May 23, 2006
Where Terrorism Finds Support in the Muslim World
That May Depend on How You Define It - and Who Are the Targets
by Richard Wike, Pew Global Attitudes Project and Nilanthi Samaranayake, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
What produces terrorists and what conditions allow them to multiply in number and power in the Muslim world? While many studies point to the important role public opinion plays in creating an environment in which terrorist groups can flourish, relatively few works have explored survey data to measure support for terrorism among general publics. Findings from the 2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey on attitudes toward suicide bombing and civilian attacks and other measures of support for terrorism offer some revealing perspectives on this question.
Most notably, the survey finds that terrorism is not a monolithic concept–support for terrorist activity depends importantly on its type and on the location in which it occurs. For example, Moroccans overwhelmingly disapprove of suicide bombings against civilians, but, among respondents in the six predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, they are the most likely to see it as a justifiable tactic against Americans and other westerners in Iraq. Opinions about the United States, its attitudes in dealing with the larger world and the Iraq war are also powerful factors in shaping support for terrorism, as are perceptions that Islam is under threat. With the exception of gender, demographic differences, including income, explain little if anything about attitudes toward terrorism in the Muslim world, but country-specific differences are significant, suggesting the importance of local social, political and religious conditions.
These findings are generally though not entirely consistent with other studies of the origins and growth of Islamic terrorism. Much of the relevant literature, however, differs in its focus, concentrating instead on the motivations of terrorist organizations and their members. For example, groups may turn to suicide bombing when other strategies fail (Martha Crenshaw, 1998) or when they find themselves in competition for public support with other militant groups (Mia Bloom, 2005). Robert Pape (2003) finds that terrorism can be a “rational” strategy, pursued by groups, including secular groups, seeking territorial concessions from liberal democracies (2003). Several authors examine the link between political authoritarianism and terror. Alberto Abadie (2004) finds countries in transition from authoritarianism to democracy at a heightened risk for terrorist activities, while Gregory Gause (2005) argues that authoritarian regimes may be best equipped to stifle terrorism – he offers China as an example. Still others see support for terrorism driven in part by opposition to U.S. foreign policy. For instance, Scott Atran (2004) finds “no evidence that most people who support suicide actions hate Americans’ internal cultural freedoms, but rather every indication that they oppose U.S. foreign policies, particularly regarding the Middle East.”
Relatively few studies have addressed the public attitudes that allow terrorism to take root and grow in certain societies; those that have rely on earlier data than is provided by the 2005 Pew study. In their analysis of Lebanese Muslim attitudes, Simon Haddad and Hilal Khashan (2002) find that younger respondents and those who endorse political Islam are more likely than others to approve of the September 11 attacks. However, they find that income and education are unrelated to such opinions. Examining polling data from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova (2002) also conclude that, contrary to much conventional wisdom, poverty and low education are not key drivers of support for terrorism.
Similarly, in a recent study, Christine Fair and Bryan Shepherd (2006) analyze 2002 Pew Global Attitudes data and find that women, young people, computer users, those who believe Islam is under threat, and those who want religious leaders to play a larger role in politics are more likely to support suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians. Fair and Shepherd find that financial status is also a significant determinant — that the very poor are less, not more, likely to support such attacks.
What then do more recent data show?
Declining Support for Terrorism
Overall, the 2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey finds that support for terrorism has generally declined since 2002 in the six predominantly Muslim countries included in the study – Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey – although there are some variations across countries and survey items.
We will focus on results for three terrorism-related measures: attitudes about suicide bombing and other violence against civilians, views on suicide bombing carried out against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq, and opinions about Osama bin Laden. The first two measures were only asked of Muslim respondents. All respondents were asked their opinion of bin Laden; however, we will restrict our analysis to Muslim respondents.
The most basic measure of support for terrorism asked respondents the following question: “Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Other people believe that, no matter what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?”
As Table 1 illustrates, the share of the public that believes suicide bombing and other violence is justifiable varies considerably across countries, with Jordanian Muslims significantly more likely than others to support terrorist acts. Lebanon and Pakistan form a middle tier on this question, followed by Indonesia, Turkey, and Morocco, where solid majorities say these forms of violence are never justified. In five of the six countries, support for such attacks has dropped since the last time the question was asked, although the decline in Turkey is insignificant. The lone exception is Jordan, where support has actually increased 14 points since 2002.
The most dramatic drop in support for terrorism is seen in Morocco, a country that experienced a devastating terrorist attack in May 2003. Fully 79% of Moroccans surveyed in 2005 said that support for suicide bombing and violence against civilians was never justified–more than double the percentage (38%) who had expressed this view a year earlier.
A second question asked respondents specifically about suicide bombing in Iraq: “What about suicide bombing carried out against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq? Do you personally believe that this is justifiable or not justifiable?”
Interestingly, despite the overall decline in support for terrorist acts among its citizens, Morocco is the only country in which a majority says attacks on Americans and other westerners in Iraq are justified. Roughly half of Jordanian and Lebanese Muslims support such acts, while fewer than 30% of Muslims in Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey agree. In all four countries where trends exist, support for suicide attacks in Iraq has declined, including a large, 21-point drop in Jordan.
Finally, respondents were asked how much confidence they have in Osama bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs. The results show support for bin Laden has declined in four of the six countries. Jordan and Pakistan are the exceptions, with the percentage of Muslims who have a lot or some confidence in bin Laden rising five points among Jordanians and six points among Pakistanis.
Independence of Terrorism Measures
It is clear that across all three measures, support for terrorism has declined generally. However, it is also clear that levels of support vary across questions, suggesting that each measures a different facet of how people view terrorism.
This can be illustrated by examining the relationship between views about suicide bombing generally and suicide bombing specifically in Iraq. As Table 4 demonstrates, in some predominately Muslim countries a significant number of people who believe that suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians are at least sometimes justifiable still do not support suicide bombing against Westerners in Iraq. For example, in Turkey among respondents who say suicide bombing is rarely, sometimes, or often justified, a 49% plurality says that suicide bombing in Iraq is not justifiable. By contrast, in Morocco 81% and in Jordan 68% of those who say targeting civilians is at least sometimes justified also find it justifiable in Iraq.
Similarly, those who believe that suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians are at least sometimes justifiable do not necessarily have confidence in Osama bin Laden. Again, results vary significantly by country, with 71% of Jordanian Muslims who believe violence against civilians can be justified also having confidence in bin Laden, compared with only 5% of Turks.
Finally, the relationship between views about suicide bombing in Iraq and views of bin Laden also differ significantly among the six countries. For instance, 82% of Jordanian Muslims who think suicide bombing in Iraq against Westerners is justifiable also have a lot or some confidence in bin Laden. However, only 6% of Lebanese in the same category also have confidence in bin Laden.
Correlates of Support for Terrorism
As noted above, differences in opinions about terrorism have been linked not only to demographic variables, notably age and gender, but also to views about Islam, democracy, and the United States. Four sets of variables are used to explore whether these patterns are significant in the 2005 survey data.
- Demographic variables – these include gender, age, education, and income, as well as whether a respondent has a child under age 18 living in the household and whether the respondent regularly uses a computer. Since measures for education and income differ across countries, for the purposes of analysis respondents are characterized as low or high education, and as low, middle, or high income.
- Views about Islam – Both the academic literature and the popular press have emphasized links between terrorism and an extremist brand of Islam. Responses to three questions are used to explore any potential relationships between opinions on religion and terrorism. The first asks respondents whether their primary identity is as a Muslim or as a citizen of their country (Jordanian, Moroccan, etc.). The second asks how important it is that Islam plays a more influential role in the world than it does now. The third asks whether the respondent thinks there are any serious threats to Islam today.
- Opinions about democracy – Two questions test these attitudes among respondents. The first asks whether democracy is a Western way of doing things that will not work in the respondent’s country or if democracy is not just for the West and would work in their country. The second asks respondents if they are more optimistic or more pessimistic these days that the Middle East will become more democratic.
- Attitudes toward the United States – In addition to a straightforward favorability question about the U.S., these measures include questions about: the extent to which the U.S. takes into account the interests of countries such as the respondent’s country when making international policy decisions; how worried, if at all, respondents are that the American military will become a threat to their country; whether the war in Iraq has made the world safer or more dangerous; and whether the U.S. government favors or opposes democracy in the respondent’s country.
Comparison of levels of support for the three measures of terrorism against these four sets of variables reveals a number of associations. As seen in Table 6, across all three measures, men are generally more supportive of terrorism than are women. Meanwhile, individuals with children are less supportive of suicide bombing generally, but more supportive of bin Laden. Support for terrorism is also more common among persons who identify primarily as Muslim, those who believe it is important for Islam to play an influential role on the world stage, and those who believe Islam faces serious threats.
Whether or not an individual thinks democracy is solely a Western way appears to have only modest effects on support for terrorism (it should be noted that relatively few Muslims, ranging from 12% in Morocco to 38% in Turkey, believe democracy is solely a Western form of government). On the other hand, across all three measures, those who are pessimistic about the prospects for Middle East democracy have more favorable attitudes toward terrorism.
Views about the U.S. appear strongly associated with attitudes toward terrorism, with support for terrorism higher among people who have an unfavorable opinion of the U.S., those who believe American foreign policy does not consider the interests of countries like theirs, those who are concerned that the U.S. may pose a military threat to their country, and those who believe the U.S. opposes democracy in their country.
Still, the question remains whether many of these variables have independent strength in explaining attitudes toward terrorism or whether they are primarily proxies for other significant variables with which they themselves are correlated. To determine whether these associations remain significant once other factors are controlled for, we conducted two types of regressions including the variables described above as along with dummy variables to assess country specific effects.
As illustrated in Table 7, when other factors are controlled for, most demographic variables no longer show significant effects on opinions regarding suicide bombing and civilian attacks. However, gender remains significant in views about suicide bombing against Westerners in Iraq or confidence in bin Laden, with women less likely than men to support such bombing or the Al Qaeda leader. Income is also a significant determinant of support for bin Laden, with wealthier individuals holding a more negative view of the al Qaeda leader.
Two of the measured attitudes toward Islam also remain significant. The belief that it is important for Islam to play an influential role in the world is positively related to support for suicide bombing in Iraq and confidence in bin Laden. The perception that there are serious threats to Islam is positively associated with support for suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians, as well as suicide bombing against Westerners in Iraq. However, primarily identifying as a Muslim is not significantly related to any of the three dependent variables.
Variables measuring attitudes toward democracy show limited effects. The only instance in which either of the two democracy measures is significant is that people who believe democracy is not just a western way and can work in their country are less likely to support terrorist attacks against civilians.
By contrast, some attitudes toward the U.S. are strongly associated with views on terrorism. Support for terrorism is positively correlated with negative views of the U.S., a perception that the U.S. does not favor democracy in a respondent’s country, and a belief that the Iraq war has made the world more dangerous.
Finally, nearly all of the country indicators are significant, indicating that country specific factors have a great deal of influence on attitudes toward terrorism.
The results show that the variables for Jordan and Lebanon are positively related to support for attacks against civilians, while the other three countries are negatively related to this measure. In the second model, with support for suicide bombing in Iraq as the dependent variable, variables for three countries — Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan — are positively associated with approval of suicide attacks in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Turkey variable is negatively associated with support for suicide terrorism in Iraq. Finally, in the third model Morocco is the excluded category, and Pakistanis, Jordanians, and Indonesians are found to be more supportive of bin Laden, while Lebanese and Turkish Muslims are less likely to have confidence in bin Laden.
The findings suggest several general conclusions about public opinion regarding terrorism in these six predominantly Muslim countries. First, the 2005 poll finds support for terrorism on the decline, although there are a few exceptions to this pattern, and support remains rather high in some countries, notably Jordan. Previous research has shown that support tends to decline among publics after they have experienced attacks on their own soil, and future research will determine whether such a drop has occurred in Jordan following the November 2005 bombings in Amman.
Second, terrorism is not a monolithic concept, and different facets of terrorism have different patterns of public support. Many individuals who say suicide bombing in defense of Islam may be justifiable do not support it in Iraq, and vice versa. For example, while Moroccans are the least supportive of suicide bombing when it is described in general terms, they are the most likely to approve of suicide bombing specifically in Iraq.
Third, demographic characteristics appear to have relatively small effects on attitudes towards terrorism, with the exception of gender. Contrary to Fair and Shepherd, we find that women are generally less likely to approve of terrorist acts and are less likely to hold favorable views of Osama bin Laden.
Fourth, views about Islam are linked, to some extent, to views about terrorism. In particular, and consistent with Fair and Shepherd, we find the perception that Islam is under threat is positively correlated with support for terrorism.
Next, we find that opinions of the United States and of American foreign policy are important determinants of attitudes towards terrorism. The perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally in international affairs, concerns about the American military becoming a threat, negative views of the Iraq war, the belief that the U.S. opposes democracy in the region, and a generally unfavorable view of America all drive pro-terrorism sentiments.
Finally, the multivariate analysis finds significant country-specific effects, suggesting that conditions giving rise to terror are greatly influenced by local political, social, and religious factors. Future studies should seek to shed more light on these country specific influences, as well as the factors that shape public opinion on terrorism across nations.
A longer version of the paper was presented at the annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Montreal, Canada, May 18-21, 2006
Field dates for the survey, as well as the number of Muslims in each country sample are shown below.
|Indonesia||April 30-May 16, 200||N=970||Muslims|
|Jordan||May 3-24, 2005||N=967||Muslims|
|Lebanon||May 3-24, 2005||N=563||Muslims|
|Morocco||June 6-16, 2005||N=1000||General public (religion not asked)|
|Pakistan||May 2-24, 2005||N=1203||Muslims|
|Turkey||April 27-May 14, 2005||N=965||Muslims|
Full wording of questions
Abadie, Alberto. 2004. “Poverty, Political Freedom, and the Roots of Terrorism.” Kennedy School of Government Faculty Research Working Paper Series.
Atran, Scott. 2004. “Mishandling Suicide Terrorism.” The Washington Quarterly 27: 67-90.
Bloom, Mia. 2005. Dying to Kill: the Allure of Suicide Terror. New York: Columbia University Press.
Crenshaw, Martha. 1998. “The Logic of Terrorism: Terrorist Behavior as a Product of Strategic Choice.” In Walter Reich (ed.), Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.
Fair, C. Christine and Bryan Shepherd. 2006. “Who Supports Terrorism? Evidence from Fourteen Muslim Countries.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 29: 51-74.
Gause, F. Gregory III. 2005. “Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?” Foreign Affairs 84: 62-76.
Haddad, Simon and Hilal Khashan. 2002. “Islam and Terrorism: Lebanese Muslim Views on September 11.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46: 812-828.
Krueger, Alan B. and Jitka Maleckova. 2002. “The Economics and the Education of Suicide Bombers: Does Poverty Cause Terrorism?” The New Republic June 24.
Pape, Robert A. 2003. “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.” American Political Science Review 97: 343-361.
There is a wide range of Muslim attitudes toward terrorism. A number of surveys over the years have found that majorities of Muslims oppose attacks against civilians, and some have found greater support in specific countries and situations.
Condemnation and opposition
See also: Islamic terrorism § Criticism of Islamic terrorist ideology
In the article "Why are there no condemnations from Muslim sources against terrorists?" Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance summarizes:
- A common complaint among non-Muslims is that Muslim religious authorities do not condemn terrorist attacks. The complaints often surface in letters to the editors of newspapers, on phone-in radio shows, in Internet mailing lists, forums, etc. A leader of an evangelical Christian para-church group, broadcasting over Sirius Family Net radio, stated that he had done a thorough search on the Internet for a Muslim statement condemning terrorism, without finding a single item.
- Actually, there are lots of fatwas and other statements issued which condemn attacks on innocent civilians. Unfortunately, they are largely ignored by newspapers, television news, radio news and other media outlets.
Some Muslims have spoken out against 9/11.
A 2007 Pew Research Center study of several nations throughout the Muslim world showed that opposition to suicide bombing in the Muslim world is increasing, with a majority of Muslims surveyed in 10 out of the 16 of the countries responding that suicide bombings and other violence against civilians is "never" justified, though an average of 38% believe it is justified at least rarely. Opposition to Hamas was the majority opinion in only 4 out of the 16 countries surveyed, as was opposition to Hezbollah. The Pew Research Study did not include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria in the survey, although densely populated Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, and Bangladesh were included.
A YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph, published two weeks after the July 2005 bombings in the London Underground, showed that 88% of British Muslims were opposed to the bombings, while 6% (about 100,000 individuals) fully supported them, and one British Muslim in four expressed some sympathy with the motives of the bombers. A 2007 poll found that one Muslim in four thought the Government had staged the bombings and framed the Muslims convicted. A 2011 study by Pew Research showed that 64% of Muslim Americans thought that there was not much or no support among them for extremism, while 6% thought there was a great deal, and 15% thought there was a fair amount. A 2015 survey showed that most Muslims in many Muslim-majority countries view the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria unfavorably; these views were especially common in Jordan and Lebanon. In Pakistan, 62% of Muslims polled offered no opinion on ISIS. The same survey showed that most Muslims consider violence against nonbelievers to be "rarely or never justified."
In 2010 Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri issued the Fatwa on Terrorism, endorsed by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
In 2008 the 9 killed Mumbai militants who perpetrated the 2008 Mumbai attacks were refused an Islamic burial by influential Muslim Jama Masjid Trust who stated 'People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim'.
Northwest Airlines Flight 253
The bombing attempt on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was condemned by Muslim groups. In Canada, a group of Canadian and U.S. Islamic leaders issued a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning any attacks by extremists or terrorists on the United States or Canada and declaring that an attack by extremists on the two countries would constitute an attack on Muslims living in North America. "In our view, these attacks are evil, and Islam requires Muslims to stand up against this evil," said the fatwa signed by the 20 imams associated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. It concludes that Muslims "must expose any person, Muslim or non-Muslim, who would cause harm to fellow Canadians or Americans". One of the imams was reported saying: "it is religious obligation upon Muslims, based upon the Qur'anic teachings, that we have to be loyal to the country where we live". The fatwa also indicated that religious leaders have a duty to show others around the world that Muslims in Canada and the U.S. "have complete freedom to practice Islam" and that "any attack on Canada and the United States is an attack on the freedom of Canadian and American Muslims."
2011 Alexandria bombing
As gesture of solidarity with the country's Coptic Christian minority, Egyptian Muslims showed up at churches on the eve of the Coptic Christmas on 6 January 2011 during mass service forming a "human shield" against any possible further attacks. In the days before the mass, Muslims and Copts joined together in a show of solidarity that included street protests, rallies, and widespread Facebook unity campaigns calling for an “Egypt for All”. In Lebanon, separate condemnations came from the Sunni Mufti of the Republic Mohammad Qabbani and Deputy Head of the Shiite Supreme Council Abdul Amir Qabalan. Hamas has also condemned the bombing in Alexandria, assigning the blame to hidden hands that do not wish well for Egypt and its Muslim and Christian people and seek to inflame sectarian strife. Hamas in its statement sent condolences to Egypt and the victims' families, and hoped that facts would be disclosed the soonest and that those responsible would be brought to justice.
In response to the attacks, Amr Khaled, an influential Egyptian Muslim preacher, launched a campaign to fight sectarian incitement made on the internet, which he believed to be a cause of the violence witnessed on New Year's Eve.
In November 2010, thousands of Yemeni tribesmen vowed to back the government's efforts in its battles against Al-Qaeda and promised to fight alongside the troops. Chieftain Naji bin Abdul-Aziz al-Shaif of the northern powerful Bakeel tribe and the organizer of the rally stated: "We will fight against al-Qaida group as it harmed the reputation of the country, Yemeni tribes and Muslims...We expressed our sorrow to all countries and people who were harmed by al-Qaida and we demanded President Ali Abdullah Saleh to handle the situation and we will stand by him."
Further information: Islamism
Iranian Ayatollah Ozma Seyyed Yousef Sanei issued a fatwa (ruling) that suicide attacks against civilians are legitimate only in the context of war.
Abdelrahman al-Rashid, a Muslim and the managing director of Arab news channel Al-Arabiya, stated that "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims" and blamed radical clerics for hijacking the peace-loving and tolerant religion of Islam. Statistics compiled by the United States government's Counterterrorism Center present a more complicated picture. 21% of fatalities of known and specified terrorist incidents in 2006 were attributed to Islamic extremists. A majority of over-all incidents were considered of either "unknown/unspecified" or a secular political nature. The vast majority of the "unknown/unspecified" terrorism fatalities did however happen in Islamic regions such as Iraq, Afghanistan and India.
According to the Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 published in 2012 by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), "Sunni extremists accounted for the greatest number of terrorist attacks and fatalities for the third consecutive year. More than 5,700 incidents were attributed to Sunni extremists, accounting for nearly 56 percent of all attacks and about 70 percent of all fatalities." The report said that in 2011, a total of 10,283 terrorism attacks across the world killed 12,533 people. Terrorism was also blamed for 25,903 injuries and 5,554 kidnappings. According to the NCTC, of the 12,533 terrorism-related deaths worldwide, 8,886 were perpetrated by "Sunni extremists", 1,926 by "secular/political/anarchist" groups, 1,519 by "unknown" factions, 170 by a category described as "other", and 77 by "Neo-Nazi/Fascist/White Supremacist" groups.
Demonstrations in support
Upon Osama bin Laden's death, some Muslims in the UK came out on the streets in support of bin Laden, praising him as an Islamic hero and condemned the role of the US and the West in killing him. The protest was organised by the activist Anjem Choudary, who earlier praised both 7/7 and the September 11 attacks, and was later jailed for his support of ISIS.
A Gallup poll published in 2011, "suggests that one's religious identity and level of devotion have little to do with one's views about targeting civilians." The results of the survey suggested that "human development and governance - not piety or culture" were the strongest factors in explaining the public's view of violence toward civilians. In a Gallup World Poll in 2011, residents of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states were less likely to justify the targeting and killing of civilians than residents of non-OIC states:
- In Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states, 18% believe military attacks on civilians justified and 14% believe individual attacks on civilians justified.
- In non-OIC states, 24% believe military attacks on civilians justified and 17% believe individual attacks on civilians justified.
In a regional breakdown, Gallup found that North Americans were most likely to justify military attacks on civilians, while residents of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region were most likely to oppose them. When asked about whether it is justifiable for the military to target and kill civilians:
- In Asia, 58% said it is never justifiable, 12% said it is sometimes justifiable, and 15% said it depends.
- In the post-Soviet states, 56% said it is never justifiable, 8% said it is sometimes justifiable, and 20% said it depends.
- In the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, 85% said it is never justifiable, 9% said it is sometimes justifiable, and 4% said it depends.
- In Sub-Saharan Africa, 66% said it is never justifiable, 17% said it is sometimes justifiable, and 11% said it depends.
- In the United States and Canada, 50% said it is never justifiable, 47% said it is sometimes justifiable, and 2% said it depends.
- In Europe, 69% said it is never justifiable, 12% said it is sometimes justifiable, and 11% said it depends.
In another 2011 Gallup poll, they surveyed Americans, and found that Muslim Americans were less likely to justify the targeting and killing of civilians than other Americans.
John Esposito, using poll data from Gallup, wrote in 2008 that Muslims and Americans were equally likely to reject violence against civilians. He also found that those Muslims who support violence against civilians are no more religious than Muslims who do not. A later 2011 Gallup World Poll found that, in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, "those who reject military and individual attacks on civilians are more likely to say religion is an important part of their daily lives."
According to an ICM Research poll in 2006, 20% of British Muslims felt sympathy with the July 7 terrorist bombers' "feelings and motives", although 99 per cent thought the bombers were wrong to carry out the attack. In another poll by NOP Research in 2006, almost one in four British Muslims believe that the 7/7 attacks on London were justified.
In a Pew Research study from 2006, at least 1 in 4 respondents in the Muslim nations surveyed, except Turkey, had at least some confidence in Bin Laden. Confidence in Bin Laden was 16% or less among Muslims in the four European nations surveyed.
In a 2007 Pew Research poll in response to a question on whether suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets to defend Islam could be justified, in Europe:
- (36 vs 64) 64% of Muslims in France believed it could never be justified, 19% believed it could be justified rarely, 10% sometimes, and 6% thought it could be justified often.
- (30 vs 70) 70% of Muslims in the UK believed it could never be justified, 9% believed it could be justified rarely, 12% sometimes, and 3% thought it could be justified often.
- (17 vs 83) 83% of Muslims in Germany believed it could never be justified, 6% believed it could be justified rarely, 6% sometimes, and 1% thought it could be justified often.
- (31 vs 69) 69% of Muslims in Spain believed it could never be justified, 9% believed it could be justified rarely, 10% sometimes, and 6% thought it could be justified often.
In mainly Muslim countries:
- (55 vs 45) 45% of Muslims in Egypt believed it could never be justified, 25% believed it could be justified rarely, 20% sometimes, and 8% thought it could be justified often.
- (39 vs 61) 61% of Muslims in Turkey believed it could never be justified, 9% believed it could be justified rarely, 14% sometimes, and 3% thought it could be justified often.
- (57 vs 43) 43% of Muslims in Jordan believed it could never be justified, 28% believed it could be justified rarely, 24% sometimes, and 5% thought it could be justified often.
- (72 vs 28) 28% of Muslims in Nigeria believed it could never be justified, 23% believed it could be justified rarely, 38% sometimes, and 8% thought it could be justified often.
- (31 vs 69) 69% of Muslims in Pakistan believed it could never be justified, 8% believed it could be justified rarely, 7% sometimes, and 7% thought it could be justified often.
- (29 vs 71) 71% of Muslims in Indonesia believed it could never be justified, 18% believed it could be justified rarely, 8% sometimes, and 2% thought it could be justified often.
A 2010 Zogby poll reported that 69% of American Muslims supported stronger laws to fight terrorism.
A 2013 Pew Research Center poll asked Muslims around the world whether attacks on civilians were justified. Globally 72% of Muslims said violence against civilians is never justified, and in the US, 81% of Muslims opposed such violence. About 14% of Muslims in the nations surveyed (and 8% of Muslims in the US) said violence against civilians is "often" or "sometimes" justified. 26% of Muslims in Bangladesh believe attacks are either somewhat justified or often justified, 18% in Malaysia, 7% in Iraq, 15% in Jordan, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories. The survey did not include some Muslim nations, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, and Libya, but did include densely populated Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria and Indonesia. According to a 2007 poll conducted by the PolicyExchange think tank in Britain, nearly 60% said they would prefer to live under British law, while 37% of 16- to 24-year-olds said they would prefer sharia law, against 17% of those over 55. Also 36% of 16- to 24-year-olds British Muslims believed that those converting to another religion should be executed. Less than a fifth of those over 55 think so.
In 2004, a year after the invasion of Iraq, Pew Research Center survey found that suicide bombings against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq were seen as "justifiable" by many Jordanians (70%), Pakistanis (46%), and Turks (31%). At the same time, the survey found that support for the U.S.-led War on Terror had increased.
A 2005 Pew Research study, that involved 17,000 people in 17 countries showed support for terrorism was declining in the Muslim world along with a growing belief that Islamic extremism represents a threat to those countries. A 2005 Daily Telegraph survey showed that 88% of Muslims said the July 2005 bombings in the London Underground were unjustified, while 6% disagreed. However it also found that 24% of British Muslims showed some sympathy with the people who carried out the attacks.
Polls taken by Saudi owned Al Arabiya and Gallup suggested moderate support for the September 11 terrorist attacks within the Arab world, with 36% of Arabs polled by Al Arabiya saying the 9/11 attacks were morally justified, 38% disagreeing and 26% of those polled being unsure. A 2008 study, produced by Gallup, found similar results with 38.6% of Muslims questioned believing the 9/11 attacks were justified. Another poll conducted, in 2005 by the Fafo Foundation in the Palestinian Authority, found that 65% of respondents supported the September 11 attacks.
Michael Scott Doran wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs that Islam seemed to be polarised between pro-Western and pro-jihadi mentalities, enabling a clear divide between opponents and proponents of violent action. The International Crisis Group wrote in their 2005 report Understanding Islamism that Islamic ideological and political spectrums were far more diverse than this idea suggests. American policy is unpopular among some Muslims, the report argued, yet this hostility did not directly translate to support for or participation in global jihad, and for political Islamists who support non-violent measures it could not be assumed that they are in agreement with Western agendas. Researchers have studied the condemnation of terrorism by European Muslim representatives, committees, and umbrella organizations, but also the everyday resistance to violent extremism in various Muslim communities. 
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