Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Pew Survey: Not much support for Boku Haram in Nigeria or the Taliban in Pakistan

by Salman Hameed

The Pew Foundation has a new survey out that there is an increasing level of concern in the Muslim world about Islamic extremism. This survey was in fact taken before the fall of Mosul in Iraq to ISIS - which I guess, now is just IS (The Islamic State). On a side note, I'm glad about the name change, as Isis reminded me of the nice Egyptian goddess of health, marriage and love, whereas the new ISIS is mostly deadly, brutal, and tragic. In any case, I think respondents would be even more concerned now with the all the recent developments in Iraq.

Before we look into some of the results which uses the word Islamic extremism frequently, please also read this excellent article by Nathan Lean: Stop Saying "Moderate Muslims". You Are Only Empowering Islamophobes".

Here are some of the key Pew findings. Yes, the concern is high about Islamic extremism in almost all Muslim countries surveyed, and it is to be expected. Many of these countries are experiencing it first-hand. Indonesia is a notable exception, and I'm surprised at the level of difference between Malaysia and Indonesia:

Here are the opinions on al Qaeda, and again it is to be expected. Nevertheless, it is surprising to see a quarter of Bangladeshi respondents seeing al Qaeda in a favorable light. In Pakistan and Malaysia, a sizable fraction did not provide an answer (and I do not blame them for being cautious on both sides):

And most Nigerians have an unfavorable opinion of Boku Haram - a really nasty group that kidnapped school girls and have been bombing market and other public places for the last few years. In fact, there was a bombing just this morning in northern Nigeria that killed 18 people.

And Pakistanis don't have much love for the Taliban either (and this holds for all flavors of Taliban). However, it will be interesting to see the break-down of numbers by provinces. On the one hand, I can see the Taliban enjoying broader support in the northern K-P province, but on the other hand, Peshawar is also a routinely struck by their bombings. I wouldn't be surprised if Baluchistan has higher support as there is a strong separatist movement that is not linked with the Taliban, but may have sympathy for the (current) enemies of Pakistan military.

Here are the numbers for support for suicide bombings against civilian targets. Perhaps not surprisingly, the numbers in Gaza are high. But then again, I'm surprised at the numbers in Bangladesh. What is going on there? In contrast, I think Pakistanis have seen enough suicide bombings and only 3% are okay with the use of such a tactic:

And here is the level of support for suicide bombings over the last 12 years. This is a good reminder that these views, of course, are driven by circumstances. Lebanon and Pakistan - both have been rocked by internal violence - have the most dramatic shift in views, with Lebanese support for suicide bombings going down from 74% in 2002 to 29% in 2014, and in Pakistan from 33% to just 3! So - next time when Sam Harris or Pamela Geller or Ayan Hirsi Ali start making normative claims on these issues, just point out that Muslims not only have diverse positions on this topic, but their positions also change with time (and then re-read Nathan Lean's piece on problematic use of "moderate Muslims").

Read the full report here


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