Muslim attitudes towards terrorism

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Given that the Muslim community is a diverse mosaic of peoples, various attitudes exist towards terrorism, ranging from outrage and vocal opposition to support.[1]

Muslim diversity[edit]

Muslims are not a monolithic group. National, political and religious variations highlight stark differences and multiple identities among Muslims. The Sunnis, who account for over 80% of Muslims, have over centuries fragmented into three clear strands - the Political, Missionary and Jihad movements who possess individual characteristics and vary in global view. It is only the Jihadists however that pursue and promote an armed Islamic struggle, which led by the mujahideen can occur in an internal, irredentist or global capacity.[2]

Condemnation and opposition[edit]

In the article "Why are there no condemnations from Muslim sources against terrorists?" Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance summarizes:

A common complaint among non-Muslims is that Muslim religious authorities do not condemn terrorist attacks. The complaints often surface in letters to the editors of newspapers, on phone-in radio shows, in Internet mailing lists, forums, etc. A leader of an evangelical Christian para-church group, broadcasting over Sirius Family Net radio, stated that he had done a thorough search on the Internet for a Muslim statement condemning terrorism, without finding a single item.
Actually, there are lots of fatwas and other statements issued which condemn attacks on innocent civilians. Unfortunately, they are largely ignored by newspapers, television news, radio news and other media outlets.

Contrary to common image, many Muslims have spoken out against 9/11 [1] [2] and terrorist attacks in general.[3]

A 2007 Pew Research study of several nations throughout the Muslim world showed that opposition to suicide bombing in the Muslim world is increasing, with a majority of Muslims surveyed in 10 out of the 16 of the countries responding that suicide bombings and other violence against civilians is "never" justified, though an average of 38% believe it is justified at least rarely. Opposition to Hamas was the majority opinion in only 4 out of the 16 countries surveyed, as was opposition to Hezbollah.[1] The Pew Research Study did not include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria in the survey, although densely populated Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, and Bangladesh were included.

A Daily Telegraph survey[3] showed that 6% of British Muslims (about 100,000 individuals) fully supported the July 2005 bombings in the London Underground, and one Muslim in four expressed some sympathy with the bombers.[4] A later poll found that one Muslim in four thought the Government had staged the bombings and framed the Muslims convicted.[5] A 2011 study by Pew showed that 1 in 5 Muslim Americans thought there was a great deal or a fair amount of support amongst them for extremism.[6]

One condemnation of terrorism came in 2010 with the Fatwa on Terrorism, presented by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri and endorsed by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

The Free Muslims Coalition rallied against terror, stating that they wanted to send "a message to radical Muslims and supporters of terrorism that we reject them and that we will defeat them."[citation needed]

In 2008 the 9 killed Mumbai militants who perpetrated the 2008 Mumbai attacks were refused an Islamic burial by influential Muslim Jama Masjid Trust who stated 'People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim'.[7]

Northwest Airlines Flight 253[edit]

The bombing attempt on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was condemned by Muslim groups. In Canada, a group of Canadian and U.S. Islamic leaders issued a fatwa [4], or religious edict, condemning any attacks by extremists or terrorists on the United States or Canada and declaring that an attack by extremists on the two countries would constitute an attack on Muslims living in North America. "In our view, these attacks are evil, and Islam requires Muslims to stand up against this evil," said the fatwa signed by the 20 imams associated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. It concludes that Muslims "must expose any person, Muslim or non-Muslim, who would cause harm to fellow Canadians or Americans". One of the imams was reported saying: "it is religious obligation upon Muslims, based upon the Qur'anic teachings, that we have to be loyal to the country where we live". The fatwa also indicated that religious leaders have a duty to show others around the world that Muslims in Canada and the U.S. "have complete freedom to practise Islam" and that "any attack on Canada and the United States is an attack on the freedom of Canadian and American Muslims."[8][9]

2011 Alexandria bombing[edit]

As gesture of solidarity with the country's Coptic Christian minority, Egyptian Muslims showed up at churches on the eve of the Coptic Christmas on 6 January 2011 during mass service forming a "human shield" against any possible further attacks.[10] In the days before the mass, Muslims and Copts joined together in a show of solidarity that included street protests, rallies, and widespread Facebook unity campaigns calling for an “Egypt for All”.[11] In Lebanon, separate condemnations came from the Sunni Mufti of the Republic Mohammad Qabbani and Deputy Head of the Shiite Supreme Council Abdul Amir Qabalan.[12] Hamas has also condemned the bombing in Alexandria, assigning the blame to hidden hands that do not wish well for Egypt and its Muslim and Christian people and seek to inflame sectarian strife. Hamas in its statement sent condolences to Egypt and the victims' families, and hoped that facts would be disclosed the soonest and that those responsible would be brought to justice.[13]

In response to the attacks, Amr Khaled, an influential Egyptian Muslim preacher, launched a campaign to fight sectarian incitement made on the internet, which he believed to be a cause of the violence witnessed on New Year's Eve.[14]


In November 2010, thousands of Yemeni tribesmen vowed to back the government's efforts in its battles against Al-Qaeda and promised to fight alongside the troops. Chieftain Naji bin Abdul-Aziz al-Shaif of the northern powerful Bakeel tribe and the organizer of the rally stated: "We will fight against al-Qaida group as it harmed the reputation of the country, Yemeni tribes and Muslims...We expressed our sorrow to all countries and people who were harmed by al-Qaida and we demanded President Ali Abdullah Saleh to handle the situation and we will stand by him."[15]


Further information: Islamism

Iranian Ayatollah Ozma Seyyed Yousef Sanei issued a fatwa (ruling) that suicide attacks against civilians are legitimate only in the context of war.[16] The ruling did not say whether other types of attacks against civilians are justified outside of the context of war, nor whether Jihad is included in Sanei's definition of war.

Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, a Muslim and the general manager of Arab news channel, Al-Arabiya stated that it is a "fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims" and blamed radical clerics for hijacking the peace-loving and tolerant religion of Islam. .[17] Statistics compiled by the United States government's Counterterrorism Center present a more complicated picture. 21% of fatalities of known and specified terrorist incidents in 2006 were attributed to Islamic extremists. [18]A majority of over-all incidents were considered of either "unknown/unspecified" or a secular political nature. [18] The vast majority of the "unknown/unspecified" terrorism fatalities did however happen in Islamic regions such as Iraq, Afghanistan and India. [18]

Recent polls[edit]

John Esposito, using poll data from Gallup, wrote that Muslims and Americans were equally likely to reject violence against civilians. He also found that those Muslims who support violence against civilians are no more religious than Muslims who do not.[19]

A Pew Research study from 2007 found that over 1 in 4 Muslim adults under the age of 30 in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Spain believe suicide bombing can be justified at least rarely.[20]

In another Pew Research study, from 2006, at least 1 in 4 respondents in the Muslim nations surveyed, except Turkey, had at least some confidence in Bin Laden. Confidence in Bin Laden was 16% or less among Muslims in the four European nations surveyed.[21]

A 2013 Pew Research Center poll asked Muslims around the world whether attacks on civilians were justified. Globally 72% of Muslims said violence against civilians is never justified, and in the US, 81% of Muslims opposed such violence. About 14% of Muslims in the nations surveyed (and 8% of Muslims in the US) said violence against civilians is "often" or "sometimes" justified. An average of 25% of Muslims among the 20 nations surveyed believe suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets is justified at least rarely.[22][23][24] The survey did not include some Muslim nations, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, and Libya, but did include densely populated Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria and Indonesia.[25]

A Zogby poll reported that 69% of American Muslims supported stronger laws to fight terrorism.[26]

Western perspectives[edit]

Some in the West assume Islam to be polarised between pro-Western and pro-jihadi mentalities, enabling a clear divide between opponents and proponents of violent action.[27] In reality however, Islamic ideological and political spectrums are far more diverse than this idea suggests. American policy is unpopular among some Muslims, yet this hostility does not directly translate to support for or participation in global jihad, and for political Islamists who support non-violent measures it can not be assumed that they are in agreement with Western agendas.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "A Rising Tide Lifts Mood in the Developing World". Pew Global Attitudes Project. Pew Research Center. 2007. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  2. ^ a b International Crisis Group. Understanding Islamism: Middle East/North Africa Report. No 37, March 2005
  3. ^ King, Anthony (2005). "One in four Muslims sympathises with motives of terrorists". News (London: Telegraph Group Limited). Retrieved 2006-06-25. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Daily Telegraph report on Channel 4 poll, 5 June 2007
  6. ^
  7. ^ Mumbai killers to be denied a muslim burial, The Scotsman, 2008-12-01
  8. ^ "Twenty imams issue fatwa against attacks in Canada or the U.S.". Toronto Star. Jan 8, 2010. Retrieved Jan 29, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Attack on Canada, U.S. is attack on Muslims: imams". CBC. January 9, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Egypt's Muslims Attend Coptic Christmas Mass, Serving as 'Human Shields'". Fox News. January 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Lebanese Leaders Condemn Alexandria Church Massacre". iLoubnan. 1 January 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Hamas condemns Alexandria church bombing". Ahlul Bayt News Agency. 2011-01-02. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Yemeni tribesmen voice support for fight against al-Qaida". People's Daily Online. November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Iran: Ayatollah Issues Fatwa Against Suicide Attacks". adn kronos international. adn kronos international. 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-25. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Arab journalist attacks radical Islam". 204-09-07. 
  18. ^ a b c "Excerpt: NCTC Report on Terrorist Incidents – 2006". National Counterterrorism Center. 2007-04-30. 
  19. ^ "Excerpt: 'Who Speaks for Islam?'". National Public Radio. 2008-03-04. 
  20. ^ "Muslim Americans". Pew Global Attitudes Project. Pew Research Center. 2007. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  21. ^ "The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other". Pew Global Attitudes Project. Pew Research Center. 2006. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  22. ^ "How US Muslims are different: Pew poll sheds light on global contrasts". 2013-05-01. 
  23. ^ "Little Support for Terrorism Among Muslim Americans". 
  24. ^ "Poll: Muslim-Americans feel targeted by terror policies". NBC News. 2011-08-30. 
  25. ^ The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. April 30, 2013.
  26. ^ "American Muslims Have Mainstream Values". Forbes. 
  27. ^ Michael Doran. ‘Somebody Else’s Civil War. Foreign Affairs. January/February 2002.