Islamic State is comprehensively failing to capture the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world. Max Chalmers reports.
New data from 11 countries with significant Muslim populations has revealed a consistently negative view of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ group, according to the company that undertook the research.
Polling by the respected US-based Pew Research Centre conducted in April and May this year found that in every one of the countries bar one the overwhelming majority of the population had an unfavourable view of the group.
In countries including Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel, close to or above 90 per cent of the population said they had a “very unfavourable” view of the group.
In Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, just 4 per cent said they had a favourable view, with 79 per cent reporting an unfavourable one.
The poll was conducted before the latest round of IS attacks against targets around the world, including Paris and Beirut.
The only country in which an overwhelmingly unfavourable impression was not recorded was Pakistan, where 62 per cent of respondents said they did not know, or would not respond to the question. Pakistan has been heavily targeted by the United State’s drone campaign which, according to independent investigations and reports, has resulted in a staggeringly high rate of civilian casualties. Separate Pew Research polling has shown the US is viewed in unfavourable terms in the country, and that close to seven out of 10 people living in Pakistan think drone strikes kill too many innocent people.
Still, only 9 per cent of those surveyed in Pakistan reported a favourable view of IS.
“In no country surveyed did more than 15 per cent of the population show favourable attitudes toward Islamic State,” according to Pew Research Centre senior researcher Jacob Poushter. “And in those countries with mixed religious and ethnic populations, negative views of ISIS cut across these lines.
Most damningly, 99 per cent of those surveyed in Lebanon reported a “very unfavourable” view of IS, a view that was held at a virtually identical rate by Shia, Sunni, and Christian respondents.
Despite these results, polling elsewhere has found an increasing angst about Islam in western countries. The Public Religion Research Institute recently found a growing number of Americans viewed Islam as “at odds with American values”. A majority of those surveyed – 56 per cent – agreed with the proposition, up from 47 per cent in 2011. Responses tended to vary greatly when the religious views of the respondent were taken into account.
In July, Pew reported growing concern about “Islamic extremism” among those living in western nations, as well as in places like Nigeria, Palestine, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Turkey.
The results align with a major study carried out by former Gallup pollster and Obama adviser Dalia Mogahed and academic John Esposito looking at the responses of 50,000 Muslims around the world to the September 11 attacks. Among respondents in 93 countries the researchers found 93 per cent of Muslims condemned the attacks.
The results, reflected on in a recent essay in New Statesman arguing Islamic teachings have little to do with the rise of Islamic State, indicated the small number who did not condemn the attack tended to point to political grievances rather than religious or scriptural justifications when explaining their position.
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