WASHINGTON - A majority of Pakistanis has an unfavorable view of the Taliban, amid extremism fueling increasing public concern in nations with substantial Muslim populations from Lebanon to Malaysia and Nigeria, according to an international poll released Tuesday.
The Taliban, which have a base of operations on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, is seen unfavourably by 59 percent of the population in Pakistan, The Washington-based Pew Research Center found.
Only 8 percent have a favourable view of this extremist organization, with a third of Pakistanis not offering an opinion, it said. Views of the Taliban have not changed substantially in recent years.
Opinions toward specific branches of the Taliban, such as Tehrik-i-Taliban and the Afghan Taliban, are also negative. In a spring 2013 survey, both those groups received low ratings (56 percent unfavorable and 47 percent unfavorable, respectively).
Few Muslims in most of the countries surveyed say that suicide bombing can often or sometimes be justified against civilian targets in order to defend Islam from its enemies. And support for the tactic has fallen in many countries over the last decade. Still, in some countries a substantial minority say that suicide bombing can be justified.
These are some of findings of a new Pew Research Center survey conducted among 14,244 respondents in 14 countries with significant Muslim populations from April 10 to May 25, 2014.
As US and other officials worry that the recent advances of the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, signal a rising tide of religious extremism, the poll suggests that many Muslims from Africa to East Asia share that concern.
“Lebanese, Tunisians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Turks are all more worried about the extremist threat than they were a year ago,” the Pew Research Center found.
In Asia, 66 percent in Bangladesh and 56 percent in Indonesia have negative opinions of al Qaeda. Roughly four-in-ten in Pakistan and 32 percent in Malaysia also see the group unfavourably, but many in these countries offer no opinion.
The civil war in Syria has galvanized such worries throughout the Middle East, led by neighbouring Lebanon, where 92 percent of the population expressed concern over extremism, up from 81 percent last year. The share of those somewhat or very concerned rose in Tunisia to 80 percent from 71 percent in 2013, in Egypt to 75 percent from 69 percent, in Jordan to 62 percent from 54 percent and in Turkey to 50 percent from 37 percent.
The poll was conducted from April 10 through May 25, before ISIL seized Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and surged toward Baghdad in a crisis risking civil war.
“Publics hold very negative views of well-known extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah,” according to the survey results.
In Nigeria, 82 percent of those polled held a very or somewhat unfavorable view of Boko Haram, which uses kidnappings and terror attacks in an effort to impose Islamic law on Africa’s most populous nation, compared with 10 percent with a favorable opinion.
For all the concern and condemnation of extremist groups, the survey found signs of ambivalence, as well. The margin of error for the in-person surveys varied by countries from plus-or-minus 3.7 percentage points to 4.5 percentage points.