Terrorist Groups Are Widely Hated, Even In Their Own Countries

Images of Hamas, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Boko Haram flags courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Hezbollah flag courtesy of yeowatzup via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic. 

As violence and civil war at the hands of extremists continue to plague the Middle East and Africa, it’s worth noting that the approval rating for such groups and militants is extremely low, even in their home territories.

A survey by the Pew Research Center, which was conducted among 14,244 respondents in 14 countries from April 10 to May 25, 2014, made a number of key findings:

1. Concern about Islamic extremism is high among Muslim populations, and has grown among Middle Eastern countries.

People in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan are all more worried about the threat of extremism than they were just a year ago; at lowest, half of respondents in Turkey responded that they were concerned, and at highest, 92% of Lebanese respondents.

2. Al qaeda is widely disliked throughout the Middle East

Strong majorities in just about every country surveyed reported negative views about the terrorist group Al qaeda, a sentiment of distaste expressed most strongly by Lebanon and Israel at 98% and 99% respectively, by Christians, Muslims, Arabs, and Jews alike.

3. Boko Haram is despised in Nigeria

The terrorist group known widely for kidnapping school girls, as well as many other attacks and bombings in Nigeria, is widely disliked by both Christian and Muslim Nigerians. 83% of Nigerians hold unfavorable views of the group, with only 10% in favor (the remainder offered no opinion).

4. A majority of Pakistanis don’t favor the Taliban

Through 33% of respondents didn’t offer opinions, of the remaining number 59% saw the Taliban in an unfavorable light, with only 8% in favor.

5. The Middle East has little love for Hezbollah

Hezbollah, the militant organization with headquarters in Lebanon and ties to Iran, was shown to be viewed negatively in every Middle Eastern country surveyed. Even in Lebanon, 59% hold unfavorable views, though 89% of Shia Muslims were in favor.

Unfavorable opinions about Hezbollah have been rising significantly in all countries with the exception of Lebanon over the last seven years. Lowest favorability lies with Israel, where 100% of Jews and 65% of Arabs view the group negatively.

6. Even Palestinians view Hamas negatively

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, known recently for their violent conflict with Israel, is losing favor among most — including 53% of those in Palestinian territories. Of those in the Hamas-led Gaza Strip, 63% view the group unfavorably, as opposed to 47% in the Fatah-led West Bank.

Favorability is down significantly: 62% of Palestinians were in favor of Hamas in 2007, when the group first took control of Gaza. That number fell to 35% in 2014.

7. Few Muslims support suicide bombing

In the last decade, support for suicide bombing as a defense of Islam has declined significantly, with most holding the opinion that it is rarely or never justifiable.

Support for suicide bombing is highest in Palestinian territories, where 46% of Muslims surveyed that it is often or sometimes justified as defense, higher in Gaza (62%) than the West Bank (36%). But even this is down from a total 70% in 2007.

Support for suicide bombing has fallen sharply in countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, and Nigeria — but has risen, albeit slightly, in Turkey, Israel, and Tanzania.

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Jennifer Markert