- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nine in 10 respondents from 12 Arab region countries have negative views of the Islamic State terrorist group, according to a survey released this week by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported negative views of the group, also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, according to the 2015 Arab Opinion Index, which was conducted in 12 different Arab countries: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Seven percent of respondents said they have positive views of the group. Favorable views were equally divided among respondents who were “very religious” and people who are “not religious,” and were divided among supporters and opponents of the separation of church and state.

“In other words, support for radical extremist organizations in the Arab world, where it exists, is rooted in political grievances within the Arab region and its conflicts, and not in religious ideology,” an analysis accompanying the survey concluded.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents expressed fears toward Islamist political movements, while 36 percent said they had no such fears. Sixty-one percent said they have fear toward secular political movements, compared to 31 percent who had no fears.

Fifty-nine percent expressed a negative view of the Arab revolutions and the Arab Spring, compared to 34 percent who expressed a positive view. Those who had negative views cited the associated large-scale human losses, the spread of discord and chaos and lack of security, the collapse of states and state institutions, and instability more broadly.

“The fact that large groups of Arab respondents fear the rise and ascendancy of both Islamist and non-Islamist/secular political movements is a reflection of the discord and disarray among Arab political movements and the partisanship and conflicts between Arab political movements,” said Dr. Mohammad Almasri, coordinator of the Arab Opinion Index who supervised the survey.

“Respondents who have expressed their fears of both or one side have stated clear and specific reasons for that,” he said. “Given these public attitudes, the lack of consensus between these two broad categories of political movements, and their inability to reduce public fear towards them, can be exploited by anti-democratic forces to agitate for a return to authoritarianism, and will therefore prove to be an obstacle on the path to democratization.”

Respondents were divided on what they think is the most important measure for combating the Islamic State group and armed terrorists in general. Twenty-eight percent said supporting democratic transition in the region, 18 percent said resolving the Palestinian cause, 14 percent said ending foreign intervention and 14 percent said intensifying the military campaign against the group, and 12 percent said “solving the Syrian crisis in line with the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Sixty-two percent said a change in the Syrian regime is the preferred way to end the ongoing crisis in the country.

On the Iranian nuclear deal, 40 percent of respondents said they support it and 32 percent said they oppose it.

Iran was judged the biggest winner of the deal by 32 percent of respondents, followed by the United States at 31 percent, Israel at 15 percent, and the Arab countries in general at 8 percent. Thirty-eight percent said the Arab countries were the largest losers in the deal.

The survey was based on 18,311 face-to-face interviews conducted between May and September.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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