A Pew Research study has found that 42 percent of Muslims in 15 locations think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets is at least occasionally justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. The study was concluded in Spring 2014 and the results were published Tuesday by Pew Research as part of its Global Attitudes Project. In a few of the nations polled, a large majority of Muslims were against suicide bombing.
Pakistan and Tunisia were found to be overwhelmingly against suicide bombing. Indonesia was also found to be significantly against suicide bombing.
Out of 15 polled locations (counting Gaza and West Bank separately), in eight the majority of respondents said suicide bombings were never justified, while in four the majority believed they were at least occasionally justified. Overall, 42 percent of Muslims polled thought suicide bombing was at least occasionally justified.
However, in all or most of the nations polled, there was at least a significant minority that thought suicide bombings were at least occasionally justified. Only in Tunisia and Pakistan was the minority under 10 percent. Depending upon interpretation, 7 and 8 percent of populations of 180 million and 11 million may be considered significant.
Although Pew tallied their net results to include only “Often” and “Sometimes,” a large percentage of Muslims polled felt that suicide bombings were at least “Rarely” justified. For example, in Israel only 16 percent of Muslims thought that suicide bombings were “Often” or “Sometimes” justified, but an additional 30 percent felt they were justified on some occasions. In Jordan, only 15 percent felt suicide bombings were justified often or sometimes, but an additional 29 percent thought they were occasionally justified. In Egypt, 24 percent said “Often” or “Sometimes;” 35 percent said “Rarely.”
In a few locations, an uncertain response accounted for a significant percentage of responses. To compare the two regions polled within the Palestinian territory, although in Gaza 75 percent of Muslims thought suicide bombing was “Often” or “Sometimes” justified, and on the West Bank only 49 percent did, on the West Bank there was also a significant percentage of respondents who said they “didn’t know”–13 percent–while only 4 percent of Muslims in Gaza “didn’t know.”
Similarly, in Turkey, where the the minority (29 percent) of Muslims felt suicide bombings were never justified, 13 percent responded that they did not know. A similar percentage of uncertainty existed in three other majority-opposed nations: Pakistan, Nigeria and Senegal.
Pew Research also reported that support for suicide bombing has fallen since the September 2001 World Trade Center attack. Pew has recorded a steady decline in support for suicide bombings “against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” In all nations presented by Pew–with the exception of Tanzania–levels of support have declined or remained steady. However, it should be noted that although Pew formulated the results by asking “Do you feel this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?” they tabulate their percentages of support based on “often/sometimes” only, and do not show the percentage of Muslims who do support suicide attacks, but only “rarely.”
By Day Blakely Donaldson