Concern Is Rising in the Middle East Over Islamist Extremism

Concern Is Rising in the Middle East Over Islamist Extremism

With the Islamic State, the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, making territorial gains in Iraq, the horror of the Syrian civil war continuing unabated, and Israel in mourning over the kidnapping and killing of three teenagers, it is perhaps no surprise that the countries of the Middle East are alarmed at the spread of militant beliefs in the region. With violence and unrest marring the region, new data released by the Pew Research Center for 14 countries with substantial Muslim populations shows high levels of concern for Islamist extremism.



With the Syrian Civil War entering its fourth year and a coalition of violent extremist groups challenging the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, border nations Turkey and Jordan have seen double-digit increases in the levels of concern expressed over militant violence, In Turkey, 31 percent say they are concerned over extremism. In Jordan, that figure is 62 percent.

In Lebanon, a country to which millions of refugees from the war have fled, 92 percent say they are concerned by extremism, a worry that is shared by the country’s Muslims and Christians.

The Syrian civil war is also having an apparent effect on Hezbollah, the mighty Shiite political and military group based in Lebanon. Having deployed fighters in Syria to bolster the Assad regime, Hezbollah is seeing its popularity plummet in several nations in the region. In Lebanon, however, it has retained a formidable base of support:

Interestingly, the poll, which was carried about between April 10 and May 25 and included more than 14,000 responses, shows a decline in the popularity of Hamas — the militant group in control of Gaza and labeled a terrorist group by the United States —  within the Palestinian territories. Since it took control of the Gaza strip in 2007, Hamas has seen in its unfavorability ratings markedly rise among Palestinians:

More radical groups are also experiencing challenges in the court of public opinion. In Nigeria, where the militant group Boko Haram gained worldwide notoriety earlier this year for their kidnapping of 300 schoolgirls, some 76 percent say they have a highly unfavorable opinion of the group.