According to a recent survey by the US-based World Public Opinion NGO, most people in Islamic countries reject the methods of radical al-Qaeda terrorists. But they support certain goals such as the one to push US troops out of Muslim countries. 70 percent of respondents think that the United States intend to weaken or divide the Islamic world.
Many Muslims want US troops to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq
World Public Opinion conducted the survey between July and September last year in Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and several other predominantly Muslim countries. The NGO questioned about 1,100 people in each country.
“The core finding was that Muslim publics oppose al-Qaeda’s terrorism, explained Stephen Kull, the director of World Public Opinion.
“They are very critical of every kind of attacks on civilians, of bombings and assassinations. At the same time they approve of many of the goals that al-Qaeda is pursuing.”
60% want US troops out of Islamic countries
In Pakistan for instance, about 60 percent of the respondents said they wanted US forces to be pushed out of Islamic countries, especially the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. One in five approved of terrorist attacks on US troops to achieve this goal.
Christian Wagner , a South Asia expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs explained why this might be the case: “Many people in Pakistan think that the US has become far too involved in their domestic politics.”
“They criticise the fact that the US officially says it supports democracy, but in reality has often cooperated with military rulers. They reject these double standards. Others just reject the US engagement in Afghanistan.”
Little change in attitude over two years
World Public Opinion published its first survey of this kind two years ago. Director Stephen Kull says the attitude has not changed much since then: Many people still perceive the US troops as a threat rather than as a stabilising factor.
“That puts the US in a kind of difficult position, because in response to terrorism they have expanded their US military presence in Muslim countries to fight terrorism.”
“But there has been a kind of backlash because this has bred some sympathy for al-Qaeda because it opposes that presence and fights it.”
Substantial support for Sharia
A substantial number of the respondents supported another al-Qaeda goal -- the implementation of Islamic law, or Sharia, in all Muslim countries: five out of ten in Egypt and Indonesia and seven out of ten in Pakistan.
The government of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province recently promised to implement Sharia in the remote Swat Valley.
But Sharia courts already exist all over Pakistan. “Until now,” however, explains Christian Wagner, “Sharia law has only been applied in certain special spheres of public life, and the civil courts still control it. This support of Sharia demonstrates the conservative attitude of Pakistani society.”
On average, 70 percent of respondents in Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia think that the US says it is promoting international law in other countries but often does not adhere itself to international law. Only 20 percent of respondents thought that the US was a good model.
However, there was some hope that the new US President Barack Obama would improve relations between the US and the Islamic world and that there would be a change of attitude and perception.