Muslims around the world increasingly reject suicide bombings and other violence against civilians, according to a new international poll dealing with how the world's population judges their lives, countries and national institutions.
A wide ranging survey of international attitudes in 47 countries by the Pew Research Center also reported that in many of the countries where support for suicide attacks has declined, there has also has been decreasing support for Al Qaeda leader Usama Bin Laden.
The 95-page survey found that surging economic growth in many developing countries has encouraged people in these countries to express satisfaction with their personal lives, family income and national conditions, said Andrew Kohut, the center's director.
"It's a pro-globalization set of findings," Kohut said.
Most notably, the survey finds large and growing number of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere rejecting Islamic extremism. Ten mainly Muslim countries were surveyed along with the Palestinian territories, as well as five African nations with large Muslim populations.
For example, the percentage of Jordanian Muslims who have confidence in bin Laden as a world leader fell 36 percentage points to 20 percent since 2003 while the proportion who say suicide bombing is sometimes or always justified dropped 20 percent points to 23 percent. Other countries where support for bin Laden declined are Lebanon, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Kuwait.
The report said support for such bombings and terror tactics has dropped since 2002 in seven of the eight countries where data were available. In Lebanon, the proportion of Muslims who say suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified fell to 34 percent from 79 percent while just 9 percent of Pakistanis believe suicide bombings can be justified often or sometimes, down from 33 percent in 2002 and a high of 41 percent in 2004.
But support for suicide bombings is widespread among Palestinians, the report said, with 41 percent saying such attacks are often justified while another 29 percent say they can sometimes be justified. It found that only six percent of Palestinians — the smallest in any Muslim public surveyed — say such attacks are never justified.
Amid continuing sectarian violence in Iraq, the survey found there is broad concern among Muslims that tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are not limited to that country and represent a growing problem for the Muslim world more generally.
Eighty-eight percent of Lebanese and 73 percent of Kuwaitis — along with smaller majorities or pluralities of Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East — said Sunni-Shiite tensions represent a growing problem for the Muslim world, the report said.
Globally, Pew's survey shows a clear linkage between economic conditions and views of national conditions.
"A rising tide really does lift all boats," Kohut said.
This trend is particularly evident in Latin America and Eastern Europe, but China and India also stand out, the report said.
While Africans now express a greater sense of personal progress than in 2002, personal contentment remains low in all African countries relative to other parts of the world.
In Western Europe, Swedes and Spaniards express broad satisfaction with national conditions as well as with their governments and leaders.
"In contrast," the report said, "people in France and Italy, which have experienced little economic growth since 2002, are critical of their nation's course and their governments."
The French were polled before Nicolas Sarkozy replaced Jacques Chirac as president in May and gave jobs to several opposition Socialists in his Cabinet.
In China, where per capita gross domestic product, has increased 58 percent since 2002, its people expressed much more satisfaction than in 2002 — 83 percent now compared to 48 percent. The Chinese also give near universal support for the national government, 89 percent, and say the government has a very good or somewhat good influence on the way things are going.
But the pollsters in China were not able to ask respondents to express opinions about President Hu Jintao.
The polls — with a sampling error of 2 to 4 percentage points, depending on the sampling size — were taken in various countries from mid-April to the end of May, and involved about 1,000 samples in most countries. More interviews were conducted in India and China while fewer than 1,000 were carried out in European countries.