Why do over 17 million Pakistanis hold a ‘favourable’ view of ISIS?

Published: December 15, 2015

#IStandWithAhmadis began trending across social media as signs and posters were removed. PHOTO: TWITTER

#IStandWithAhmadis began trending across social media as signs and posters were removed. PHOTO: TWITTER #IStandWithAhmadis began trending across social media as signs and posters were removed. PHOTO: TWITTER #IStandWithAhmadis began trending across social media as signs and posters were removed. PHOTO: TWITTER

At first glance, it looks like an overenthusiastic Black Friday sale by Q-Mobile and Huawei, but a closer look at the unmistakably grim faces next to the long banners reveal that this group was involved in Pakistan’s favourite pastime – a protest.

Photo: Kashif N Chaudhry

Photo: Kashif N Chaudhry

Photo: Mohammad Jibran Nasir – Official

Yes, we love a good protest, don’t we?

We gleefully demonstrate against the sentencing of murderer Mumtaz Qadri, who incidentally threatened to commit the anti-Islamic act of suicide after being hailed as the ideal Muslim and says he isn’t afraid of death but exhausts every legal avenue to avoid meeting his maker.

We violently burn down cinemas, eateries, and other businesses completely unrelated to a video or cartoon made about the Prophet (PBUH) in another geographical location.

And what was this particular protest about?

The right to abuse Ahmadis, of course.

Pakistan hasn’t been very kind to this community since their rise in the late 1800s; they were declared non-Muslims and barred from practicing several acts synonymous with Islam. Over the years, many Ahmadis have been jailed under these laws. Some, like Pakistani Nobel Prize winner Abdus Salam, had their graves, which declared them as Muslim, desecrated.

Every few years, Ahmadis are tortured and even murdered. Their properties are destroyed; their businessesplaces of worship, and gravesites are desecrated. Not even women and little children are spared.

Recently, the Punjab government commendably sent police to the Hafeez Centre mobile phone market in Lahore to take down pamphlets from stores boasting foul language against Ahmadis. These pamphlets had come under focus on social media, thanks to journalist Raza Rumi, after which the authorities admirably took swift action against the hate speech.

Later, the police arrested one of the store owners responsible. Of course, this didn’t sit well in Lahore, and here began another ferocious show of strength against the Ahamdis as well as the authorities for siding with them.

Activists Mohammad Jibran Nasir and Kashif N Chaudhry summed up the dire situation well:

The detained man has since been released on bail, immediately finding love from our masses.

Having examined what earns an angry protest in this country, let’s take a look at the incidents left ignored by our demonstrators.

1. Mass child molestation ring uncovered in Kasur? No protest.

2. Churches attacked, scores killed? No protest.

3. Christian TV station burned to the ground? No protest.

4. Incidents of young girls and women brutally raped? No protest.

5. Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) approves child marriage? No protest.

6. Thousands of Christian and Hindu girls forced to convert to Islam every year? No protest.

7. Minorities falsely implicated under a draconian law? No protest.

On the international front, when people produce cartoons or videos mocking the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) we burn our own country down, yet when a couple of Pakistani origin declares solidarity with ISIS and murders scores of people in the United States, or when Boko Haram kill with a greater frequency than ISIS, when they kidnap and rape hundreds of school girls, or when ISIS itself commits atrocities in the name of Islam, we can’t be bothered to stage a display of defiance.

The pattern here is clear. The Muslims in Pakistan only spring into action where they feel there is a threat to their scripture. The Ahmadis interpret Islam differently, so we hate them. The cartoons offend Islamic sensibilities, so Pakistani Muslims will tear at each other because they can’t reach anyone else. The Christians and Hindus aren’t Muslim, so therefore they are considered to be inferior.

Ironically, most Pakistanis don’t understand Arabic and hence have a little grasp of the very scripture they are defending. Instead, they rely on those with megaphones. Perhaps this is why there is such indifference to the cruelties committed by those misusing Islam.

Of course, we hope it is merely disinterest. We hope there is deafening silence because our angry protestors are too lazy to stand up otherwise.

But what if they aren’t? What if they quietly approve of ISIS, al Qaeda, Taliban, and others? What if our people believe that anyone loosely interpreted as an apostate must be butchered?

As Pakistani/Canadian writer Ali A Rizvi pointed out, in a recent PEW survey, nine per cent of Pakistanis approve of ISIS, while 62 per cent said they ‘don’t know’. I spoke to PEW directly, and was told that such a large percentage of ‘don’t knows’ indicate a lack of familiarity with the issue.

So let’s concentrate on the nine per cent. Essentially, nearly one out of every ten Pakistanis approves of ISIS. If we believe our population to be 192 million, the nine per cent translates to over 17 million Pakistanis supporting ISIS.

Meanwhile, a 2014 report says ‘only’ eight per cent of Pakistanis approve of Taliban and 12 per cent approve of al Qaeda.

In other words, over 15 million people supported the Taliban in 2014, and over 23 million had a favourable view of al Qaeda.

Alarming? Yes, but it explains how Mumtaz Qadri has more groupies than Justin Bieber.

Let’s have a detailed look at some points standing out from a 2013 link.

1. 88 per cent of Pakistanis believe corporal Shariah punishment should be handed down to thieves.

2. 76 per cent of Pakistanis say any person who converts from Islam to another religion, must be killed. Only Afghans, Egyptians, and Jordanians hold this belief more.

3. 89 per cent of Pakistanis believed any person caught committing adultery must be stoned to death. No other country holds this belief more.

4. Lastly, four out of 10 Pakistanis claim the honor killings of women are ‘sometimes justified’.

In context of these findings, the nation’s headlines make for even more grim reading. One begins to appreciate why there is such apathy towards the plight of minorities. Why religious assassins are hailed as heroes. Why reports of honour killings smear our culture in dirty shades of red with such frequency.

The government of Pakistan should be commended for the swift response to the hate speech. It is part of the National Action Plan initiative by the administration to nip these plants in the bud before they grow into poisonous bushes. It may seem like a tiny step, but in context of this nation’s history, it is a giant one.

But this should only be the beginning. We need to take charge of what we teach in our schools, for one. We need to counter the extremist narrative in a meaningful way. As I said before, you can’t bomb an ideology.

Our belief system begs for reformation at its core, before it is too late.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed

    Majority of these people who Protest or lead the Protest due to any Remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are those who themselves have never followed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), have never prayed and in short have never done any of those things which our Propht Muhammad (PBUH) told us to do.Recommend

  • vinsin

    The right to abuse Ahmadis. So was Muslim league demand for right to kill and rape non-Muslims justified, Gandhi accepted the demand? Mapilla riots, Noarkali riots – right to force convert.

    Isnt majority of Pakistani property belongs to Hindus and Sikhs? 80% of Lahore and 50% of Sindh.

    A most senior US marine predicted that this war on terror will last at least for 200 yrs.

    9% of Pakistan support matches with average of aprrox 10% of Muslims support for ISIS which in reality is down from 25% for such organisation at its peak. Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “Our belief system begs for reformation at its core, before it is too late.”

    You are right Noman but some would argue it is you who needs to change your beliefs and join the Mumtaz Quadri brigade. For a non Muslim, it is becoming ever more difficult to understand who is using the propaganda, is it the vast majority of the Muslim population which claims and remains peaceful by acts, so much so that they don’t even protest ISIS and Boko Haram or the ISIS itself which claims to be doing exactly what they have learnt from the scriptures.Recommend

  • Harris

    Nine percent of the sample doesn’t automatically translate into nine percent of the population. Was this random sampling, stratified random sampling or cluster random sampling? Be cautious when making sweeping statements. Nine percent of the sample does not mean 17 million people of Pakistan. Study the sampling design and method before jumping to conclusions and making sweeping generalizations.Recommend

  • Rabblerouser666

    Nailed it. You’re a brave man for speaking the truth. May God protect you.Recommend

  • Nana

    Only insane and psychos can support ISIS. As for Ahmedis, one should worry about one’s belief and leave the others to what they believe. After all we are answerable only for our deeds, why to worry about others?Recommend

  • Surya Samaddar

    Equally delusional are those people who think that they can fight this ideology and mindset by invoking Jinnah and Iqbal. If Pakistanis are serious about changing their country, then they need to undo Pakistan right from Jinnah. And no I am not remotely hinting towards merger with India.Recommend

  • Asad

    The good news is that a 183 million pakistanis are not fans of the Isis!!Recommend

  • Visibly

    Noman, as always you are right on everything.Recommend

  • Parvez

    A politico-religious leader like Maulana Faz-ul-Rehman (JUI-F) who sits in Parliament and very often next to the PM in meetings…..openly said that he will make sure that Pakistan never becomes liberal……..secular was a dirty word and now liberal has been added to the list, while the government sits and twiddles its thumbs.
    Small wonder that 9% support the Daesh…..and criminals are showered with roses.Recommend

  • Samir

    gr8 article !Recommend

  • rationalist

    “Why do over 17 million Pakistanis hold a ‘favourable’ view of ISIS”

    It because ISIS strictly follows the teachings of the Quran and the practices of the Prophet.Recommend

  • Ajay

    A very timely article. Congratulations to the writer. I think the problem begins when a State starts misusing religion for political purpose and the clerics take a hardline towards ritualistic and soul-less preaching of Islam which has all the traits of extreme intolerance and hatred towards followers of othervreligion or even sects of Islam. How can a society which is groomed on such basic flaws be saner?
    Religion must not be mixed in governance. In today’s world, governments must follow secular and democratic principles. And the wrong religious education must be stopped.
    Vedas treat various religions and faiths as different path leading to the same human goal, to achieve divinity and spiritualism. This is the purpose of religion. Alas in most muslim majority Countries religion is thoroughly misused to create an intolerant society.Recommend

  • ajeet

    Thanks to Jinnah for Pakistan.Recommend

  • http://futurecmo.org/ Babar Khan

    Why? Their parents didn’t hug them enough. They weren’t raised to be human beings. They need someone, something to redirect their anger towards. Probably the same people who believe in fictional organizations like the Illuminati. They just need someone to point at and assign blame for their shortcomings. Only weak minded people need to attack others to feel superior. When in reality what they do only makes them more fragile.Recommend

  • Bannuwal

    So we have at least 17 million Trumps in the land of the pure.Recommend

  • Fawad

    But I always see strong protest i cyber space if anything happens in India, against Muslim, women or anyone. But nothing if happens in Pakistan. Why people care about other countries including Palestine, refugees Rohangiya or Syrian but nothing about own country.Recommend

  • Jayman

    Is an answer to this question really necessary?Recommend

  • AbuMahmud

    I think you should publish this in an urdu newspaper in urdu. More people should be aware of the statistics you pointed out.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    You are correct. But my purpose wasn’t to create a sweeping statement but to put things in perspective. The other percentages, such as the 88% believing that apostasy should be punished by murder is alarming.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Very very true. It is great news. But a 9% minority can do nasty things.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Sorry, but the majority of Muslims will disagree with you. And that’s a fact.Recommend

  • Ali

    Ali A Rizvi is an ex muslim who is highly critical of Islam. No idea why the author would include him.

    But other than that, Pakistan needs to become more civilized, tolerant, gender neutral, and democratic. Recommend

  • Akhand Bharat

    Why does Pakistan or any country need Islam or for that matter any religion? Isn’t following basic human principles and morality enough to build a good society?Recommend

  • Oxy Moron

    Dear Author,

    I have no direct experience of Pakistani society – all I can tell you is that I see the same strains of intolerance in India and have reached the conclusion that it isn’t that intolerance is increasing, just that the intolerant are getting more opportunities to display their hatred than they did before TV and social media became commonplace. Education and better living standards bring with them inevitably an inertia toward intolerant action, if not intolerant thought, and we are intrinsically a placid bunch of people either side of the border. So I for one am sanguine rising standards of living and education will eventually see us through these turbulent times.

    Best RegardsRecommend

  • Gautam

    That is the problem. ISIS doesn’t even agree that you are muslims, forget agreeing WITH you.Recommend

  • OptimusPrime

    i think we have found person from the 9% poolRecommend

  • 19640909rk .

    ” 76 per cent of Pakistanis say any person who converts from Islam to another religion, must be killed. ”

    And the rest of the 24%? I am sure they have some kind of harsh punishment in their mind – Like Lashing, Whipping, Prison etc.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Ofcourse, I wonder if the same applies when you have to judge the west with similar samples.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    Only if the truth mattered.Recommend

  • John Abraham

    Noman – I guess you want to make name by talking all negative about Pakistan; if this is called ‘freedom of speech’, then SHUN ‘freedom of speech’!Recommend

  • RameshHeg

    Sure. Push under the carpet how extreme Pakistani public is.
    Lot more fun to talk about filthy rich Indian Muslim actor talking about “intolerance” in India.Recommend

  • Junaid

    I am tired of hearing this rhetoric. All the statistics and stuff doesn’t help the fact that the extremists are freely roaming and hailed as heroes in Pakistan. If the majority is against extremism then why is it silent?

    “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
    Martin Luther King.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    I will upvote you regardless of your sarcasm. Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Oh please, spare us your ignorance!Recommend

  • curious2

    Nice article – but might have been better without the distraction of twitter and pics – your words are more powerful than the inserts.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    So if one were to speak about a factual injustice in their country, you would simply condemn the speaker instead because you rather want to live in a positive fantasy or preserve an imagined image of your nation? This is why there’s still ignorance and an atmosphere of delusion about what ills the nation, besides that nationalist zeal to censor others’ free speech. Not surprising journalists in Pak are killed in an alarming rate…another negative fact that someone should address but won’t…Recommend

  • Uzair Ahmed

    There is nothing wrong if people support Death penalty for rapist, murderer, theft , adultery etc.. I have no idea why point 4 is mentioned in this article..Recommend

  • hm

    Authors bias is quite apparent as the footnote of these statistics state that “base on muslims who favour the making of shariah law as part of the land”, so if the interviews and statistics is collected from those who favours it, I wonder why it is not 100%.

    So just because I do not support an ideology doesn’t mean I will favour an unsound argument and analysis, the source of this article is completely biased.Recommend

  • Rajagopal

    Dear Author,

    You are brave enough to announce that “The Emperor has no clothes”.

    But, is it not too late for speeches when the enemy is at the gates?

    Still, Wish you success in your fight.Recommend

  • Anhioyo

    Your article’s misuse of questionable polls encourages people like him.Recommend

  • aPakCitizen

    Thanks to Jinnah for Pakistan, we dont poop on train tracks.Recommend

  • aPakCitizen

    Freedom of speech or verbal diarrhea?Recommend

  • Ram

    How could Islam is getting exploited in a country created based on Islam and almost 99% are muslims, this begs the question did Pakistan created to safeguard Islam or just safeguard few zamindarsRecommend

  • Danish Hussain

    Pew employs statisticians to compensate for sample size. We can safely conclude millions of Pakistanis support ISIS. The author’s supporting argument just adds to the credibility of the survey.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    FYI, PEW is one of the most respected in its craft. They have the funds to get it right.


  • Nana

    Sorry Mr. Ignorant, Jinnah has nothing to do with our present state. It is Thanks to Gen. Ziaul Haq, US and KSA.Recommend

  • Nana

    Then what are you alluding at, that it should be submerged into Arabian Sea?Recommend

  • Nana

    Nothing. It’s a matter between God and the man.Recommend

  • Ali

    Can you explain to us why you included Ali Rizvi in this article? He is an ex muslim who is highly critical of Islam.Recommend

  • maynotmatter

    And hence it is more important for India and Pakistan to be at peace. Quite a lot of motivation for brain washing happens in name of Hindus vs Muslims, and defending the muslims of sub continent…etc. If Pakistan and India can overcome their self implied insecurities against eachother, all the extremists on both side of border can be controlled.Recommend

  • Oxy Moron

    Surely you jest, Sir.
    Death for theft?
    Adultery? That is not even a criminal offence in most systems of jurisprudence, and not a civil crime either in many.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    That is NOTHING compared to the Burqa Mullah. Who condoned
    the APS Massacre !! Yet the the Raja of Raiwind said nothing and
    did nothing! His little brother the Vizier, said nothing and did nothing.
    His cabal of ministers said nothing and did nothing….now the man
    is threatening to start a holy war if Sharia is not imposed “FULLY” !Recommend

  • Fed up

    Its totally pathetic how author tries to mold the facts and words to defame Pakistan. Some people like me may change their views after reading such a stuff. But hats off to Indians who start spreading hatred by criticizing Islam, Pakistan and Jinnah. Please don’t try to say that these are route cause of any issue. Its about humans’ behavior and psychology that how people perceive different issue. Thank you very much Indians. You remind us that we need to remain aware and alert. You guys beautifully destroy any thoughts that you my like.Recommend

  • Usman

    Its ones own matter with god i don’t believe any kind of punishment for one who converts from islam to any other religion.Recommend

  • HarshTruth

    Yahh correct at least our train run so we can poop.Recommend

  • HarshTruth

    ya we have trains which runRecommend

  • HarshTruth

    And moral of the story in few Indians do stupid things India is intolerant and if few few Pakistani kill ahemadis then they dont represent Pakistan and Pakistan is tolerant.
    Thanks Jinnah for PakistanRecommend

  • Parvez

    Fully agree.
    The States mollycoddling of Abdul Aziz and his extremist views…….can only be termed as highly suspect.Recommend

  • Faisal

    Id take those polls with a grain of salt. Im not denying the issues the author brought up but if the majority of pakistan was actually that bigoted the mainstream parties would start pandering to them.Recommend

  • arun

    Allah has blessed pakistan:-)Recommend

  • arun

    Change its ideology and become more like Indonesia,you know capitalism and democracyRecommend

  • Time Is Up

    LOL why not? Are we constipated or we have no food intake?Recommend

  • Sane

    What is the basis of percentages you quote. These are absolutely baseless. Have some research before you give percentages on arbitrarily basis as your ‘mind’ suggests.Recommend

  • Sane

    You teach Vedas in India, then why there is religious intolerance in India. How you will protect yourselves from ‘Indian Talibans’ with a Modi (Your Prime Minister) mindset.Recommend

  • Sane

    Would you enlighten us as what is the cause of riots against Muslims in India since 1947 and even before. You do not have Zia, US and KSA then what you have and how you are made to kill minorities and rape women including foreigners.Recommend

  • Sane

    What is the basis of quoting percentages?!! I say that 99% Indian Hindus want Muslims to be killed, if they have the opportunity. Would you also tell that you kills human on eating beef, but you trade and slaughter cows for beef export. What is this double standard, for which you are famous for.Recommend

  • Sane

    Can you give a count of Ahmedis killed in Pakistan since 1947 and Muslims including minorities killed in India since 1947. Obviously there would be silence from Indian trolls. Do not give baseless figures.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Ask Indian Muslims? Pakistan was created to loot Hindus and Sikhs and the with the help of Indian Muslims wipe out Hindus from India.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Isnt creation of Pakistan a theft from Hindus?Recommend

  • vinsin

    Jinnah and Iqbal has nothing to do with current Pakistan. Almost all Muslim majority countries are like Pakistan.Recommend

  • vinsin

    You are giving bad name to Pakistan. SHUN yourself to prove your point.Recommend

  • vinsin

    So you are saying that majority of Muslims disagree that 17 million Pakistanis hold a ‘favourable’ view of ISIS because ISIS strictly follows the teachings of the Quran and the practices of the Prophet.

    So why they hold favourable view then?Recommend

  • vinsin

    Because that is easier, lack of empathy, gives them authority to abuse others. Why single out Pakistan, this is situation of almost all Muslims? How many Muslims majority state parliament condemn Mumbai 26/11 and hold minute of silence or even for 9/11? None.Recommend

  • Apoorv Swarup

    The thing is the actual figure in the population might even be more than that 9% !! but I too agree broad extrapolations of a sample set to the entire population should ideally not be doneRecommend

  • Rohan

    Nobody wants to import terrorists except PakistanRecommend

  • Waqas Ahmed

    What are you saying teaching of Quran & Profit MUHAMMAD (SAW)?? show us any verse from Quran or Hadith which narrates that killing of innocent people on the name of ISLAM is justified. Don’t betray us please.Recommend

  • Vish

    More Ahmadis and non-Muslims have been killed in Pakistan since 1947 then Muslims in India. In fact, since 1947, more Muslims have been killed in Pakistan then in India. Just one example is the slaughter of 3 million East Pakistanis in 1971. India cannot even start to match this killing record leave alone exceeding it.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    please read the article again.Recommend

  • HarshTruth

    Sane So you want counts in minorities in your countries are vanished like Hindus and shikhs, Christians and ahemadis and see in India population growth of Muslims (Indian Muslims) you will get idea I guessRecommend

  • Nana

    Ask this question from Indians. I belong to the other side of India. Don’t feel offended,Gen. Zia’s policies are to be blamed for the mess we are in in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Nana

    but we do have democracy now in the country and capatalism also. It’s not that gov. controls the prices of commodity in Pak. The forces of supply and demand do unless you are mistaking capatalism as religion.Recommend

  • Nana

    Have you ever visited ME, specially Saudi Arabia? If not then do and then we’ll discuss the situation in Pakistan otherwise your comment only shows the ignorancy of Indians.Recommend

  • Maria

    “why there is such apathy towards the plight of minorities. Why religious assassins are hailed as heroes..” Chilling words. But never was a truer word said! Another brilliant article highlighting the fundamental flaws in this society. What’s more scary than an actual terrorist is an “educated” seemingly normal person who SUPPORTS the heinous crimes committed by these deluded retards. And however hard it is to believe, I see and live in the midst of such supporters. They’re educated people with several relatives living “abroad”. These people won’t think twice before immigrating abroad, to these very places whose citizens’ killings they support. Oh the filthy hypocrisy.Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Unlike Indian muslims who suffer everyday in India pakistanis have the ability to change their destiny.Something that would have been impossible if there was a united india.Recommend

  • § }{

    According to your statistical inferences, 7.5 million of the supporters here are U18, with a hefty 3-4 million below the age of 10! :D

    (considering more than 50 percent of Pakistan’s population is U19)Recommend

  • komal S

    If Pakistanis have realized Zia’s policies, why don’t you go to the street and get rid of his policies enshrined in the constitution. If you can show strength for anti-ahmadi sensitivity, it is time the so called silent majority wake up. May be majority of the Pakistanis quietly believe in Islam superiority and turn a blind eye to militancy and also socially the fertility rate in muslim countries.Recommend

  • Humanoids

    One man did all this, Mard e Momin Marde Haq! Single handidly he revoked land refiorms (citing they against Shariah) created MQM (to control PPP) and used Islamization to further a botched up Jihad (all for money) all these three factor today are our nemesis. No one from Military junta says sorry or refarined again from meddling into poilitics, they again usurped in 1999 and gave us further militancy, NRO and incompetent generals who made billions and were sleeping with the enemy when Abbotabad happened!Recommend

  • vinsin

    which percentage you know, everything in available on net, be specific.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Your statement about PEW polls being questionable is questionable.Recommend

  • aPakCitizen

    Read some!Recommend

  • Fahim

    Another stupid attempt to Link Khatam-e-Nabuwat movement with ISIS.Recommend