Bin laden’s reputation declines in muslim countries

While muslims want islam to have a greater influence in politics, according to a survey, people in non-muslim countries see it as the cause of terrorism

According to a recent international survey, people in muslim countries seem to be gradually turning away from terrorism. At the same time, however, they want islam to play a more coarse political role. While the citizens of non-muslim countries are most likely to consider islam as the faith most prone to violence, for muslims it is the judaic religion. Even though this survey seems to indicate a shift away from islamist extremism, the gap between cultures is widening due to terrorism.

Suicide bombings are a powerful and threatening type of attack against which there is little protection. The same applies to all cases in which a person sacrifices his life for a cause, i.E. The rational principle of self-preservation is violated. Not for nothing did socrates stand at the beginning of philosophy, a man who sacrificed himself in order to uphold his ideas against the community. He was followed by jesus christ and his many imitators who exemplified the power of martyrdom until the rule of rome was undermined and christians slipped from opposition to power. Since then, martyrdom, because it undermines any rule, was no longer desired by church and state.

The power of suicide bombers lies in the fact that, once determined, they are probably most afraid of being caught before the attack or of surviving it. The resulting determination may mean that no serious damage is done, because the explosives are rounded up too early rather than not at all.

What is astonishing and still needs to be explained is how terrorist groups and insurgents in iraq still seem to find plenty of people who are already dying day after day. For what reason the mostly young men sacrifice themselves, trying to rub as many as possible of their supposed opponents with the ones to their deaths, is not yet sufficiently clear. Despite all that has been written so far, it remains a mystery. After all, the often academically educated could not readily believe that their martyrdom would take them to the fair maidens of paradise.

All graphics: pew research center

While some muslims have so far accused bin laden and co. Admired for defying the superpower and promoting islamic culture. Jordan appears to be an exception. Here, 57 percent (2002: 43%) said violence against civilians was sometimes necessary, while only 11 percent (2002: 26%) strongly opposed it. In lebanon, approval of attacks fell drastically from 73% to 39% (see 2002 survey: no desire for war). This trend can also be observed in pakistan, indonesia and morocco. A total of 17 people were interviewed for the study in april and may 2005.000 people in muslim countries (indonesia, jordan, lebanon, morocco, pakistan, turkey) as well as in china, germany, france, great britain, holland, canada, india, poland, russia, spain, USA).

As endorsement recedes, fear of terrorism increases. In jordan, however, where many people seem to support terrorism, consistently not. 87% of respondents here say islamic extremism does not pose a threat to their country. A majority of respondents in lebanon and indonesia also share this opinion. 47% of turks, 52% of pakistanis and 73% of moroccans agree. However, the people of the muslim countries do not agree on the cause of extremism. In lebanon and jordan, people see it more as a result of U.S. Policy, in pakistan and morocco as a result of poverty and unemployment, in turkey lack of education is cited most often, in indonesia amorality.

In the rest of the world, however, islamist extremism is seen as a threat by the majority of the population – with the exception of poland, which has so far been spared. India and russia lead the way (84% each), followed by germany (79%), spain, the netherlands and france. In the USA and the united kingdom, only "only" 70%, but after the attacks in london, the mood among the british may have changed. There, too, the majority (57%), as in spain (68%), is in favor of turkey’s accession to the EU, which is rejected by two-thirds of the other european countries, such as germany and france.

In muslim countries, osama bin laden’s star also seems to be fading – again with the exception of pakistan and jordan, where explosive sentiment could subsequently build up, if the survey is indeed representative. In jordan, 60% of the respondents "trust" in bin laden (2002: 55%), and in pakistan 51% (2002: 45%). In turkey, bin laden has only 7% followers, in lebanon 2%. Relatively large numbers still exist in indonesia (35%; 2002: 58%) and morocco (26%; 2002: 49%).

It is also interesting to see whether the fear of islamist extremism leads to a rejection of muslims. In the USA, canada, great britain and france, the rejection of muslims is still lower than in the other european countries or in india. In germany, 40% have a good opinion of islam, 47% have a bad opinion (and still 67% have a good opinion of the jewish religion). China is an exception. Here, neither the christians nor the muslims nor the jews are being discriminated against. Conversely, in muslim countries there is little respect for christians (exceptions lebanon, jordan, indonesia) and even less for jews. In jordan and lebanon, none of the respondents said they had a good attitude toward jews (in lebanon, even 99% of christians hold this opinion). The fact that 98% of jordanians say that the judaic religion is the most violent shows what worlds separate people here. In the muslim countries, only the turks see it differently. For them, christianity is most prone to violence. In all other countries a large majority considers islam to be violent, especially holland (88%), france, spain and germany (79%). In france, holland, germany and india, the majority of people think it would be a good idea to ban the headscarf.

Many people in muslim countries not only say that religion has a gross influence on politics, they often find it important to be a member of the muslim faith community first rather than a citizen of a state. 79% of pakistanis, 70% of moroccans or 63% of jordanians see themselves as muslim first. The importance of religious identity may also be the reason why the original conflict zones in chechnya, kashmir, afghanistan, and israel have become the focus of attention. Many citizens of muslim countries also want islam to play an even greater role in politics. In jordan, the majority think that religion does not play a major role, but 97% think it would be good if it were more important. This is also the case in pakistan, morocco and indonesia. Even though most people believe that their country is democratic, this shows that people are more inclined toward a state based on religion.

While support for islamist terrorism is declining, the image of the united states has improved slightly, especially among the young and women. This is most likely to be the case in morocco and lebanon; otherwise, only one-third and usually only one-fifth say they had a good opinion of the united states.