Muslims Unhappy with bin Laden

People in several predominately Muslim countries see Islamic extremism as a threat to their nation, and more of them than before reject suicide bombings and dislike Osama bin Laden, according to a new survey released Thursday.

But even while fearing Islamic extremism, a majority of people in these Muslim nations would welcome an even larger role for the Islamic religion in politics and government.

“Most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past,” the Pew Global Attitudes Project declared in a new survey. “Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries, and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam.”

Most Muslims appear to regard Islam as a positive force against American culture, which they see as increasingly immoral and influential. Yet those who see Islam playing a larger role in political affairs are also most worried about extremism, the survey concluded.

Muslims, the survey found, view poverty, lack of opportunity and dislike of U.S. policies as the major causes for the rise of Islamic extremism.

The people surveyed in five nations _ Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey _ have unfavorable views of the United States, though younger Muslims are more favorably disposed than older people to America.

The Pew project presented findings of a survey conducted this spring of 17,000 people in 17 countries. Most of those interviewed live in urban areas. The work was completed before last week’s bombings in London.

The non-partisan project is co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a Democrat, and Republican John Danforth, a former senator from Missouri and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said that large and growing majorities in Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Indonesia say that democracy can work well in their countries.

Yet a majority of the people who participated in the survey said they are more likely to think of themselves as a Muslim rather than as a citizen of their country.

Support for acts of terrorism in defense of Islam declined significantly over the last two years in most majority-Muslim countries surveyed, the report said.

Kohut said views have shifted against bin Laden and suicide bombings because bombings have increased within Muslim communities, life has improved within those countries, and time has passed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In 2002, said Kohut, many Muslims saw a worldwide threat to Islam with bin Laden serving as a symbol of Islamic opposition to the United States and the West.

“Tempers have since cooled,” Kohut said.

The Pew report said that among predominantly Muslim countries, nearly three-quarters of Moroccans, who saw an attack at home by extremists two years ago, and about half of Pakistanis, Turks and Indonesians, “see Islamic extremism as a threat to their own countries.”

In Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, 15 percent or fewer now say suicide bombings are justifiable. In Pakistan, only one in four now take that view, a sharp drop from 41 percent in March 2004.

But the picture changes when the issue is suicide bombings in Iraq. “Nearly half of Muslims in Lebanon and Jordan, and 56 percent in Morocco, say suicide bombings against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable. However, substantial majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia take the opposite view.”

Skepticism about the ability of democracy to work in Muslim nations has dropped in those countries, the survey found. About four of every five people surveyed in Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and Indonesia said democracy would work for them, while about half the Turks and 43 percent of the Pakistanis expressed the same sentiment.

The poll revealed a sharp split in how religious communities view each other. Most people surveyed in United States, Britain, Canada, France, Russia and other Western countries said they had favorable views of Muslims.

But Muslims in Turkey, Morocco and Pakistan were “very negative” toward Christianity and “anti-Jewish sentiment is endemic in the Muslim world,” the report said.

Asked which religions are most prone to violence, some 67 percent of Americans pointed to Islam, and 9 percent to Christianity. Islam was also seen as the most violence-prone religion in Holland (88 percent), France (87 percent), Spain (81 percent) and Germany (79 percent).

Among Muslims, some 46 percent of Turks said Christianity was the religion most prone to violence.