Support dwindles for terrorist action
A survey showed some support remains for using violence to defend Islam.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
WASHINGTON -- Public support for Osama bin Laden and terrorist violence has declined markedly in several Muslim countries, although it remains substantial, a new poll shows.
The poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Survey found that confidence in bin Laden "to do the right thing regarding world affairs" fell in four of six sampled countries in the past two years. Support for violence against civilian targets has fallen in five of the six countries.
Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said the results suggested that "people are tiring of terrorism in these places," perhaps because the countries have themselves suffered terrorist attacks.
At the same time, the figures show there remains "a pretty substantial body of support" for deadly attacks in defense of Islam, Kohut emphasized.
The six Muslim countries included in the poll were Morocco, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey and Jordan.
Kohut said the changing attitude toward bin Laden might also reflect a cooling of anger toward the United States since May 2003, when Pew last asked the question. At that time, memories of the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq were fresh.
Still, support for bin Laden rose in two countries that Washington considers close allies: Jordan and Pakistan. Sixty percent of respondents in Jordan and 51 percent in Pakistan said they had "a lot" or "some" confidence that the Al-Qaida leader would do the right thing, up from 55 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
As for violence against civilians, 13 percent of people surveyed in Morocco this spring said it was justified "often" or "sometimes" to defend Islam from its enemies -- down from 40 percent a year earlier. In Pakistan, the share who approved of violence "often" or "sometimes" fell from 41 percent last year to 25 percent this year, while in Indonesia that figure fell from 27 percent in summer 2002 to 15 percent this year.
One exception to the trend was Jordan, which has a large population of Palestinians and long-standing sympathies with the minority Sunni Muslims in neighboring Iraq. In summer 2002, 43 percent said violence against civilians to defend Islam was justified "sometimes" or "often"; by this spring, the figure had jumped to 57 percent.
In other places, the survey showed that large shares of those surveyed considered terrorist violence a threat to their own country. Seventy-three percent of Moroccans said they considered it a threat to their nation, as well as 52 percent of Pakistanis.
The polling was done between April and mid-June, and involved 17,000 people in the six predominantly Muslim countries.
While there has been some decline in support for violence carried out in the name of Islam, many Muslims said they saw peaceful Islam as an increasingly important force in their countries' politics -- and considered that a welcome development, the poll suggested.
In Pakistan, 48 percent said Islam was taking an increasing role in politics in their country, vs. 23 percent who thought its role was declining. Pluralities in Indonesia, Lebanon, Morocco and Turkey also saw a growing role for the religion.
Many who said Islam was playing an increasingly large role said this was in reaction to rising immorality in the country or to offset growing and undesirable Western influences.
Muslims were split on the reasons for Islamic terrorism. Sizable minorities in most of the predominantly Muslim countries pointed to poverty and lack of education as key causes. But pluralities in Jordan and Lebanon cited U.S. policies.