Arab Youth Survey

Despite prevalent beliefs, the assumption that numerous Middle Easterners are radical has been proven incorrect in a recent survey.

Joseph Rivas, Columnist

With all the unrest and conflict in the Middle East, it’s easy to develop a very particular and toxic view of that part of the world, especially if you only get your information from western news organizations. The predominant view is that the support for extremist groups in the Middle East is strong and universal with those not supporting them being in the minority. Despite this, I had suspected that the general population’s support for extremist groups was low because moderate opinions are generally more common than extreme views, and the 2016 Arab Youth Survey by ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, a public relations consultancy in the Middle East, seems to prove that suspicion correct.

According to the survey, only 13 percent of Arab youth could imagine themselves supporting ISIS even if ISIS became less violent. Most believe that the establishment of a new caliphate is not possible and, if it was, most think it would fail. The survey was conducted in 16 countries, like Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine and more with the only exception being Syria due to civil unrest. The gender split of the survey was 50/50 with a margin of error being +/- 1.65 percent. The data presented by the survey sheds new light on a very complicated issue and offers information that may change how you view those living in the Middle East.

What the survey shows is that the Islamophobic belief that all Muslims, Islam, and anyone from the Middle East is bad and supports extremism is completely false. It’s, in fact, the opposite if this survey is to be believed. Being Muslim and believing in Islam does not equate to being a terrorist or supporting terrorists. As someone who has grown up my entire life seeing and hearing about conflict and war in the Middle East, a depressing realization in its own right. I know how biased and grossly vague the news and media can be in regards to who is or isn’t the “good guy,” extremist groups are talked about as if they make up a majority of the Islamic world but, in reality, they remain a small fraction, they are just the loudest and get the most attention.

This perception is fueled by Islamophobia, albeit of a more subtle fashion, and so far it’s led to a lot of harm even here in Phoenix where anti-Islam protesters descended upon a mosque, some armed with assault weapons and body armor, not because there was an actual threat or problem but because of assumptions made about the religion and Middle Eastern people. The issue of negative perception in regards to foreign nations, particularly those experiencing division, turmoil and violence, is outright toxic. It’s far too easy to develop animosity towards certain groups of people especially during wartime where an alarming amount of dehumanization usually occurs. The survey, aside from being interesting, is important. It actively disproves islamophobic notions and shows that the issues in the East are not as black and white as some think or want to believe.