Rabat - A new survey released on Tuesday found that “an overwhelming majority” young Arabs reject the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) and believe the terrorist organization will fail to establish an Islamic State in the Middle East.
Rabat – A new survey released on Tuesday found that “an overwhelming majority” young Arabs reject the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) and believe the terrorist organization will fail to establish an Islamic State in the Middle East.
The statistic comes from the eighth edition of the annual Arab Youth Survey conducted by the largest public relations consulting firm in the Arab World, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller.
The study analyzed 3,500 interviews conducted with Arab youths from 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) on topics including the outcomes of the Arab Spring, chronically low global oil prices, “Islamic” terrorism, the region’s closest allies, and Iran’s recent nuclear deal.
Except for Palestine (which had 150 interviewees on the study), researchers interviewed between 200 to 300 youths between the ages of 18 to 24 years from metropolitan areas in each country in order to match the socio-economic ratios and realities of the region. The male-to-female ratio was 50:50.
Five members of the Arab League were not surveyed in the study, presumably due their location outside of the MENA region: Somalia, Sudan, Comoros, Mauritania, and Djibouti. The report said Syrian youth went unsurveyed this year due to the ongoing civil unrest in the country.
The results of the survey showed that 77 percent of young Arabs are “concerned” about the rise of ISIS and half of those surveyed said the terrorist group is the “biggest obstacle facing the Middle East.”
Seventy-eight percent of the interviewees said they would not join ISIS even if its leaders reduced the amount of violence they employed in their strategy and 76 percent said the organization will ultimately fail in its mission to establish an Islamic state.
Asked about the main reason Arabs may consider joining the ranks of ISIS, one fourth of the respondents said the lack of employment opportunities for young people was a major cause of radicalization. An equal number of participants said they “could not understand why anyone would want to join Daesh.”
Less than half (44 percent) of respondents “agreed” that their “home area” had “good” employment opportunities to offer them. In Yemen and Libya – both embroiled in political and economic instability due to the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the lingering effects of terrorism – upwards of 70 percent of people were “skeptical” of their job prospects in their home country.
Due to these finding, the authors of the report said “the solution to Daesh must not be limited to military and security responses,” since it “thrives on political, economic, social, and religious failures.”
In regards to the role of religion in the MENA region, more than half of those surveyed said the Sunni-Shia divide was a “major reason” for the ongoing unrest within Arab countries and the same amount of the interviewees said “religion plays too big a role in the Middle East.”
Respondents named Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States as the region’s closest allies, and said that the UAE, ahead of the U.S. and Germany, is the top country to live in and the top country for their own nations to emulate. They cited the safety and security found in the Gulf country, as well as its growing economy and wealth of job opportunities as major factors contributing to their decision.
Facing chronically low global oil prices, nearly four out of five young Arabs said they felt entitled to benefit from energy subsidies and nearly half of them clarified that if provisions had to be removed, they should be removed solely for foreigners and kept in place for citizens.
Two out of every three surveyees, regardless of the gender, believed that their leaders should do more to advance the rights and the personal freedoms of women. The highest percentage of youth discontent with gender roles and barriers was in Saudi Arabia – the country notorious for legally obligating women to wear a black “burkha”, or full body covering, and depriving women of the right to drive.
The youths espousing the most consistent approval of the Iranian nuclear deal lived in Oman, which participated in brokering the deal. Ninety-three percent of Omanis said they supported the deal between the international community and Iran regarding the country’s nuclear program.
Views regarding the war in Syria varied: 74 percent of Yemenis and 63 percent of Iraqis said the conflict represents a proxy war fought between regional and global powers, and 79 percent of Jordanians said the unrest was “a revolution” against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
More than half of Arab youths said they prioritized developing stability in their countries instead of achieving democracy after witnessing the state of the region five years after the Arab Spring.
“When the results of the Survey suggest young Arabs think democracy will not work and the Arab republics should prioritize stability, I don’t read that as the youth turning their backs on democracy, or even the possibility of change,” the authors of the report said in their analysis. “Rather, I see it as a retrenchment, as a belief that the best way to get personal autonomy and economic prosperity is to first seek stability in an ordered political system.”