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No Love Lost

by AFP and Newsweek Pakistan
File Photo. Aref Karimi—AFP

File Photo. Aref Karimi—AFP

A new survey by the Pew Global Research Center reveals majority of Pakistanis have negative opinion of Taliban.

Fears about Islamic extremism are rising in nations with large Muslim populations from the Middle East to South Asia and support for radical groups like the Taliban is on the slide, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

Concern about extremism has increased in the past 12 months amid the dragging war in Syria, and attacks by Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants, the Pew Research Center found after interviewing more than 14,200 people in 14 countries.

Extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and even Hamas, which won elections to take control of running the Gaza Strip, are also losing support. And backing for the use of suicide bombings against civilian targets has dropped significantly in the past decade following a slew of brutal attacks.

The review was carried out from April 10 to May 25, before the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—now renamed the Islamic State—took over Mosul in a lightning offensive which has seen it seize a large swathe of territory.

In Lebanon, which shares a border with Syria, as many as 92 percent of those interviewed said they were worried about Islamic extremism. That figure was up 11 points from 2013, and was spread evenly among Lebanon’s Sunni, Shia and Christian communities. Concern has also risen in Jordan and Turkey, both of which border Syria and have taken in significant numbers of refugees fleeing the three-year war to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in which extremists have increasingly moved into the chaos.

Some 62 percent of Jordanians voiced fears about extremism, up 13 points since 2012, while in Turkey half of those polled shared the same concerns, up 18 points from two years ago. “In Asia, strong majorities in Bangladesh (69 percent), Pakistan (66 percent) and Malaysia (63 percent) are concerned about Islamic extremism,” the Pew report said.

Respondents in Pakistan also spoke out against the Taliban, with 59 percent having an unfavorable opinion of the extremist group and only 8 percent responding positively to the group. Five weeks after polling, Islamabad launched a military operation against militants in the country’s tribal areas.

The same poll found that support in Pakistan for suicide bombings as a means to “defend Islam from its enemies” fell from a high of 41 percent in 2004 to a low of 3 percent in 2014.

An overwhelming majority of Nigerians (79 percent) were against Boko Haram, behind the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls earlier this year. Just over half of Palestinians (53 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of Hamas, blamed this week by Israel for the murders of three teenagers, and the figure rises to 63 percent in the Gaza Strip, higher than on the West Bank controlled by the rival Fatah party. Only 46 percent of Palestinians believed that suicide bombings could be justified against civilians, down from 70 percent in 2007. And the figure among Lebanese Muslims has fallen from 74 percent in 2007 to 29 percent today.

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