The poll results are, unfortunately, hard to attribute to a genuine reduction of support for the global jihadist imperative. When support for suicide bombings drops so sharply “” from 74 percent to 34 percent “” among Muslims in Lebanon in just five years, what catastrophe has there been of sufficient magnitude to have triggered such a massive change? Is it Syria’s ongoing interference in Lebanese affairs? The Israeli move against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006? The standoff between jihadists and the Lebanese Army at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp? Unlikely: Hezbollah emerged from last summer’s conflict stronger than ever, and Syrian kibitzing and jihadists in refugee camps were as much part of Lebanon’s reality in 2002 as they are in 2007.
We haven’t seen in Lebanon or anywhere else in the Islamic world any large-scale initiative to refute the jihad ideology, or to counter jihadist claims to represent true and pure Islam. Accordingly the sharp reduction in support for suicide bombing and other jihadist tactics recorded in the poll may represent little more than a growing awareness of the need to try to contain the damage that jihad terror attacks cause to the image of Islam. Underscoring this is Pew’s attribution of the findings to the fact that “economic growth has surged” “” just after the Doctors Plot in Britain definitively refuted the common myth that poverty causes jihadism. Officials should make policy on the basis of this poll only with extreme wariness.