WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden’s standing has dropped significantly in some key Muslim countries, while support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence has “declined dramatically,” according to a new survey released Thursday.
In a striking finding, predominantly Muslim populations in a sampling of six North African, Middle East and Asian countries are as alarmed as Western nations about Islamic extremism, which is now seen as a threat in their own nations, too, the poll found.
“Most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries, and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam,” concluded the Pew Global Attitudes Project.
Compared with previous surveys, the new poll also found growing majorities or pluralities of Muslims surveyed now say democracy can work in their countries and is not just a political system for the West. Support for democracy was in the 80 percent range in Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco.
“They are not just paying lip service. They are saying they specifically want a fair judiciary, freedom of expression and more than one party to participate in elections. It wasn’t just a vague concept,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center in Washington and director of the project. “U.S. and Western ideas about democracy have been globalized and are in the Muslim world.”
At the same time, however, most Muslims surveyed believe Islam is playing an increasing role in politics, which they view as a positive shift in response to economic problems, growing immorality and concern about Western influence. Jordan was the only exception to the trend.
Yet solid majorities in five of the six Muslim countries surveyed – Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey – also now have unfavorable views of the United States. In the sixth, Morocco, views are divided. The governments in all six countries are allied with the United States and recipients of U.S. aid.