Muslim support for bin Laden is falling, poll shows

July 15, 2005|By Paul Richter | Paul Richter,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Public support for Osama bin Laden and militant violence has declined markedly in several Muslim countries, although it remains substantial, a new poll shows.

The poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Survey found that confidence in the al-Qaida leader "to do the right thing regarding world affairs" fell in four of six sampled countries in the past two years. Support for violence against civilian targets has fallen in five of the six countries.

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said the results suggested that "people are tiring of terrorism in these places," perhaps because the countries have themselves suffered attacks.

At the same time, the figures show there remains "a pretty substantial body of support" for deadly attacks in defense of Islam, Kohut emphasized.

The six Muslim countries in the poll were Morocco, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey and Jordan.

Kohut said the changing attitude toward bin Laden might also reflect a cooling of anger toward the United States since May 2003, when Pew last asked the question. At that time, memories of the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq were fresh.

Still, support for bin Laden rose in two countries that Washington considers close allies: Jordan and Pakistan.

As for violence against civilians, 13 percent of people surveyed in Morocco this spring said it was justified "often" or "sometimes" to defend Islam from its enemies - down from 40 percent a year earlier. In Pakistan, the share who approved of violence "often" or "sometimes" fell from 41 percent last year to 25 percent this year, while in Indonesia that figure fell from 27 percent in summer 2002 to 15 percent this year.

One exception to the trend was Jordan. In summer 2002, 43 percent said violence against civilians to defend Islam was justified "sometimes" or "often"; by this spring, the figure had jumped to 57 percent.

The polling was done between April and mid-June, and involved 17,000 people in the six predominantly Muslim countries as well as 11 Western and Asian nations.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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