An important new poll by World Public Opinion (Program on International Policy Attitudes, University if Maryland) shows that the US under the Bush administration is losing the "hearts and minds" of the Islamic world, a central objective in the (so-called) "war on terror." Approximately eight thousand respondents in four countries -- Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, and Pakistan -- believe that, contrary to what the US right-wing would have us believe, US forces are fighting neither to protect US citizens from attack, nor to spread democracy and freedom.
Large majorities across all four countries believe the United States seeks to “weaken and divide the Islamic world.” On average 79 percent say they perceive this as a US goal, ranging from 73 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan to 92 percent in Egypt. Equally large numbers perceive that the United States is trying to maintain “control over the oil resources of the Middle East” (average 79%). Strong majorities (average 64%) even believe it is a US goal to “spread Christianity in the region.”
“While US leaders may frame the conflict as a war on terrorism, people in the Islamic world clearly perceive the US as being at war with Islam,” said Steven Kull, editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org.
Far from being consistent with American right-wing claims that "Islamofascism" is a movement seeking "world domination," the poll indicates that the average Muslim wants to end US domination of the Islamic world, and supports some sort of military or paramilitary action to do so.
Consistent with this concern, large majorities in all countries (average 74%) support the goal of getting the United States to “remove its bases and military forces from all Islamic countries,” ranging from 64 percent in Indonesia to 92 percent in Egypt. Substantial numbers also favor attacks on US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the Persian Gulf. Across the four countries polled approximately half support such attacks in each location, while three in ten are opposed.
While there is significant support for some level of military action against what is seen as US military domination, there is little support for the typres of actions seen objectively as "terrorism."
Asked about politically-motivated attacks on civilians, such as bombings or assassinations, majorities in all countries—usually overwhelming majorities—take the strongest position offered by saying such violence cannot be justified at all. More than three out of four Indonesians (84%), Pakistanis (81%), and Egyptians (77%) take this position, as well as 57 percent of Moroccans (an additional 19 percent of Moroccans say such attacks can only be “weakly justified”).
More specifically, there is little support for al Qa'ida, except, ironically among our "allies" in Pakistan.
There is strong disapproval of attacks by “groups that use violence against civilians, such as al Qaeda.” Large majorities in Egypt (88%), Indonesia (65%) and Morocco (66%) agree that such groups “are violating the principles of Islam.” Pakistanis are divided, however, with many not answering.
While the poll indicated no significant level of support for terrorist groups, it did show that much of the Islamic world supports their goals.
Large majorities in all countries (average 70 percent or higher) support such goals as: “stand up to Americans and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people,” “push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” and "pressure the United States to not favor Israel.”
None of this, however, indicates a desire in the Muslim world to isolate themselves from the larger world.
Asked how they feel about “the world becoming more connected through greater economic trade and faster communication,” majorities in all countries say it is a good thing (average 75%). While wary of Western values, overall 67 percent agree that “a democratic political system” is a good way to govern their country and 82 percent agree that in their country “people of any religion should be free to worship according to their own beliefs.”
Read the entire report here.