Pew Survey: Muslim Publics Concerned About Extremism

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Concern about Islamic extremism remains widespread among Muslims from South Asia to the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa. Across 11 Muslim publics surveyed by the Pew Research Center, a median of 67% say they are somewhat or very concerned about Islamic extremism. In five countries – Pakistan, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey and Indonesia – Muslim worries about extremism have increased in the past year.

Against this backdrop, extremist groups, including al Qaeda, garner little popular support. Even before his death in 2011, confidence in al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had plummeted among many Muslims. Today, al Qaeda is widely reviled, with a median of 57% across the 11 Muslims publics surveyed saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the terrorist organization that launched the twin attacks on New York City and Washington, DC more than a decade ago.

The Taliban, who once shared Afghanistan as a base of operation with al Qaeda, are viewed negatively by a median of 51% of Muslims in the countries polled. Hezbollah and Hamas fare little better. Hezbollah, in particular, has seen its support slip in key Middle Eastern countries, including a 38 percentage point drop in favorable views among Egyptian Muslims since 2007.

In many of the countries surveyed, clear majorities of Muslims oppose violence in the name of Islam. Indeed, about three-quarters or more in Pakistan (89%), Indonesia (81%), Nigeria (78%) and Tunisia (77%), say suicide bombings or other acts of violence that target civilians are never justified. And although substantial percentages in some countries do think suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified – including a 62%-majority of Palestinian Muslims, overall support for violence in the name of Islam has declined among Muslim publics during the past decade.

The survey also finds that Nigerian Muslims overwhelmingly oppose Boko Haram, the extremist movement at the center of a violent uprising in northern Nigeria. One of Boko Haram’s stated aims is to establish sharia, or Islamic law, as the official law of the land. Nigerian Muslims are divided on whether their country’s laws should closely follow the teachings of the Quran.

These are among the key findings from a survey of 11 Muslim publics conducted by the Pew Research Center from March 3 to April 7, 2013. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 8,989 Muslims in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Senegal, Tunisia and Turkey.


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