Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pew: Muslim nations show little enthusiasm for the extremist Islamic organizations Hamas and Hezbollah

Across predominantly Muslim nations, there is little enthusiasm for the extremist Islamic organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, although there are pockets of support for both groups, especially in the Middle East.

Four years after its victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas receives relatively positive ratings in Jordan (56% favorable) and Egypt (52%). However, Palestinians are more likely to give the group a negative (52%) than a positive (44%) rating. And reservations about Hamas are particularly common in the portion of the Palestinian territories it controls – just 37% in Gaza express a favorable opinion, compared with 47% in the West Bank.

A survey conducted May 18 to June 16, 2009 by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project also finds limited support for the Lebanese Shia organization Hezbollah.1 While most Palestinians (61%) and about half of Jordanians (51%) have a favorable view of Hezbollah, elsewhere opinions are less positive, including Egypt (43%) and Lebanon (35%). As with many issues in Lebanon, views of Hezbollah are sharply divided along religious lines: nearly all of the country's Shia Muslims (97%) express a positive opinion of the organization, while only 18% of Christians and 2% of Sunni Muslims feel this way.

Meanwhile, Turks overwhelmingly reject both groups – just 5% give Hamas a positive rating and only 3% say this about Hezbollah. There is also little support among Israel's Arab population for either Hamas (21% favorable) or Hezbollah (27%). Outside of the Middle East, many in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria are unable to offer an opinion about these groups.

Little Enthusiasm for Most Muslim Leaders

There is limited enthusiasm for most of the Muslim political figures tested on the survey, with the exception of Saudi King Abdullah, who is easily the most popular. In Jordan (92%) and Egypt (83%) for example, large majorities say they have confidence that King Abdullah will do the right thing in world affairs. The king receives quite positive ratings outside the Middle East as well, especially in the largely Muslim Asian nations Pakistan (64%) and Indonesia (61%). However, the Saudi monarch does not receive high marks everywhere – only 8% of Turks voice confidence in him. And overall his ratings are less positive than they were in 2007.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah receives less positive reviews. Only 37% of Lebanese overall express confidence in Nasrallah; however, the country's Shia community shows almost unanimous confidence in him (97%). He also receives relative high marks in the Palestinian territories, and especially in the West Bank, where 71% say they think he will do the right thing in international affairs.

Confidence in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has declined since 2007, especially in the neighboring countries of Egypt (67% confidence in 2007; 33% in 2009) and Jordan (53% in 2007; 33% in 2009). His ratings have dropped slightly among Palestinians overall (from 56% in 2007 to 52% in 2009); however, they have declined markedly among Gazans, falling from 69% to 51%.

Even before their disputed elections last year, both Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were generally unpopular among most of the Muslim publics surveyed. Ahmadinejad's highest ratings are in the Palestinian territories (45% confidence) and Indonesia (43%), although even among these publics fewer than half express a positive view of his leadership. There is no country in which even 40% express confidence in Karzai, and in Pakistan (10%), Turkey (7%) and Lebanon (7%) one-in-ten or fewer hold this view.

As mentioned previously, ratings for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden have generally declined in recent years, and he receives little support among most Muslim publics. However, about half (51%) of Palestinians express confidence in him and in Nigeria, 54%-majority of the country's Muslim population say they are confident in bin Laden's leadership. In Pakistan, where many believe bin Laden is now hiding, only 18% express confidence in him, although 35% do not offer an opinion. Very few Turks (3%) or Lebanese (2%) express support for the terrorist leader.

Across most of the 25 nations included in the spring 2009 Pew Global Attitudes survey, U.S. President Barack Obama received positive reviews, although this was less true in predominantly Muslim countries. Even so, his ratings were consistently higher than those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and in some cases higher than for the Muslim leaders included on the survey. For example, only 33% in Turkey have confidence in Obama, but this is still more support than Abbas, Nasrallah, Abdullah, Ahmadinejad, or Karzai receive. And the American president is quite popular among some largely Muslim publics, especially in Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child: 71% of Indonesians voice confidence in him. Obama is also popular among Nigerian Muslims (81%), Israeli Arabs (69%), and Lebanese Sunnis (65%).

In Arab nations, attitudes toward Jews remain extremely negative. More than 90% of Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Palestinians express unfavorable views toward Jews. Only 35% of Israeli Arabs, however, express a negative opinion.