Recently, Bill Maher and Ben Affleck got into an on-air fight over Islamic culture. Maher contends that the culture and values of many Muslims in the world are backwards and illiberal. Affleck contented that saying so was offensive and racist. The video went viral, and many people began taking sides in this debate.


To help settle the dispute, I looked up some poll results:


40% of British Muslims want Sharia Law introduced in the UK. 20% have sympathy for the 7/7 bombers.


Over 50% of Muslims in Jordan and Lebanon, over 40% in Nigeria and Indonesia, and 30% in Egypt have a favorable view of Hezbollah, a group the US and EU classifies as a terrorist organization. There are similar numbers for Hamas in these countries. In addition, 49%, effectively half of all Nigerian Muslims, have a favorable view of Al Qaeda. 34% do in Jordan.


68% of British Muslims support the arrest and prosecution of those who insult Islam.


In a Pew survey of Muslims in 11 nations, there was a median of only 57% who had an unfavorable view of Al Qaeda. The median was 51% for the Taliban.


These polls only scratch the surface of available data. Some available polls show positive trends of Muslim populations increasing their acceptance of liberal ideals. However, clearly there are large numbers of Muslims in the world, and unfortunately, in the West specifically, who do in fact hold illiberal views.

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  • Bill

    To arbitrate a dispute properly you should probably look beyond the objective results of the poll.

    ‘Sharia’ – that word so tarnished and scrubbed with brimstone by western media – simply translates as ‘legislation’. A similar effect is seen with the word ‘Madrassa’, thought to mean ‘EVIL TERROR ACADEMY’, which in fact is just the Arabic word for school. There are many different Sharia systems in the Muslim world which run the gamut from progressive to hand-choppy. Just because some British Muslims prefer the idea of a different legislative system is not to say they want to see everyone quit booze, fags and bacon and drown women in black cloth.

    As for Hezbollah and Hamas, I am by no means an apologist for acts of terror, which the former have certainly been guilty of. BUT. These organisations carry out vital social services and profess to care for people disenfranchised and trodden on by their unelected governments. Can you blame people for supporting them?

    I mean, come ON. The Egyptian government quietly massacred what was thought to be almost 2500 protesters in one sit-in alone last year (look up the Rabaa massacre). No wonder some Egyptians think fondly of Hezbollah – that it was only 30% surprises me. As for Muslims in Jordan and Lebanon (which both have MASSIVE Palestinian populations due to the advent of Israel), it stands to reason that they would have positive feelings about Hamas, since it is the only mainstream party/organisation in Palestine which a) is not largely corrupt and b) has the balls to stand up to an occupying power of incomparable strength.

    Regarding no.3, you should be skeptical of an article so polarised in its bias. I can’t deduce much about this spectral ‘NOP Research’ who produced the numbers. It’s also veeery dated to be part of this debate.

    As for the last point here, about unfavourable views of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the wording is a tad misleading. It doesn’t mean that the rest of the people interviewed put on their big foam Go Terror fingers and shot AKs into the air. I quote from the same article:

    “In Pakistan and Malaysia, Muslim views of al Qaeda are on balance unfavorable, but many offer no opinion.”

    This could indicate cold indifference to barbaric wrold-scale thuggery, or it could demonstrate a complete unawareness of the issues at hand (remembering that illiteracy rates in the developing world are quite high, and the dude with a mechanic hut halfway up the Khyber Pass probably doesn’t check Summly or Flipboard or whatever news app on his Iphone every two minutes).

    I’ll leave it there. These are just topics which should not have their flames fuelled by statistics complacency. Numbers are no substitute for open-minded reality-excavation.

    • Jonathan

      You made some good points, but I take issue with some others.

      Sharia can mean many different things, but nonetheless, however mild it is, it is still a form of theocracy. Basing law off of Islamic teachings, dogma, etc….. Theocracy-lite, even if that is what most Muslims in the UK meant, is still something that should be taken seriously. You can interpret religious texts to mean many things, and opening up Pandora’s box like that is not the right way to write laws in a republic.

      Sure, Hamas and Hezbollah do provide certain forms of relief. But they also both have stated mission to eliminate the Jewish state. Both have leaders who have expressed desires to do so. The NAZIs did some great things economically for the German people, at least that is how many Germans felt at the time. Yet a high NAZI approval rating would not have been something the German people should have been proud of.

      Finally, the point about Muslims not knowing about Al Qaeda is a solid one. However, if you look, 13% have a clear “favorable” rating. Since this is a median of many Muslim countries, we might be able to extrapolate that to the whole Muslim world. Say 13% of all Muslims worldwide have a favorable view of Al-Qaeda. In fact, to be conservative, make it 8%. That would still be roughly 128,000,000 people. Still a MAJOR cultural problem, meaning the point of Maher, Harris, the author of this post, and many other who have argued this point, still stands. There is no “relief” efforts done by Al Qaeda. This is scary.

      And again, that’s assuming that ALL of those who said they don’t know or refused actually would hold an unfavorable view of Al-Qaeda if they answered the question.