Brutal violence waged by Islamist groups from Nigeria to Iraq and Syria has created a spike in concern over Islamic extremism in predominantly Muslim countries, a new Pew Research Center survey finds.
Concern "about Islamic extremism" in their countries increased by more than 10 percent during the past year in Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan and Turkey, the survey shows. The poll, with a margin of error of 3.8 percent, questioned 14,244 people in 14 countries with significant Muslim populations throughout April and May. That was before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized control of Mosul and other Iraqi cities.
When it comes to supporting violence in defense of Islam, however, Palestinians harbor some of the most extreme views in the Muslim world. A quarter of those surveyed in the Palestinian territories expressed a favorable view toward al-Qaida, while only 59 percent expressed unfavorable views. That's down 9 percent from last year, Pew wrote. In Egypt, 15 percent of the respondents view al-Qaida favorably.
When it comes to suicide bombings, a whopping 62 percent of Gaza residents said they are often or sometimes "justified against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies." In the West Bank, 36 percent agreed suicides are often or sometimes justified. Together, Palestinian support added up to 46 percent. That's down, however, from a similar 2007 poll which found 70 percent support.
Only Bangladesh scored higher this year. Nearly 30 percent of Lebanese Muslims justified suicide bombings.
The Lebanon-based Hizballah, fighting to save dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria, saw its popularity plummet throughout the region. Among Palestinians, 32 percent view the Iranian proxy favorably. More than 80 percent had negative attitudes toward Hizballah in Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.
Hamas is viewed favorably by only 35 percent of the respondents in both the West Bank and Gaza. In Gaza, where Hamas has run society for seven years, nearly two-thirds of the people had a negative view of the group. Recently, Hamas and Fatah, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, joined in a fragile unity pact.
Hamas did not top 40 percent approval in any of the countries surveyed.
For more details, see the Pew survey here.