89% Pakistanis say suicide bombing is 'never justified': PEW report

Published: September 10, 2013
Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti offering funeral prayers of suicide blast victims. PHOTO: APP/FILE

Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti offering funeral prayers of suicide blast victims. PHOTO: APP/FILE

A new survey conducted by ‘Pew Research Center’ has found that as many as 89% of Pakistanis currently believe suicide bombings or other acts of violence targeting civilians are “never justified”. Another two percent stated they sometimes can be justified, while one percent stated they are “often” justified.

The survey reports opinions from 11 Muslim countries from face-to-face interviews of 8, 989 Muslims conducted during March 3 to April 7, 2013, across Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Senegal, Tunisia and Turkey.

“Across 11 Muslim publics surveyed by the Pew Research Center, a median of 67% say they are somewhat or very concerned about Islamic extremism. In five countries – Pakistan, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey and Indonesia – Muslim worries about extremism have increased in the past year.”

With respect to Pakistan, Pew reports overwhelmingly negative views of suicide bombing.

“Indeed, about three-quarters or more in Pakistan (89%), Indonesia (81%), Nigeria (78%) and Tunisia (77%), say suicide bombings or other acts of violence that target civilians are never justified.”

It also states that currently, an estimated 67% of Pakistanis are ‘concerned’ about the threat of Islamic extremism, which is an increase, compared with 58% in 2012.

The survey further says:

“Although substantial percentages in some countries do think suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified – including a 62% majority of Palestinian Muslims, overall support for violence in the name of Islam has declined among Muslim publics during the past decade.

On its research on the various pro-Islamic militant groups operating across the world, the survey yields:

“The Taliban are viewed negatively by a median of 51% of Muslims in the countries polled. Hezbollah and Hamas fare little better. Hezbollah, in particular, has seen its support slip in key Middle Eastern countries, including a 38 percentage point drop in favorable views among Egyptian Muslims since 2007.”

Islamic Extremism

Elsewhere on the globe, concern about Islamic extremism varied from country to country.

“In Indonesia, the Muslim public is evenly split: 48% concerned vs. 48% unconcerned. Turkey, meanwhile, is the only country surveyed where at least half of Muslims (51%) say they are not worried about Islamic extremism.”

“In Tunisia, six-in-ten Muslims are now very concerned, up from 42% saying the same a year ago…in the Palestinian territories, the proportion of Muslims worried about extremism has declined 14 percentage points since 2011, the last time the question was asked there.”

Suicide Bombing

In some countries, substantial minorities of Muslims say attacks on civilians are at least sometimes justified to defend Islam from its enemies; in the Palestinian territories, a majority of Muslims hold this view.

Half or more of Muslims in most countries surveyed say that suicide bombing and other acts of violence that target civilians can never be justified in the name of Islam. In Malaysia, however, roughly a quarter of Muslims (27%) take the view that attacks on civilians are sometimes or often justified.

More importantly, the report indicates that support for suicide bombing is not correlated with religious devoutness.

“Generally, Muslims who say they pray five times per day are no more likely to support targeting civilians to protect Islam than those who pray less often. The only exception is the Palestinian territories, where 66% of Muslims who pray five times per day say suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified versus 49% of those who pray less than five times per day.”

Extremist Groups

Overall, views of extremist groups are negative across the Muslim publics surveyed. A median of about a third or fewer have a positive view of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, or Hezbollah. And in no country polled do any of these organizations receive majority Muslim support.

In Pakistan, most of the candidates surveyed offered no opinion on this front, though amongst those who did, most people were against the groups.

Al Qaeda

46% Pakistanis are against the organisation whereas 13% are in favour of it, with 41% choosing not to offer an opinion.

However, in Palestine, positive ratings of Al Qaeda have ticked up seven percentage points since 2011 among Muslims (from 28% to 35% favorable).


72% Pakistanis did not offer an opinion, and 16% of the remaining ones thumbed Hamas down. In the Palestinian territories, opinions of Hamas are mixed, with 45% of Muslims viewing the group unfavorably, compared with 48% who say they have a favorable view.

“Since 2007, support for Hamas has also declined among Muslims in Pakistan (-31), Jordan (-20), Malaysia (-20), Indonesia (-19), and Turkey (-10).”


Muslim attitudes toward Hezbollah are mixed in Senegal, Tunisia, and Indonesia, with many offering no opinion.

In Palestine, 43% are in favour of the group with 49% against it.

In Pakistan, again, 72% recorded no opinion. 13% said they were not in favour of the group against a 15% who said they were.

The Taliban

A median of 51% of all Muslims have an unfavorable view of the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist movement almost exclusively based in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Majorities of Muslims in Lebanon (92%), Jordan (82%), Egypt (70%), Turkey (70%), and Pakistan (65%) have a negative opinion of the group. About half of Muslims in Nigeria (51%), Tunisia (50%), and the Palestinian territories (50%) share this view.

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Reader Comments (34)

  • Reem Shah
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:17PM

    Good to know most Pakistanis are against extremism. Now, can those 89% please put the tv remote, and laptop away, and come out on the streets to rise against the growing extremism in Pakistan? Unlikely. And thats why, there’s no hope for Pakistan.


  • Improvement
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:27PM

    Congrats, we are improving.


  • Nadir
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:31PM

    Only the media makes it appear as if their is a big silent majority that sympathises with terrorists.


  • ahmed
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:32PM

    remaining 11% is too much. even 1% is unbearable


  • aqib
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:36PM

    I am more concerned about the thinking of the other 11%.


  • Israeli Indian
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:44PM

    but sending terrorist to kashmir in the name of martyr is ok…


  • syed baqar ahsan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:48PM

    Very good survey but what is the idea behind putting that picture with large number of coffins with national flags and soldiers praying that is point of concern,what type of journalism is this ? and I am sure it just not by chance.


  • syed baqar ahsan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 10:52PM

    that what reflects from the picture placed on top of this story or survey.A large lot in Pakistan watch interest of the master sitting outside.


  • Dr Dang
    Sep 10, 2013 - 11:16PM

    Yea right, someone knocks on your door and asks you about extremism, no matter how extreme you are no one will justify it on the face.
    Behind closed doors its a different story.


  • Vakil
    Sep 11, 2013 - 12:06AM

    So what we are being told here is that 10-20% of Pakistan actually DO believe in the concept of “suicide bombing” (ie. they are actually “positive” about it) !!! That means their numbers are around 25-30 million (based on recently available census) …. well, the world, esp Pakistan’s neighbors are in a lot of trouble, with that many “positive” people around!!! Good luck to you, Pakistan….Recommend

  • Bacchus Piggawala
    Sep 11, 2013 - 12:24AM

    If two-thirds of us think the Taliban are no good, then why are we as a nation wasting time wanting to negotiate a deal with them. Why can’t we treat these people for what they are….a gang of criminals who do not represent anyone but themselves.


  • antanu
    Sep 11, 2013 - 12:54AM

    dear the %ge os very high in india who favours LTTE..MAOIST …ETC. so you see exceptions persists in every society…every nation.Even Hitler is regarded favourably by bhagva brigade in India.we are toletating the phenomena because theseterrorists are or were not muslims


  • antanu
    Sep 11, 2013 - 12:56AM

    @Israeli Indian:
    again you are confused with political/military elites with general public.you know attitude like yours have compelled those 11%to favour and support extremism.


  • Parvez
    Sep 11, 2013 - 12:57AM

    ….and what do the good Muslims of the KSA think ?………….especially as now it is common knowledge that the funding for religious extremism comes from them and others.


  • Omar
    Sep 11, 2013 - 1:29AM

    & liberals rant against Islam.


  • ahmed
    Sep 11, 2013 - 1:30AM

    Hold on a minute! If this survey in any way represents the same sentiments of the whole of Pakistan than 11% of 180 million is a staggering 19.8 million!! Big alarm bells!!! One suicide attack a day requires only 365 suicide bombers!! Again we r talking about approx 20 Million find suicide bombing acceptable.


  • Rebel
    Sep 11, 2013 - 1:41AM

    So when the bombs hit at home, there is suddenly a shift in perspective. It is opportunist but al least it’s progressive, right?


  • Naveen
    Sep 11, 2013 - 3:05AM

    Always had this gut feeling that Pakistanis are more likely to be corrupt, self-obsessed and bigoted (just like our chaps); than being suicide attack sympathisers.


  • Nishant
    Sep 11, 2013 - 6:51AM

    6 hours ago
    @Israeli Indian:
    again you are confused with political/military elites with general public.you know attitude like yours have compelled those 11%to favour and support extremism.

    if you want to pose as an indian, at least get the name right


  • Solomon2
    Sep 11, 2013 - 7:44AM

    Important note: the Pew survey excluded K-P and Baluchistan “for security reasons.”

    Page 24 of the report shows the history of Pakistani’s support for suicide bombing. Apparently support peaked in 2003-4, after the Afghanistan and Iraq liberations, but declined once Muslims themselves, rather than Americans, became the primary victims of such bombings.


  • Amir
    Sep 11, 2013 - 8:20AM

    But in Pakistan, the 11% rules?


  • Zohaib
    Sep 11, 2013 - 10:31AM

    @ Everyone above:

    I hate it when people read the first line of an article and then comment on it. The report clearly says that the % saying that suicide bombings are often/sometimes justified was 3% in 2013 (see the third figure in the article-the table) while 89% believe they are never justified. The remaining 8% probably did not give their opinion. Lumping them with those that support suicide bombings is a convenient way of making your point but at last get your facts right.

    P.S.: I believe 3% is still too many people but hey, on the plus side, it’s lower than in any other muslim country surveyed!


  • Hasan Mehmood
    Sep 11, 2013 - 10:36AM

    11% Means around 20 Million people. Even if 1% of those with tacit approval of suicide bombing graduate to actively support / finance or indulge in suicide bombing they will be around 200,000. Enough to sustain the present level of suicide attacks for more than a decade.

    So what’s so reassuring about the headline?


  • rama
    Sep 11, 2013 - 11:02AM

    Sadest thing about the pakistan , this 11% (military, politicians and Bureaucrats )are decision maker


  • Gurion
    Sep 11, 2013 - 11:29AM


    dear the %ge os very high in india who
    favours LTTE..MAOIST …ETC

    How high Sir?….I mean the %ge.


  • Sep 11, 2013 - 12:19PM

    PEW Report……….we seem to be getting better everyda


  • Sep 11, 2013 - 12:20PM

    PEW Report……….we seem to be getting better everyday. Salams


  • Sep 11, 2013 - 3:11PM

    Sir, had the pew research has incorporated thereon if suicide bombing targeting civilians of enemy country is justified . The answers of 90 % will be in affirmative. It is not justified when it is targeting civilians of own country.. it’s OK if it hurts the civilians whom one treats as civilian of enemy country.or enemy ethnicity. This is reflected in the answers of Palestinian & Pakistanis. .Suicide bombing will never be treated as good or bad , this will be based on the interest it serves .


  • Karachiite
    Sep 11, 2013 - 4:27PM

    @p r shama:
    Read again. The survey simply states that 89% do not approve of suicide bombings under any circumstances period! So targeting of enemy civilians would be covered under it.

    As muslims we believe that committing suicide is forbidden regardless of circumstances and suicide bombing regardless of cause is an extension of that. The people who are doing suicide bombings in the name of islam are idiots with limited understanding of religion.

    Hope that helps.


    Sep 11, 2013 - 7:06PM

    In the region where terrorism has affected every section of the society, it should not come as a surprise when 89% of the population totally rejects and condemns suicide bombings. Pakistanis have suffered immensely at the hands of the terrorists who have no remorse in killing innocent people. Have we not seen terrorists attack during prayer services in mosques, and at devotees in shrines? Have we not seen public markets attacks in order to inflict maximum casualties? These cruelties do not go unnoticed. People have been fed up with the atrocities against innocent citizens, including: women and children. We hope that the declining support of the terrorists will compel them to put down their arms, move away from their destructive ideology, and join the mainstream society as contributing citizens. This survey portrays a good change and a great sign that shows the first steps towards sustained peace in the region.

    Abdul Quddus
    DET-United States Central Command


  • Sep 11, 2013 - 11:28PM

    I sleep much better knowing that 89%statistic. so whats going to be done about this?


  • Muhammad
    Sep 12, 2013 - 4:32AM

    @Israeli Indian:
    Bombing Kashmiri and Palestinian children seems okay to you. What makes you different from the 11%?


  • Sudhanshu Swami
    Sep 12, 2013 - 9:24AM

    It takes only one fish to spoil water. even 2-5% of support means huge. That means millions and millions of people support Such extremism. Even if thousands of people support extremism then that is threat to peace. While here 1-2 crore people are supporters !


  • Shekhar
    Oct 25, 2013 - 9:37PM

    Dude dont you think if it was so easy fathoming BOMBING Kashmiri children, India would still have Article 370? I mean, look at Sri Lanka… They just absorbed the entire province. In a generation or two, people would most probably forget any qualms they had with Colombo. What stops India from doing the same?
    The point is…. i don’t think any sane person would ever deny that there have been loads of human rights abuses in Kashmir. But don’t you think every army/paramilitary intervention has an unfortunate price to pay? I am sure, you know of the same from Azad Kashmir and Balochistan too (I aint sure about G-B).
    American troops keep doing similar deeds in Iraq and Afghanistan (and increasingly in Pakistan too)… I cannot recall any case anywhere in the world at any point in history that was otherwise.
    It is unacceptable for anyone and no sane body in India will ever justify it. Its unfortunate and needs to stop soon.
    But militants targetting civilian populations/areas (on purpose) mostly in the name of Islam and sometimes in the name of some disoriented notion of Azadi is not cool dude. Just not cool


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