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Poll: Many Muslims in Mideast, Pakistan have poor view of al Qaeda

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Tue May 1, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Pakistanis do not grieve for Osama bin Laden, an interfaith expert says
  • A poll finds that 55% of Muslims there have an unfavorable view of al Qaeda
  • Negative views of the terrorist group are higher in four Mideast countries
  • Sympathy for the network is highest among Muslims in Egypt

(CNN) -- Most Muslims in several key Middle Eastern and Asian countries hold negative views of the terrorist network al Qaeda a year after U.S. forces killed its leader, Osama bin Laden, according to a recent survey.

The poll by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, released Monday, found that a high proportion -- between 71% and 98% -- of Muslims questioned in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon viewed al Qaeda in an unfavorable way.

In Pakistan, where U.S. Navy SEALs killed the al Qaeda leader during a raid on a compound a year ago, 55% of the Muslims surveyed had a negative opinion of the terrorist group, according to the poll. Only 13% had a favorable view.

The United States has used controversial drone strikes in tribal areas of Pakistan to try to dismantle al Qaeda's infrastructure.

In May 2011, an elite team of Navy SEALs flew two helicopters into Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was living in a three-story compound with approximately two dozen people, including his wives and children.

The killing of bin Laden in that raid prompted an uproar in Pakistan. The blatant violation of the country's national sovereignty embarrassed the civilian government and especially the military, which has a prestigious military academy in Abbottabad.

The drone strikes, the bin Laden raid and airstrikes by NATO forces in November that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan have soured relations between Islamabad and Washington.

But they do not appear to have created a high level of support for al Qaeda in Pakistan, according to the Pew survey.

Interfaith activist Fiyaz Mughal concurred, saying his organization uncovered nuanced feelings in Pakistan about the killing of bin Laden.

"They were unhappy about the way the killing had taken place, but there was no sense they were angry he had been assassinated," he said his London-based Faith Matters found two days after the killing.

And with the passing of time, support for al Qaeda has fallen further in key parts of Pakistan, he said.

"As more and more information comes out and more and more attacks take place, the population has gotten fed up with al Qaeda's tactics," said Mughal.

"Because of the actions of al Qaeda specifically in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, they have managed to turn off a lot of people in Pakistan," he said of the terror network.

"They are not interested in seeing Osama bin Laden as some great martyr, feeling: 'We are unhappy with the U.S., but we are not going to grieve over bin Laden,'" he said.

Sympathy for the terrorist group appears to be stronger in Egypt, the poll's findings suggest. Twenty-one percent of the Muslims questioned there had a favorable view of al Qaeda, while 71% had an unfavorable one.

The second highest level of positive opinions of the terrorist network among the countries surveyed was found in Jordan, where 15% viewed al Qaeda favorably and 77% viewed it unfavorably.

Muslims polled in Turkey and Lebanon were much less likely to see the extremist organization in a positive light. Only 6% in Turkey and 2% in Lebanon viewed it favorably.

In Lebanon, 98% of those questioned held a negative opinion of al Qaeda. The number in Turkey was 73%.

The survey's results were based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults each in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon between March 19 and April 10. In Turkey, 1,001 adults were surveyed in person between March 20 and April 11.

A total of 1,206 adults were interviewed face-to-face in Pakistan between March 28 and April 13.

The Pew Research Center noted that the question about views toward al Qaeda was asked at a later point in the interview in Pakistan than in the other four countries.

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