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Views of Violence: Abu Dhabi Gallup Center Report

A TIO Report


A widespread belief concerning Islam emerged and solidified in the minds of millions after the 9/11 attack by Al Qaeda operatives. It has been strengthened since by senseless deadly attacks on military and civilian targets, all in the name of Islam. This belief states simply that Islam, at the heart of its teachings, is a violent religion. Its own sacred text is believed to promote and even demand death to those who do not believe and follow the way of Islam.

Conversely there are those who believe that there are politically motivated groups operating from Islamic countries that hide behind their interpretations of the Quran. And it is these groups who act violently, not on behalf of Islam, but on behalf of their own political and social agendas.

The final answer as to which view is correct will play a strong hand in the West’s ongoing attempt to determine of how to deal with the wellsprings of terrorism. If it is based primarily within the religion of Islam itself then we are faced with the awesome and impossible task of changing the religious beliefs of over a billion of the world’s population. Or hopefully we discover that the answer lies in conditions and situations which lie outside of religion.

A new global survey suggests that the way to peace is indeed outside of religious beliefs. Over the last several years, the Gallup Organization has asked people in 131 nations about whether they think there is any justification for the targeting and killing of innocent citizens, either by military forces or by individuals. The findings, in a 23-page report from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, which according to the Institute of Global Ethics, suggest that:

  • Predominantly Muslim societies reject violence at least as much as other societies. In fact, residents of countries aligned with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are slightly less likely than residents in other countries to believe that military or individual attacks on civilians are justified.
  • There is no link between one’s views of violence and the importance one gives to religion. If anything, the impulse operates in the other direction. “Placing high importance on religion,” write the Gallup authors, “generally relates positively with rejecting violence. Religious intolerance — a function of less, not more, religion — is generally associated with greater sympathy for attacks on civilians.”
  • Individual (as opposed to military) attacks on civilians receive broad global condemnation. In rejecting the category of violence that includes the 9/11 events, Americans and Canadians are near the top: 77 percent say such violence is never justified. Yet residents of the predominantly Muslim nations of the Middle East and North Africa feel even more strongly, with 85 percent rejecting individual violence against civilians.

According to Gallup’s researchers, it is “human development and governance — not piety or culture — that are the strongest factors in explaining differences in how the public perceives violence.”

[Read full report]