Sixty six percent of Pakistanis are concerned about Islamic extremism, while 59 percent of Pakistanis say they have no love for the Taliban, according to a new poll released on Tuesday.
Fears about Islamic extremism are rising in nations with large Muslim populations from the Middle East to South Asia and support for radical groups is on the slide.
Concern about extremism has increased in the past 12 months amid the dragging war in Syria and attacks by Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pew Research Center said on Tuesday after interviewing more than 14,200 people in 14 countries.
Groups such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and even Hamas, which won elections to take control of the Gaza Strip, are also losing support.
The review was carried out from April 10 to May 25, before the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – now renamed the Islamic State – took over the northern Iraqi town of Mosul in a lightning offensive which has seen it seize a large swathe of territory.
In Lebanon, which shares a border with Syria, as many as 92 percent of those interviewed from Sunni, Shia and Christian communities said they were worried about Islamic extremism.
Concern has also risen in Jordan and Turkey, both of which border Syria and have taken in significant numbers of refugees fleeing the three-year war to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in which extremists have increasingly moved into the chaos.
“In Asia, strong majorities in Bangladesh (69 percent), Pakistan (66 percent) and Malaysia (63 percent) are concerned about Islamic extremism,” the Pew report said.
However, in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, such fears were not shared, with only four in ten people voicing any anxiety about extremism.
An overwhelming majority of Nigerians (79 percent) were against Boko Haram, behind the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls earlier this year, while 59 percent of Pakistanis said they have no love for the Taliban.
According to the report, the Taliban, which has a base of operations on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, is seen unfavorably by 59% of the population in Pakistan. Only 8% have a favorable view of this extremist organization, with a third of Pakistanis not offering an opinion. Views of the Taliban have not changed substantially in recent years. Opinions toward specific branches of the Taliban, such as Tehrik-i-Taliban and the Afghan Taliban, are also negative.
In a spring 2013 survey, both those groups received low ratings (56% unfavorable and 47% unfavorable, respectively)
Just over half of Palestinians (53 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of Hamas and the figure rises to 63 percent in the Gaza Strip, the report said.
When Muslims were asked whether suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies, few in the countries surveyed say that this form of violence is often or sometimes justified, and support has generally diminished in the last decade. Still, significant minorities of Muslims in a few countries do hold the view that it can be justified.
In the Middle East, support for suicide bombing is highest in the Palestinian territories, where 46% of Muslims say that it is often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam. Support is particularly high among Muslims in Gaza (62%) versus those in the West Bank (36%).
In Lebanon, 29% of Muslims say targeting civilians is justified. This includes 37% of Shia Muslims but only 21% among Sunni Muslims. Meanwhile, a quarter or less of Muslims in Egypt (24%), Turkey (18%), Israel (16%) and Jordan (15%) say suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified. Among Tunisian Muslims, only 5% say this.
Nearly half of Bangladeshi Muslims (47%) believe suicide bombing can be justified. This is much higher than the 18% of Muslims in Malaysia who say the same.
In Indonesia and Pakistan, countries which have been rocked by suicide bombings in the past decade, one-in-ten Muslims or less say that targeting civilians is often or sometimes justified (9% and 3%, respectively).
A decade ago, 41% of Pakistani Muslims said attacks on civilians were justified, but that has fallen to just 3% today,adds the report.