Muslim attitudes towards terrorism

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There is wide range of Muslim attitudes towards terrorism, ranging from vocal opposition, to support, to participation.[1]

Muslim diversity[edit]

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,[3] and against terrorist attacks in general.[4][5]

A 2007 Pew Research Center 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 YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph,[6] published two weeks after the July 2005 bombings in the London Underground, showed that 88% of British Muslims were opposed to the bombings, while 6% (about 100,000 individuals) fully supported them, and one British Muslim in four expressed some sympathy with the motives of the bombers.[7] A 2007 poll found that one Muslim in four thought the Government had staged the bombings and framed the Muslims convicted.[8] A 2011 study by Pew Research showed that 64% of Muslim Americans thought that there was not much or no support among them for extremism, while 6% thought there was a great deal, and 15% thought there was a fair amount.[9]

In 2010 Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri issued the Fatwa on Terrorism, endorsed by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

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'.[10]

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, 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.[11] 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."[12][13]

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.[14] 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”.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]


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."[19]


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.[20] 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.

Abdelrahman al-Rashid, a Muslim and the managing director of Arab news channel Al-Arabiya, stated that "It is a certain 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. .[21] 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.[22] A majority of over-all incidents were considered of either "unknown/unspecified" or a secular political nature.[22] The vast majority of the "unknown/unspecified" terrorism fatalities did however happen in Islamic regions such as Iraq, Afghanistan and India.[22]

According to the Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 published in 2012 by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), "Sunni extremists accounted for the greatest number of terrorist attacks and fatalities for the third consecutive year. More than 5,700 incidents were attributed to Sunni extremists, accounting for nearly 56 percent of all attacks and about 70 percent of all fatalities."[23] The report said that in 2011, a total of 10,283 terrorism attacks across the world killed 12,533 people. Terrorism was also blamed for 25,903 injuries and 5,554 kidnappings. According to the NCTC, of the 12,533 terrorism-related deaths worldwide, 8,886 were perpetrated by "Sunni extremists", 1,926 by "secular/political/anarchist" groups, 1,519 by "unknown" factions, 170 by a category described as "other", and 77 by "Neo-Nazi/Fascist/White Supremacist" groups.[23]


According to an ICM Research poll in 2006, 20% of British Muslims felt sympathy with the July 7 terrorist bombers' "feelings and motives", although 99 per cent thought the bombers were wrong to carry out the atrocity.[24] In another poll by NOP Research, almost one in four British Muslims believe that the 7/7 attacks on London were justified.[25]

In a 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.[26]

In a 2007 Pew Research poll in response to a question on whether suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets to defend Islam could be justified,[27] in Europe:

  • 64% of Muslims in France believed it could never be justified, 19% believed it could be justified rarely, 10% sometimes, and 6% thought it could be justified often.
  • 70% of Muslims in Britain believed it could never be justified, 9% believed it could be justified rarely, 12% sometimes, and 3% thought it could be justified often.
  • 83% of Muslims in Germany believed it could never be justified, 6% believed it could be justified rarely, 6% sometimes, and 1% thought it could be justified often.
  • 69% of Muslims in Spain believed it could never be justified, 9% believed it could be justified rarely, 10% sometimes, and 6% thought it could be justified often.

In mainly Muslim countries:

  • 45% of Muslims in Egypt believed it could never be justified, 25% believed it could be justified rarely, 20% sometimes, and 8% thought it could be justified often.
  • 61% of Muslims in Turkey believed it could never be justified, 9% believed it could be justified rarely, 14% sometimes, and 3% thought it could be justified often.
  • 43% of Muslims in Jordan believed it could never be justified, 28% believed it could be justified rarely, 24% sometimes, and 5% thought it could be justified often.
  • 28% of Muslims in Nigeria believed it could never be justified, 23% believed it could be justified rarely, 38% sometimes, and 8% thought it could be justified often.
  • 69% of Muslims in Pakistan believed it could never be justified, 8% believed it could be justified rarely, 7% sometimes, and 7% thought it could be justified often.
  • 71% of Muslims in Indonesia believed it could never be justified, 18% believed it could be justified rarely, 8% sometimes, and 2% thought it could be justified often.

John Esposito, using poll data from Gallup, wrote in 2008 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.[28]

A 2010 Zogby poll reported that 69% of American Muslims supported stronger laws to fight terrorism.[29]

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. 26% of Muslims in Bangladesh believe attacks are either somewhat justified or often justified, 18% in Malaysia, 7% in Iraq, 15% in Jordan, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in the Palestinian territories.[30][31][32] 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.[33]

According to a 2007 poll conducted by the PolicyExchange think tank in Britain, nearly 60% said they would prefer to live under British law, while 37% of 16 to 24-year-olds said they would prefer sharia law, against 17% of those over 55. Also, 36%[34] of 16 to 24-year-olds British Muslims believed that those converting to another religion should be executed. Less than a fifth of those over 55 think so.[35]

Western perspectives[edit]

Michael Scott Doran wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs that Islam seemed to be polarised between pro-Western and pro-jihadi mentalities, enabling a clear divide between opponents and proponents of violent action.[36] The International Crisis Group wrote in their 2005 report Understanding Islamism that Islamic ideological and political spectrums were far more diverse than this idea suggests. American policy is unpopular among some Muslims, the report argued, yet this hostility did not directly translate to support for or participation in global jihad, and for political Islamists who support non-violent measures it could 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. ^ Fethullah Gülen (2001-09-12). "Gülen's Condemnation Message of Terrorism". Gülen Institute. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  4. ^ Charles Kurzman (2012-03-15). "Islamic Statements Against Terrorism". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  5. ^ "Muslims Condemn Terrorist Attacks". Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  6. ^ King, Anthony (2005-07-23). "One in four Muslims sympathises with motives of terrorists". News (London: Telegraph Group Limited). Retrieved 2006-06-25. 
  7. ^ "Muslims Poll" (PDF). ICM Research. February 2006. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "7/7 bombs staged, say one in four Muslims". Daily Telegraph. 2007-06-05. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  9. ^ "Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism". Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  10. ^ Mumbai killers to be denied a muslim burial, The Scotsman, 2008-12-01
  11. ^ "Attack on Canada and the United States is Attack on Muslims Too". Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2014-07-23. 
  12. ^ "Twenty imams issue fatwa against attacks in Canada or the U.S.". Toronto Star. Jan 8, 2010. Retrieved Jan 29, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Attack on Canada, U.S. is attack on Muslims: imams". CBC. January 9, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Egypt's Muslims Attend Coptic Christmas Mass, Serving as 'Human Shields'". Fox News. January 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  15. ^ "In Egypt, ministers and movie stars turn out for trouble-free Christmas mass". Al-Ahram. 7 January 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "Lebanese Leaders Condemn Alexandria Church Massacre". iLoubnan. 1 January 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  17. ^ "Hamas condemns Alexandria church bombing". Ahlul Bayt News Agency. 2011-01-02. 
  18. ^ "Amr Khaled calls for Facebook users to fight sectarianism". Al-Ahram. 8 January 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "Yemeni tribesmen voice support for fight against al-Qaida". People's Daily Online. November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Iran: Ayatollah Issues Fatwa Against Suicide Attacks". adn kronos international. adn kronos international. 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-25. [dead link]
  21. ^ "Arab journalist attacks radical Islam". 2004-09-07. 
  22. ^ a b c "Excerpt: NCTC Report on Terrorist Incidents – 2006" (PDF). National Counterterrorism Center. 2007-04-30. 
  23. ^ a b National Counterterrorism Center (31 July 2012). "Country Reports on Terrorism 2011". United States Department of State. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  24. ^ "Poll reveals 40pc of Muslims want sharia law in UK". Daily Telegraph. 19 February 2006. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  25. ^ "Many British Muslims Put Islam First". CBS News. 14 August 2006. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  26. ^ "The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other" (PDF). Pew Global Attitudes Project. Pew Research Center. 2006. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  27. ^ "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream" (PDF). Pew Research. 22 May 2007. p. 97. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  28. ^ "Excerpt: 'Who Speaks for Islam?'". National Public Radio. 2008-03-04. 
  29. ^ "American Muslims Have Mainstream Values". Forbes. 
  30. ^ "How US Muslims are different: Pew poll sheds light on global contrasts". 2013-05-01. 
  31. ^ "Little Support for Terrorism Among Muslim Americans". 
  32. ^ "Poll: Muslim-Americans feel targeted by terror policies". NBC News. 2011-08-30. 
  33. ^ The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. April 30, 2013.
  34. ^ "Bishop warns that Muslims who convert risk being killed". 16 September 2007. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  35. ^ "More young Muslims back sharia, says poll". 
  36. ^ Michael Scott Doran. "Somebody Else’s Civil War". Foreign Affairs (January/February 2002). Retrieved 9 September 2014.