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Where are the moderate Muslims? Everywhere, apparently. A new study by Pew shows that support for suicide bombings has been cut in half in many parts of the Muslim world. Most notably, the survey finds large and growing numbers of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere rejecting Islamic extremism.
The percentage of Muslims saying that suicide bombing is justified in the defense of Islam has declined dramatically over the past five years in five of eight countries where trends are available. In Lebanon, for example, just 34% of Muslims say suicide bombings in the defense of Islam are often or sometimes justified; in 2002, 74% expressed this view. However, Palestinians stand out for their broad acceptance of suicide bombing. Seven-in-ten-Palestinians say this tactic is at least sometimes justified.
The survey adds:
The decreasing acceptance of extremism among Muslims also is reflected in declining support for Osama bin Laden. Since 2003, Muslim confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs has fallen; in Jordan, just 20% express a lot or some confidence in bin Laden, down from 56% four years ago. Yet confidence in bin Laden in the Palestinian territories, while lower than it was in 2003, remains relatively high (57%).
Opinion about Hezbollah and Hamas varies among Muslim publics. Views of both groups are favorable among most predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia. And Palestinians have strongly positive opinions of both militant groups. But majorities in Turkey have negative impressions of both Hezbollah and Hamas.