'Politics, not piety' dictate radicals in Muslim world: poll


Washington : One of the largest-ever opinion polls conducted in the Islamic world found that seven percent of Muslims condoned the Sep 11, 2001, attacks on the US, but none of them gave religious justification for their beliefs, according to the figures released Tuesday.

The Gallup organisation's poll of some 50,000 people in over 35 predominantly Muslim countries found that what motivated those considered "politically radicalised" was their fear of occupation by the West and the US, though most even admired and hoped for democratic principles.

"Politics, not piety, differentiate moderates from radicals" in the Islamic world, said Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim studies. "Terrorism sympathisers don't hate our freedom, they want our freedom."

The overwhelming majority of Muslims - 93 percent - condemned the Sep 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, and most said the biggest obstacle to better relations with the West was the latter's lack of respect for Islam.

Substantial majorities in all Muslim countries said they supported bringing democratic principles to their own countries and admired the US primarily for its technological innovation and liberal democracy, but less than 50 percent believed the US was serious about bringing that democracy to the Islamic world.

The Gallup poll found that Muslims were most bothered by a perceived "moral decay" in the US and the West, but that their explanations and views were similar to concerns expressed by those in the West itself.

Among the seven percent who viewed the Sep 11 attacks as "completely justified", Mogahed said that "not one gave religious justification" for their views, instead expressing their fear of US plans for occupation and domination of the Muslim world.

"What we have here is the ability to get beyond the battle of the experts" and let "the data lead the discourse" on beliefs in the Muslim world, said John L. Esposito, a professor of international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University.

Mogahed and Esposito co-authored a book, "Who Speaks for Islam", that explains the Gallup figures.