Muslims believe U.S. seeks to undermine Islam


WASHINGTON, D.C. — An in-depth poll of four major Muslim countries has found that large majorities in each believe that undermining Islam is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy. Most want U.S. military forces out of the Middle East and many approve of attacks on U.S. troops there.

Most respondents have mixed feelings about al-Qaida. Large majorities agree with many of its goals, but believe that terrorist attacks on civilians are contrary to Islam.

There is strong support for enhancing the role of Islam in all of the countries polled, through such measures as the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). This does not mean that they want to isolate their societies from outside influences: Most view globalization positively and favor democracy and freedom of religion.

These findings are from surveys in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Indonesia conducted from December to February by with support from the START Consortium at the University of Maryland.

Large majorities across all four countries believe the United States seeks to "weaken and divide the Islamic world." On average 79 percent say they perceive this as a U.S. goal, ranging from 73 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan to 92 percent in Egypt. Equally large numbers perceive that the United States is trying to maintain "control over the oil resources of the Middle East" (average 79 percent). Strong majorities (average 64 percent) even believe it is a U.S. goal to "spread Christianity in the region."

"While U.S. leaders may frame the conflict as a war on terrorism," said Steven Kull, editor of, "people in the Islamic world clearly perceive the U.S. as being at war with Islam."

Large majorities in all countries (average 74 percent) support the goal of getting the United States to "remove its bases and military forces from all Islamic countries," ranging from 64 percent in Indonesia to 92 percent in Egypt. Substantial numbers also favor attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the Persian Gulf.

However, respondents reject attacks on civilians. Asked about politically motivated attacks on civilians, majorities in all countries—usually overwhelming majorities—say such violence cannot be justified at all.

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