Despite rhetoric about supposed “sympathy” for ISIS among Muslims in the UK and around the world, research by the Pew Research Centre indicated almost non-existent support in 11 surveyed countries and territories. In Lebanon, where ISIS’ recent bombing in Beirut killed 43 people, 99 per cent of respondents said they had a “very unfavourable” opinion of the group, while 94 per cent of Israelis and 89 per cent of Jordanians felt the same. In the Palestinian territories, 84 per cent of people had a negative view of ISIS, both in the Gaza Strip (92 per cent) and the West Bank (79 per cent).
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu), told the media that the results were no surprise. “I think it emphasises that ISIS are seen as a threat to communities across the Arab world – Muslims have been their primary victims after all, as was the case with al-Qaida,” he said.
“The brutal nature of their rule, the way they have treated women, all the beheadings, have not endeared them to people. (Respondents) also know that by their actions, ISIS are trying to turn the non-Muslim world against them.” Doyle said that while all the surveyed areas had experience of jihadist groups, Lebanon was particularly conscious of the carnage next door in Syria, which has driven hundreds of thousands of refugees across its borders.
In no country surveyed did more than 15 per cent of the population declare support for ISIS, but in Pakistan views appeared more mixed. The majority of respondents – 62 per cent – said they did not know how they felt, while almost a third held negative opinions and around nine per cent thought positively of the group. Doyle said the high proportion of “don’t knows” could be a sign of reluctance to answer the question. Opinions differed across religious groups in some areas including Nigeria, where Boko Haram declared allegiance to ISIS earlier this year while attempting to establish its own “caliphate” with a bloody insurgency. “ISIS don’t have as much of presence there so I would like to see further analysis,” he added.