Three-Quarters of Young Middle East Muslims View ISIS as ‘Perversion of Islam’

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A Palestinian woman prays on the fourth Friday of the holy month of Ramadan at the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 10, 2015. Ammar Awad/Reuters

Three-quarters of young Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa view extremist groups, such as the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, as entities that distort the religion of Islam and its core teachings, a new survey has found.

The poll, conducted by Zogby Research Services, commissioned by The Futures Initiative at the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation and released on Tuesday, surveyed 5,374 Muslims between the ages of 15 and 34 in eight Arab countries—Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia—in October and November.

“At least three-quarters of millennial respondents in all countries surveyed” see ISIS and Al-Qaeda as “either a complete perversion of Islam’s teachings or mostly wrong,” the survey says.

The countries with the highest number of Muslims who opposed the radical Islamist groups as twisting Islam were Morocco with 92 percent, the United Arab Emirates with 92 percent and Egypt with 83 percent. The lowest of the eight countries surveyed were Saudi Arabia with 53 percent and the Palestinian territories with 58 percent.

The survey found that many held corruption and autocratic regimes as the primary reasons for the rise of extremist groups.

Almost 70 percent of those polled in the UAE and 50 percent in Morocco said “corrupt, repressive, and unrepresentative governments” were the main recruiting factors for men and women joining such groups. Other factors cited by the polling group in its results included extreme religious education as well as poor levels of education.

It also showed that the majority of young Muslim millennials believed that their societies require more active female religious scholars and found Friday sermons to be a tirade, boring or the position of the government, Arab outlet Gulf News reported.

“In most countries, the majority says that religion does not need to be reformed” but rather that it “needs to be made more relevant,” company leader James Zogby said in a statement released alongside the survey results.

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