World News

Muslim support for suicide attacks down sharply

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Popular support for suicide bombings has dropped sharply across the Muslim world in what could suggest a rejection of Islamist militant tactics among Muslims, a global survey released on Tuesday said.

The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes survey, based on polling data from 47 countries, also showed waning confidence in al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden among Muslims but said the United States is viewed as the biggest threat by a majority of people in Muslim countries.

“The marked decline in the acceptance of suicide bombing is one of several findings that suggest a possible broader rejection of extremist tactics among many in the Muslim world,” the Washington-based Pew Research Center said in a report that accompanied the data.

Nearly six years after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Pew found dwindling support for suicide bombings in seven of eight Muslim countries since 2002.

In Lebanon, which is experiencing its worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war, the number of Muslims who say suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified fell from 74 percent to 34 percent.

In Pakistan, which has also seen a rise in violence this year, support for suicide bombings dropped to 9 percent from 33 percent in 2002.

“The pattern is equally stark among Muslims in Bangladesh and Indonesia, where support for suicide bombing as a tactic in defense of Islam is down by at least half,” Pew said.

But support for suicide attacks remained at a high 70 percent among Palestinians.

Confidence in bin Laden as a world leader was lower in seven Muslim countries led by Jordan, were support for the al Qaeda leader dropped from 56 percent in 2003 to 20 percent.

The United States was cited as the biggest threat facing 17 countries including Muslim nations, Latin America and China. But America was also counted as the closest ally by people from 19 countries including several in Africa as well as Israel, Kuwait, Britain and Canada.

The survey, based on country data with error margins of 3-to-4 percent, suggested a happier world in general, with people in developing countries from China and India to Latin America and Eastern Europe far more satisfied with their lives, incomes and national conditions.