I have traveled in several Middle Eastern nations and personally experienced the hospitality and friendliness of many Muslims, so I know firsthand that many of them want and believe in peace. Yet in those same countries Westerners like myself have been targeted for terror attacks. One night suicide bombers struck three Western hotels a mile from where I was staying, killing and maiming dozens of people.
But how many Muslims subscribe to the worldview described on these pages? This is a crucial question, because if only 1 out of 10 of the world’s Muslims take the commands of the Quran literally, that still means a minimum of 150 million Muslims are willing to kill or support other killers in advancing the cause of Islam. And as recent news reports from Syria and Iraq show, young Muslims from nations like England, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United States are flocking to the Islamic State to fight in the cause of jihad.
Because Islamic countries are geographically widespread and culturally diverse, it’s difficult to generalize about Muslim beliefs and practices as they relate to the Quran’s commands quoted on these pages. However, an extensive 2014 Pew Research Center poll of Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia shows great cause for concern. Some key findings of the poll were:
• 10 percent of Nigerians hold favorable opinions of Boko Haram, the Islamic terror movement that has kidnapped schoolgirls, blown up churches and massacred Christians in recent years.
• 11 to 25 percent of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Nigeria and South Asia hold favorable views of the terror group al-Qaeda.
• 8 to 41 percent of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Nigeria and South Asia hold favorable opinions of the terror group Hezbollah, including 26 percent of those in Gaza and 35 percent in the West Bank.
• 32 to 39 percent of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank hold favorable views of the terror group Hamas. 8 to 29 percent of those in South Asia and Nigeria see Hamas favorably.
• Asked whether suicide bombings or other forms of violence against civilians can be justified in the defense of Islam, those who approved numbered 62 percent in Gaza, 36 percent in the West Bank, 29 percent in Lebanon, 24 percent in Egypt, 19 percent in Nigeria, 18 percent in Turkey and 15 percent in Jordan.
Troublingly, a separate 2011 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Muslims found that 8 percent thought suicide bombings and violence against civilians are justified to defend Islam, and 5 percent held favorable views of al-Qaeda. Further, 21 percent said there was support for Islamic extremism among American Muslims.
In Britain, a 2006 poll of British Muslims for The Sunday Telegraph found that 20 percent sympathized with the motives of the four Muslims suicide bombers who blew themselves up on London subway trains and buses on July 7 of that year, killing and wounding more than 700 people, and 40 percent supported instituting sharia law in predominately Muslim parts of Britain.