A large number of bloggers have responded favorably to this report
on Muslim attitudes in selected countries towards suicide bombing and Al Qaeda. Favorably, because the report records somewhat of a drop in favorable ratings towards suicide bombers and Osama Bin Laden, and some Muslim optimism towards the adaptability of democracy in the Muslim world. I’ll take my own stabs at explanations for the poll’s findings, and the implications of them.
There is a general drop in support for suicide bombings, with the odd exception of Jordan. The high number for Lebanon can be explained due to the popularity of Hizballah
, which perfected the Muslim use of suicide bombing as a weapon. This resulted in the deaths of over 240 US Marines
, and the eventual Israeli retreat from Lebanon, the Muslim world's one lasting victory thus far over them. Pakistan's tribal regions are notorious for Al Qaeda support, and its own jihadists, armed and sent by the Pakistani ISI
, use suicide bombings against the Indians in the disputed regions of Kashmir. Jordan is the extreme outlier, and I can only guess that it has to do with Jordanian [Arab] sympathy for Palestinian methods.
The general drop is predictable as Al Qaeda's terrorism becomes increasingly a Muslim [Iraqi] problem, rather than a Western problem. It is much easier to glamorize Al Qaeda as freedom fighters when they're killing Americans and Israelis, and the odd European, rather than co-religionists. Zarqawi himself recognized this early on
, it is the unique danger of democratization - it forces him to kill the Iraqis themselves, with the inevitable alienation: “We fight them, and this is difficult because of the gap that will emerge between us and the people of the land. . . . Democracy is coming, and there will be no excuse thereafter. . . . With the deployment of [Iraqi] soldiers and police, the future has become frightening.”
The question of course is how much of the Islamic world still believes that suicide bombings against civilians are perfectly acceptable so long as it only kills infidels, and whose opinion only changed in the context of dying Iraqis. For a specific example, see an Iraqi man's reaction to the recent suicide bombing,which killed 27 people, mostly children, by attacking US soldiers handing out candy
:"Why do they attack our children? They just destroyed one U.S. Humvee, but they killed dozens of our children," he said as women screamed, slapped their faces and beat themselves over the head..."
As a Belmont Club poster
said, the implication is: "Here is a native, lamenting the amount of damage to US was insufficent grounds for the collateral damage done. If US loses had been higher... well then the sacrifice could well have been worth it."
The Iraqis and their co-religionists better get serious about the enemy. It isn't the Jews; it isn't the Americans; it is your own spawn and neighbors. The conspiracy theories are a nice crutch when the people dying aren't you, but when it comes home in living color, reality is a bitch. End the foreign blame game, and start proactively cleaning house; the enemies live among you - are you. Calling them non-Muslims who were sweet men after they commit the crime isn't enough.
Most bloggers also commented positively on this chart, pointing out the decline in Bin Laden's popularity in 4 of the 6 listed countries. Honestly, I don't hold so much optimism.
It clearly shows that although politically correct, the description of Bin Laden as attracting support from the "fringe of the fringe" of Islam has little basis in fact, especially in the Arab world. This poll confirms that Bin Laden has favorable majorities in both Jordan and Pakistan. If Jordan is reflective of the Arab world in general, and I suspect it is, we've got problems. Pakistan's high number is no surprise, considering Bin Laden’s popularity among the Taliban sympathizing Pakistani Pashtuns and Pakistan's generally conservative streak. Neither Morocco nor Turkey are particularly known to be bastions of Islamism. The extraordinarily low number for Lebanon, I can't explain. Perhaps the combination of Christians, Syrian Alawite/Sunni secularism, and Hezbollah's radical Shi'ism turn off support for Bin Laden and his agenda.
A key thing I would take from this poll is the large manpower pool that Bin Laden is obviously drawing from. The "fly trap" theory may work to distract Al Qaeda, but it certainly won't drain the world of jihadists. He has much more support than anyone in American political discourse is willing to acknowledge, and we don't even have numbers from a number of countries in the Arab world [Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc] where he's traditionally received high support. For example, an internal Saudi poll
estimated that "of several hundred educated people between the ages of 25 and 40 found that 90 percent of the sample expressed support, on some level, for bin Laden."
There’s certainly a gap between respecting Bin Laden for humiliating the Americans, and supporting Al Qaeda, but these aren’t the sort of people who are going to help us eliminate him and his network, at least until they feel the drawbacks themselves [or see Iraqis suffering them].
Personally, I thought this was the most interesting of the graphics. First of all, it dispels the caricature of Americans as knuckle-dragging anti-Muslim bigots. In fact, except for the conspicuous position of Britons [one wonders whether that's changed in the past week?], Americans gave a lower unfavorable rating to Muslims than any other Western people. The Dutch predictably gave the highest, sparked by backlash against the killings of both populist politician Pim Fortuyn
and film maker Theo Van Gogh
by unassimilated Muslims. See this piece
for more. Generally, European unfavorable ratings towards Islam reflect this fear of unassimilated Muslims: Algerians in France, Turks in Germany, etc. I'd be very interested in seeing post-London polls.
Not surprisingly, it also shows that anti-Semitism is beyond epidemic in the Muslim world, even in increasingly Islamic Turkey. There’s also large amount of ire directed towards “Christians,” something reflecting the anti-“Crusade” siege mentality of the Islamic world. It is interesting that the one country with a large Christian population, Lebanon, is the most favorable towards Christians. European anti-Semitism has been on the upswing in the past few years, typically as a reaction against Israel and drawing from traditional European anti-Semitism.
Some other conclusions: Watch Turkey, there is definitely something happening there. There’s been numerous articles in the Western press describing its increasing Islamic tilt, reflected by the election of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
. The Pew poll seems to confirm this extended influence of Pan-Islamist sympathies. The internal division towards whether increased Islamic influence in Turkey is good or bad (39 vs. 50) reflects the battle between Islamic democrats and Ataturk’s
secular legacy. Jordan is also very ominous, and may be a troubling indicator of the state of the wider Arab world. The Jordanian government, even if not its people, is generally considered a more moderate Arab government. One wonders what the poll numbers would be in Jordan had Al Qaeda operatives successfully carried out their intended chemical attack in Amman