Disdain for ISIS in countries with significant Muslim populations

By agency reporter
November 20, 2015

Recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have once again brought terrorism and Islamic extremism to the forefront of international relations. According to newly released data that the Pew Research Center collected in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, people from Nigeria to Jordan to Indonesia overwhelmingly expressed negative views of ISIS.

One exception was Pakistan, where a majority offered no definite opinion of ISIS. The nationally representative surveys were conducted as part of the Pew Research Center’s annual global poll in April and May this year.

In no country surveyed did more than 15 per cent of the population show favorable attitudes toward Islamic State. And in those countries with mixed religious and ethnic populations, negative views of ISIS cut across these lines.

In Lebanon, a victim of one of the most recent attacks, almost every person surveyed who gave an opinion had an unfavorable view of ISIS, including 99 per cent with a very unfavourable opinion. Distaste toward ISIS was shared by Lebanese Sunni Muslims (98 per cent) and 100 per cent of Shia Muslims and Lebanese Christians.

Israelis (97 per cent) and Jordanians (94 per cent) were also strongly opposed to ISIS as of spring 2015, including 91 per cent of Israeli Arabs. And 84 per cent in the Palestinian territories had a negative view of ISIS, both in the Gaza Strip (92 per cent) and the West Bank (79 per cent). 

Six-in-ten or more had unfavorable opinions of ISIS in a diverse group of nations, including Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Malaysia and Senegal.

In Nigeria, there was somewhat more support for ISIS (14 per cent favorable) compared with other countries, but attitudes differed sharply by religious affiliation. An overwhelming number of Nigerian Christians (71 per cent) had an unfavorable view of ISIS, as did 61 per cent of Nigerian Muslims. However, 20 per cent of Nigerian Muslims had a favorable view of ISIS when the poll was conducted in the spring of this year. The group Boko Haram in Nigeria, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, is affiliated with ISIS, though the two are considered separate entities.

Only 28 per cent in Pakistan had an unfavorable view of ISIS, and a majority of Pakistanis (62 per cent) had no opinion on the extremist group.

While Pew did not ask people in Western nations about their views of ISIS, half or more of people in 15 mostly Western countries said they were very concerned about ISIS as an international threat. In France, the target of multiple coordinated attacks in Paris last week, 71 per cent said before the attacks that they were very concerned about the ISIS threat. Similar shares of the public in other nations also expressed serious concern, including 77 per cent of Spanish, 70 per cent of Germans, 69 per cent of Italians and 68 per cent of Americans. In Lebanon and Jordan, nations that are taking in refugees from the ISIS conflict in Syria and whose people have been victims of mass terrorist incidents, 84 per cent and 62 per cent also said they were very concerned about the group.

General concern about Islamic extremism has been growing in many Western and predominantly Muslim nations surveyed since earlier in the decade. And as a reaction to this threat, there was widespread support for US military actions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria from most of the countries surveyed in the spring, including majorities in Israel (84 per cent), France (81 per cent), the US (80 per cent), Lebanon (78 per cent), Jordan (77 per cent), the UK (66 per cent) and Germany (62 per cent).

* See here for topline results on views of ISIS in these 11 nations and methodology.

* Pew Research Centre http://www.pewresearch.org/

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