Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pew poll on Muslim views on ISIS

by Salman Hameed

After the Paris attacks, the nonsensical chorus of "why don't Muslims condemn ISIS" has grown even louder. To make things worse, even when there is a report on such opposing voices, the story is framed in a way to further aggravate the problem. This was the NYT story with the headline From Indonesia, a Muslim Challenge to the Ideology of the Islamic State and the story almost gives the impression that "finally" someone in the Muslim world (yes - all that "monolithic" entity!) is standing up to ISIS. And of course, the NYT conveniently forgets that Iran has been actively fighting ISIS for a while, and that several other Muslim countries are engaged in fighting the Islamic State as well (even when it is politically complicated, as is the case with Turkey). With all that in context, here are the views of Muslims in 11 countries:

This is not much of a surprise. The ideological battle is actually not with ISIS - but with those who are using ISIS to make simplistic statements as "ISIS is Islamic", etc. By the way, it is interesting that 62% of Pakistanis don't have an opinion on ISIS. I don't know why this is the case. It is quite possible that people genuinely don't know about ISIS - it is after all far from Iraq/Syria/Libya and when it comes to violence against civilians, there are local groups (such as the various flavors of Taliban or the LeT) that are of bigger concern. Furthermore, through Pakistani lens, ISIS may be seen as anti-US, and that may balance out its savagery (yes - opinion of US in Pakistan is quite low). In case you are wondering about religious affiliations, here is the division:

This follows more or less to the country's trend, irrespective of religion. Therefore, it is not that surprising that 5% of Christians in Burkina Faso or 6% Buddhists in Malaysia have a favorable view of ISIS. But Nigeria is one exception here - but again, this may possibly be due to Boko Haram's connection to the group.

In any case, polls like this do not capture the complexities on the ground. Nevertheless, they sometimes do give a broad brush picture what is going on. 


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