Islamic Extremism: Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

07/14/2005 - Concerns over Islamic extremism, extensive in the West even before this month's terrorist attacks in London, are shared to a considerable degree by the publics in several predominantly Muslim nations surveyed. Nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries. At the same time, 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.

Nonetheless, the polling also finds that while Muslim and non-Muslim publics share some common concerns, they have very different attitudes regarding the impact of Islam on their countries. Muslim publics worry about Islamic extremism, but the balance of opinion in predominantly Muslim countries is that Islam is playing a greater role in politics – and most welcome that development. Turkey is a clear exception; the public there is divided about whether a greater role for Islam in the political life of that country is desirable.

In non-Muslim countries, fears of Islamic extremism are closely associated with worries about Muslim minorities. Western publics believe that Muslims in their countries want to remain distinct from society, rather than adopt their nation's customs and way of life. Moreover, there is a widespread perception in countries with significant Muslim minorities, including the U.S., that resident Muslims have a strong and growing sense of Islamic identity. For the most part, this development is viewed negatively, particularly in Western Europe. In France, Germany and the Netherlands, those who see a growing sense of Islamic identity among resident Muslims overwhelmingly say this is a bad thing.

The latest survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted among more than 17,000 people in 17 countries this spring, finds that while many Muslims believe that radical Islam poses a threat, there are differing opinions as to its causes. Sizable minorities in most predominantly Muslim countries point to poverty, joblessness and a lack of education, but pluralities in Jordan and Lebanon cite U.S. policies as the most important cause of Islamic extremism.

Read the full report Islamic Extremism: Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics on the Pew Global Attitudes Project Web site.

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