Suggesting that our enemies may, in fact, be their own worst enemy, the 2007 Pew Global Survey, released today, is showing a significant decline in support for suicide bombing and other attacks on innocent lives. the sole exception appears to be among Palestinians:
Among the most striking trends in predominantly Muslim nations is the continuing decline in the number saying that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians are justifiable in the defense of Islam. In Lebanon, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia, the proportion of Muslims who view suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians as being often or sometimes justified has declined by half or more over the past five years.
Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. However, this is decidedly not the case in the Palestinian territories. Fully 70% of Palestinians believe that suicide bombings against civilians can be often or sometimes justified, a position starkly at odds with Muslims in other Middle Eastern, Asian, and African nations.
The decreasing acceptance of extremism among Muslims also is reflected in declining support for Osama bin Laden. Since 2003, Muslim confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs has fallen; in Jordan, just 20% express a lot or some confidence in bin Laden, down from 56% four years ago. Yet confidence in bin Laden in the Palestinian territories, while lower than it was in 2003, remains relatively high (57%).
Opinion about Hezbollah and Hamas varies among Muslim publics. Views of both groups are favorable among most predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia. And Palestinians have strongly positive opinions of both militant groups. But majorities in Turkey have negative impressions of both Hezbollah and Hamas.
The study also found that the world was generally a more happy place in the last year.
So what explains this rapid change? In my view, one word--Iraq. Just as the Iraq War (and the related issues like torture) has tarnished the image of the United States in the Muslim world (and worldwide), the sectarian use of suicide bombing in Iraq is clearly changing views on this issue within the larger Muslim world.
The lessson? Sometimes taking the high moral ground does pay off in the end. Too bad we did not take that high moral ground and are not in any position to take advantage of this shift in attitude.
And lest I sound too optimistic, the numbers from the Palestinian Territories are troubling.
Read it all here.