Friday, December 3, 2010

Who Supports Al Qaeda? Over 100 Million Muslims. That's Who.

Just one month after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Fareed Zakaria published his now famous essay, Why Do They Hate Us?, in which he wrote:
"The problem is not that Osama bin Laden believes that this is a religious war against America. It's that millions of people across the Islamic world seem to agree."
Zakaria is not some reactionary Islamophobe. He himself is Muslim and his father was a respected Islamic scholar. Zakaria can be safely categorized as a liberal (and the Right consistently attacks him for it). He has compared Bush's invasion of Iraq to Hitler's invasion of Poland, and he strongly supports the establishment of a mosque at Ground Zero (or an "Islamic Center" in "Lower Manhattan", whatever).

Today, of course, all right-thinking liberals are required to insist loudly that only a tiny minority of Muslims support violent Jihadism. But the truth turns out to be that even Zakaria's October 2001 estimate of "millions of people across the Islamic world" who "seem to agree" with Osama bin Laden was a low-ball estimate!

Who supports Al Qaeda? Well, according to recent data gathered by the good folks at the Pew Reseach Center (link: Muslim Publics Divided) the answer to that question is, in part: one third of all Muslims in Jordan, half of all Muslims in Nigeria, one fourth of all Muslims Indonesia, and one fifth of all Muslims in Egypt. In those four countries alone this represents one hundred million Muslims who support Al Qaeda.

Here's a quick and dirty breakdown using CIA factbook stats combined with the Pew survey results:

Jordan: population 6.2M, 93% Muslim, 34% support Al Qaeda = 2M
Nigeria: population 149M, 50% Muslim, 49% support Al Qaeda = 37M
Indonesia: population 238M, 86.1% Muslim, 23% support Al Qaeda = 47M
Egypt: population 78.9M, 91% Muslim, 20% support Al Qaeda = 14M
Total = 100M

If we add to this the data from Lebanon and Turkey where only 3% and 4% (respectively) of those surveyed support Al Qaeda, that adds another 0.7M and 3.1M (respectively) for a grand total (from these 6 countries) of 104M jihadist extremists. That's quite a lot for a tiny minority!

But wait. There's more. These six countries have a total Muslim population of about 555M, while the total Muslim population in the world is at least 1.1B and even as high as 1.5B. And there's also the fact that in addition to Al Qaeda there are other, competing, violent extremist currents in the Muslim world (such as Shia extremists, often supported by Iran, who are deadly enemies of Sunni extremists like Al Qaeda).

A very conservative approach would be to assume that the rest of the Muslim world has only half the number of extremists as that found in the countries surveyed by Pew, which would yield a world-wide headcount of 150 million Muslim supporters of Al Qaeda and other groups like it!

Oh, but it turns out that this is the good news! What? That's right. Because, you know, 150M isn't tiny, but it is still a minority among Muslims. Fell better? Well, don't.

The bad news is that huge majorities (ranging from 72% to 95%) of Muslims in five of the countries polled support a "large role for Islam in politics". In one other country, Jordan, there is still a majority, but a smaller one: 53%. In Turkey 45% (that's still a very respectable 34M) think this is a good idea, while only 38% say it is a bad idea. In fact, Pew did not find any Muslim country where a majority said that a large role for Islam in politics was a bad idea. See what I mean about bad news?

Well, you might object, that's kind of vague. "A large role for Islam", why, that could mean very different things to different people. Maybe it means they all want to have peace and harmony and government subsidized Sufi dancing? Uh, no. Pew also found that there is a clear correlation between the number of people who want a "large role for Islam in politics" and the numbers of people who support such things as (1) stoning adulterers to death, (2) cutting off the hands of thieves, and (3) the death penalty for apostasy. Oh. Does Karen Armstrong know about this?

If we do the math just looking just at Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria, a whopping 250M+ Muslims in those five nations (all of which are considered to be "U.S. allies", btw) believe that anyone who is born a Muslim but who chooses to leave that religion should be put to death!

And if all of that isn't enough to scare the crap out of you, well, there's this (source):

Further reading: