BEIRUT: While support for Hizbullah remains high among Lebanese Shiites, the majority of Muslims elsewhere in the world view the group in a “mostly unfavorable” light, a new poll has claimed. The survey entitled “Little Enthusiasm for many Muslim Leaders: Mixed Views of Hamas and Hizbullah in largely Muslim Nations,” released on Friday, also noted a “growing” divide between Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
The results are based on interviews conducted in May and June 2009 by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project in the predominantly Muslim nations of Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, and the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as among Muslims in Nigeria and Israel. A sample of 1,000 Lebanese were queried.
“Across predominantly Muslim nations, there is little enthusiasm for … Hamas and Hizbullah, although there are pockets of support for both groups, especially in the Middle East,” the survey said.
Researchers found that support for Hizbullah was stronger among Palestinians (61 percent), Egyptians (43 percent) and Jordanians (51 percent) than among the Lebanese, where 35 percent of respondents viewed the organization favorably.
Views of the Shiite organization within Lebanon were, however, “sharply divided along religious lines,” with almost all (97 percent) Shiites expressing a positive view, compared to a minority of Christians (18 percent) and Sunnis (2 percent).
In other Muslim-majority countries, support for the group was overwhelmingly low.
Only 3 percent of Turks and 27 percent of Israeli Muslims viewed Hizbullah favorably. Favorable opinions about the Palestinian Hamas party were also in the minority.
The low figures are consistent with previous Pew findings over the last few years, “which have shown declining public support for extremism and suicide bombings among most Muslim populations,” the survey said.
Muslim leaders are also viewed with pessimism. Some 37 percent of all Lebanese express confidence in Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, though within the Shiite community there is almost unanimous support for him (97 percent). Support for the Shiite leader was higher in Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories, where 56 percent and 65 percent of respondents expressed confidence in him.
In contrast, Pew found that Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz was a popular figure among many Muslims throughout the world, with 64 percent of Pakistanis, 92 percent of Jordanians and 55 percent of Lebanese saying they believed he would “do the right thing in world affairs.”
Support for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has declined, with 23 percent of Egyptians, 28 percent of Jordanians and 3 percent of Turks expressing confidence in him. Lebanese respondents showed the least faith in bin Laden, with only 2 percent saying they had confidence in his leadership. On the other hand, some 65 percent of Lebanese Sunnis voiced confidence in US President Barack Obama.
The survey also noted a growing perception among Muslims of a Sunni-Shiite schism. “This is a rare point of agreement among Muslims in Lebanon,” where 95 percent of respondents, including 99 percent of Sunnis and 91 percent of Shiites said they believed tensions between their sects were a broad problem in the Muslim world, researchers said. “On several measures, the already large divides between Sunni and [Shiites] in Lebanon are growing even wider,” the survey said, noting a disparity in views on Saudi King Abdullah and Hamas. The Palestinian Islamist party enjoys almost universal support (91 percent) from Shiites but only 1 percent favorability among Sunnis.
Sunni views of the US have also shifted, with positive attitudes growing from 62 percent in 2008 to 90 percent in 2009, compared with 2 percent among Shiites in 2009, up from zero percent the year before.