Global support for ISIS may be much bigger than previously known, according to a new report that found as many as 42 million Muslims around the world have positive feelings about the black-clad army of barbarians that established a so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq last year.
The report from the New York-based research institute Clarion Project crunched numbers from four recent polls surveying Arab public opinion toward ISIS. Clarion found the terror group's supporters are 8.5 million strong, but more than 42 million of the world's estimated 1.5 billion Muslims feel at least somewhat positively about the terror group.
“It means sympathy,” Ryan Mauro, Clarion's national security analyst, told FoxNews.com. “There are those who are wholly supportive of the Islamic State, and those who are somewhat supportive.”
“ISIS is only a fraction of what it could potentially become.”
- Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project
The study was based on figures from a March 2015 poll by the Iraq-based Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies, a November 2014 poll by Zogby Research Services, a November 2014 poll by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and an October 2014 poll by the Fikra Forum commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
When surveyed, the subjects answered whether or not they viewed ISIS positively, or somewhat positively -- some even admitting their support for the Syrian civil war to end in a victory for the Islamic terror group.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy organization, blasted Clarion's analysis.
“The Clarion Project is a notorious purveyor of anti-Muslim bigotry and misinformation,” a CAIR spokesperson told FoxNews.com. “While we take the issue of support for ISIS seriously, and have issued numerous condemnations of ISIS and its twisted un-Islamic ideology, any claims made by the Clarion Project are rendered suspect given the group’s long history of anti-Muslim propaganda.”
Mauro acknowledged the number of ISIS sympathizers his group's study identified is a small fraction of the world's Muslim population, but said the terrorist group nonetheless has a pool of support the world must take seriously.
“The barbaric acts committed by ISIS make the majority of Muslims and Arabs hate them and what they stand for,” he said. “But ISIS isn’t concerned with expanding their appeal -- they have millions and millions of supporters. Their immediate objective is to get the radical minority to actually pick up a gun and come join them.”
Mauro’s analysis provides a breakdown of the startling number of ISIS supporters in Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon and Palestinian territories.
“ISIS is only a fraction of what it could potentially become,” Mauro said.