Muslims believe U.S. goal to weaken Islam: poll

NEW YORK Tue Apr 24, 2007 2:29pm EDT

Activists of Jamiat Talba-e-Arabia group burn a U.S. flag during a protest in Karachi, Pakistan, November 2, 2006. More than 70 percent of Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Moroccans believe the United States is trying to weaken and divide the Islamic world, a poll released on Tuesday showed. REUTERS/Athar Hussain

Activists of Jamiat Talba-e-Arabia group burn a U.S. flag during a protest in Karachi, Pakistan, November 2, 2006. More than 70 percent of Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Moroccans believe the United States is trying to weaken and divide the Islamic world, a poll released on Tuesday showed.

Credit: Reuters/Athar Hussain

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 70 percent of Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Moroccans believe the United States is trying to weaken and divide the Islamic world, a poll released on Tuesday showed.

The survey by WorldPublicOpinion.org also showed more than 40 percent thought that was the primary goal of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, while only 12 percent believed Washington's aim was to protect the United States from attack.

"While U.S. leaders may frame the conflict as a war on terrorism, people in the Islamic world clearly perceive the U.S. as being at war with Islam," Steven Kull, editor at the Washington-based group, said in a statement.

The face-to-face survey, of between 1,000 and 1,200 people in each country from December to February, also found about 30 percent approved of attacks on U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf.

But 60 percent said suicide bombings were never justified and 67 percent believed Islam was opposed to attacks against civilians.

"Attitudes toward al Qaeda are complex. On average, only three in ten view Osama bin Laden positively. Many respondents express mixed feelings about bin Laden and his followers and many others decline to answer," WorldPublicOpinion.org said.

More than half believed al Qaeda's goals included achieving a strict application of Sharia law in every Islamic country, with more than 70 percent agreeing with that aim.

More than 50 percent believed the militant Islamist group was pushing the United States to remove its bases and military forces from all Islamic countries and 63 percent agreed with that goal.

But the poll found uncertainty about whether al Qaeda was responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. Some 20 percent believed the U.S. government was behind the attacks.

"On average less than one in four believes al Qaeda was responsible for September 11th attacks. Pakistanis are the most skeptical -- only 3 percent think al Qaeda did it," said WorldPublicOpinion.org.

"There is no consensus about who is responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington; the most common answer is 'don't know'."

More than half those surveyed believed the United States was trying to spread Christianity in the Middle East, while nearly 60 percent thought one of Washington's goals was to maintain control over the oil resources of the Middle East.

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