Poll: Muslims show only partial support for Al Qaeda's agenda
Muslims in four countries say they support both Islamic influence and democracy. They also say undermining Islam was a goal of US foreign policy.
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Anecdotal evidence in Morocco, Pakistan, and Egypt also point to a similar dynamic. While in Pakistan, large majorities said they supported sharia and the establishment of a caliphate, that's seen by analysts as stemming from two sources: disgust at corruption and lack of accountability in their own government, and an inclination to associate what is Islamic with what is good.Skip to next paragraph
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But their specific attitudes leave them far adrift of Al Qaeda.
Take Qazi Abdul Qadeer Khamosh, who actively promotes interfaith dialogue as the chairman of the Muslim Christian Federation International in Lahore, Pakistan. He supports sharia, but has a very different view than that espoused by bin Laden.
"Sharia cannot permit for anyone to kill anyone else. It does not even permit the killing of a tree," he says.
Pakistani poll respondents showed more of an interest in the application of sharia than democracy. But while only 20 percent said democracy was a very good system, and 79 percent said that they support sharia, that doesn't mean they are actively against democracy, religious scholars say.
"We need democracy, we like democracy. Democracy is a good way – we don't believe in the rule of kings. But democracy is only one small part of the sharia," says Mr. Khamosh. He adds that people in Pakistan want to fuse their values with a democratic system and not have a democratic system alone.
Shared core principles
Something similar appears to be happening in Morocco and Egypt, where leading Islamist politicians say they are at odds with Islamic dictatorship. In both countries, members of the major Islamist opposition groups say that they interpret Islam as demanding that citizens have democratic inputs into their governments.
"We took the core principles of democracy and we figured out they … are the same values" as those of Islam, says Mustapha Khalifi, a member of Morocco's Justice and Development party, the most powerful Islamist group in parliament.
"We don't find big problems between the core values of democracy and the core values of Islam," adds Mr. Khalifi, who just returned from a year working on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sultan-i-Rome, a professor of history and Islamic Studies in Swat, in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, says that Muslims in Pakistan are not against Western values – indeed, they embrace many of them – but they are against Western policies, particularly as they are dispensed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"If I want sharia law, it doesn't mean that I don't believe in the rest of the world," he comments. "It does not mean that I don't want to have relations with the US or the West. They want to have links, but they have reservations about the direction of policies."
David Montero in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Jill Carroll in Cairo contributed to this report.