or premarital sex, a new survey shows.
In the survey coordinated by two German-based cultural organizations, 86.5 percent of 1,496 Indonesians interviewed and 72.7 percent of 1,060 Malaysians said they were against polygamy. More females opposed polygamy compared to males, who are permitted four wives under Islamic law.
The findings indicate that opinions among the young in both Muslim-majority nations "have shifted from the traditional viewpoint that sees polygamy as an Islamic precept," according to a survey summary released Monday by the Goeth-Institut and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
The all-Muslim respondents who participated in face-to-face interviews last October and November were from 15 to 25 years old.
Indonesia and Malaysia have Southeast Asia's largest Muslim populations, and polygamy has become widely debated in both countries in recent years. Women's groups say many men who enter polygamous marriages neglect their existing wives and children financially and emotionally.
Activists estimate polygamous unions in Malaysia account for about 5 percent of new marriages. The practice is thought to be more widespread in Indonesia, but many marriages are performed secretly at mosques and are not recorded by the state.
Supporters of polygamy have recently set up clubs in both Malaysia and Indonesia, encouraging women to be totally obedient to their husbands and insisting the practice can solve social problems such as prostitution.
The rejection of polygamy among respondents in the survey was "remarkable considering otherwise overwhelmingly favorable attitudes toward social and religious conservatism," the summary's authors wrote.
Ninety-two percent of the Indonesian respondents and 62 percent of the Malaysians said they were unwilling to wed someone from a different religion, the summary said.
"Even if they are willing to marry a spouse of a different faith, they wish for them to convert to Islam," it said.
Only 1.4 percent of the Indonesians and 1.6 percent of the Malaysians polled said premarital sex was acceptable.
Researchers from Malaysia's Merdeka Center for Opinion Research and Indonesia's Lembaga Survei asked respondents about wide-ranging issues such as politics, their lifestyles and ambitions.
The Malaysian poll had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, while the Indonesian error margin was 2.6 percentage points, Kuala Lumpur-based researcher Ibrahim Suffian said Tuesday.
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