130 Million Strong: Al-Qaeda's Deep Muslim Support
On December 2, 2010, the Pew Research Center released the results of a new poll of six Muslim countries that sheds a surprising new light on the number of Muslims worldwide that support al-Qaeda. (The six countries polled: Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.) The report reveals that majorities of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims neither support al-Qaeda nor believe that suicide bombings are ever justified in defense of Islam. Osama bin Laden, the poll reveals, “receives overwhelmingly negative ratings in nearly all countries” asked about him.
The Pew report coincides with an al-Qaeda video distributed on October 23, 2010. In it, al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn airs al-Qaeda’s poor view of the majority of Muslims. According to Gadahn, one part of the global Muslim community is apostate; another is victim to lustful, worldly influences; and a third (perhaps largest) portion has lost the ability to think for themselves, allowing clerics to turn them against al-Qaeda and the jihad.
While it is good news that the majority of the world’s Muslim population repudiates al-Qaeda, and vice versa, we in the West cannot take too much comfort. Pew also provides each polled country's percentages of support for al-Qaeda: 34 percent of Jordanians, 49 percent of Nigerian Muslims, 3 percent of Lebanese, 20 percent of Egyptians, 23 percent of Indonesians, 18 percent of Pakistanis, and 4 percent of Turks. In real numbers, the total is staggering. A whopping 129,942,000 Muslims support al-Qaeda. That’s right, almost 130 million Muslims support al-Qaeda -- and that from just the six countries Pew's pollsters visited.
As the Pew organization admits, pollsters couldn’t conduct their research in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan, where al-Qaeda and the Taliban rule. Undoubtedly, if the residents of the FATA were polled, the number of al-Qaeda supporters in Pakistan would rise significantly. One can only imagine how high this number would rise if Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia were polled.
Yet even an expanded data set of that scope and size would still capture only a partial tally of all Muslims -- failing even to begin to touch Muslims living outside of Muslim countries, including the U.S. What polling has been done is cold comfort. A 2007 Pew Poll on American Muslims, for instance, revealed that 75,000 American Muslims supported al-Qaeda and 120,000 American Muslims believed that bombings against civilians in the defense of Islam are justified.
The fact of the matter is that al-Qaeda supporters worldwide number in the hundreds of millions. Because of their support, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan, Northern Africa, and Yemen, al-Qaeda is able to inhabit vast quantities of territory -- or control them outright.
As the December 2010 WikiLeaks hemorrhage of Department of State cables has revealed, no nation has been able to stem the tide of financial support to al-Qaeda, especially from wealthy donors in the Gulf region. With attacks increasing against the homeland, and a new and vigorous media campaign underway to turn American Muslims into lone wolf attackers, it is exceedingly unlikely that the global jihad -- or the direct threat it poses to the U.S. -- will end any time soon.