Despite the fact that strong majorities in eight of the nine countries included in Gallup’s survey of the Islamic world condemned the Sept. 11 attacks, respondents generally reject the West’s understanding that Arabs were responsible.
Respondents were asked: "According to news reports, groups of Arabs carried out the attacks against the USA on September 11. Do you believe this to be true or not?" Remarkably, in not a single nation included in the survey does a majority of those surveyed consider this an accurate statement. Overwhelming majorities in Kuwait, Pakistan, and Indonesia, and most Iranians and Lebanese, reject the statement outright.
Only in Turkey, non-Arab and Western-aligned, does even a plurality accept the characterization that Arabs were responsible for the attacks. Lebanon is the only Arab country surveyed in which a significant minority accepts the notion that the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were carried out by Arabs. An internal analysis suggests that this is partly due to the attitudes of Lebanon’s large Christian minority.
If citizens of predominantly Islamic societies reject accounts that groups of Arabs were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, who do they think was responsible?
A significant percentage of respondents did not venture a response to this question. Of those who did, there were four major categories of answers: (1) al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, (2) the United States itself, (3) Israel, and (4) non-Muslim terrorists.
The "standard" answer from the U.S. perspective -- the al Qaeda organization, or Osama bin Laden specifically -- is identified as the source responsible for the attacks by 40% of Turks and a quarter of Lebanese (although, as noted below, more Lebanese think that Israel was behind the attacks).
In Iran, the single most commonly volunteered perpetrator is the United States itself -- either based on the view that the United States would attack itself in order to provide a pretext for subsequent actions against al Qaeda and international terrorism, or that the actions of the United States indirectly led to the attacks. The United States is also tabbed as the source of the Sept. 11 attacks by at least one in six Lebanese, Turks, and Moroccans.
In three countries -- Lebanon, Kuwait, and Morocco -- the single most frequently named source for the attacks is Israel.
In Pakistan and Indonesia, a wide range of responses is given, the most common being the general description that the attacks were the work of "non-Muslim terrorists."