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And Now For the Bad News

Andrew Sullivan links approvingly to results from the latest survey from the Pew Global Attitudes Project showing support for Osama bin Laden tanking in Muslim countries. Pascal Riche at TPM Cafe also highlights various pieces of good news from the survey.

While Sullivan did throw out a weak caveat about "mixed results," let me run through some of the more disturbing aspects of the survey in more detail. (You can view the reports here: Part I | Part II | Part III | Topline Results of Survey - pdf )

The first thing that jumps out of the survey is that Muslims in Britain appear to the most radicalized in Western Europe. British Muslims take a dimmer view of relations between Islam and the West than do their counterparts in Germany, France and Spain. Muslims in Britain also see more of a conflict for devout Muslims trying to live in modern societies, and they have, by far, the most negative attitudes toward non-Muslims living in Western countries. Finally, only 17% of British Muslims believe Arabs carried out the attacks on 9/11, compared to 33% Muslims in Spain, 35% of Muslims in Germany, and 48% of Muslims in France.

Not surprisingly, the Pew Survey shows anti-Semitism continues to be rampant in Muslim societies. As you can see from the chart below, Jordan and Egypt are the worst offenders of the countries surveyed, but even among Muslims living in Germany, Britain, and Spain, roughly one in three holds "very unfavorable" attitudes toward Jews:

 
Unfavorable Rating
Country
Total
Very
Somewhat
Jordan
98
96
2
Egypt
97
82
15
Nigerian Muslims
76
43
33
Indonesia
72
39
33
Pakistan
71
62
9
Turkey
65
50
15
Spanish Muslims
60
37
23
British Muslims
47
33
14
German Muslims
44
31
13
French Muslims
28
9
19

Historical data provided by Pew shows the trendlines are mixed, though the most significant shifts are clearly toward more anti-Semitism, not less: since May 2005 "unfavorable" attitudes toward Jews have risen 22 points in India, 19 points in Spain, 5 points in Turkey, 4 points in Russia, and 1 point in France and Britain, while they have declined slightly in Indonesia (4 points), Pakistan and France (3 points), and Jordan (2 points).

Another disturbing aspect of the survey is that while support for suicide bombings looks to have declined significantly in Jordan (perhaps as a result of the hideous Zarqawi-sponsored bombing of a wedding in Amman in November '05), 15% of Muslims living in France, Spain and the UK (and 7% of those living in Germany) support the killing of innocents via suicide bombs "often" and/or "sometimes." Furthermore, 12% of Muslims living in Britain, Germany and Spain said "many or most" Muslims in their respective countries "support Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda."

According to stats from the CIA factbook, Muslims make up 2.7% of the population in Britain, 3.7% in Germany, and between 5-10% in France. This site estimates the Muslim population in Spain to be around 500,000.

Some back-of-the-napkin math based on these numbers leads one to the estimate that there are somewhere between 900,000 to 1.5 million Muslims living in just these four European countries who either support suicide bombings, Islamic extremists like al-Qaeda, or both. Does that mean they're all going to strap on bombs or head off to terrorist training camps in Somalia or Sudan? Of course not. But it does, I think, help put the threat of Islamic extremism to the West in perspective, particularly in the context of how the ideology of radical Islam continues to imbed itself in open, tolerant societies.

The fact that many Muslims have lost confidence in Osama bin Laden is good news, no doubt about it. But the results of this survey show that we still have plenty of reasons to be concerned about the nature of the threat we face.