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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pew poll: Egyptians want to scrap Camp David, prefer sharia law

A new Pew Research poll of Egypt shows some worrying trends.

No dividend emerges for the United States from the political changes that have occurred in Egypt. Favorable ratings of the U.S. remain as low as they have been in recent years, and many Egyptians say they want a less close relationship with America. Israel fares even more poorly. By a 54%-to-36% margin, Egyptians want the peace treaty with that country annulled.

The military is now almost universally seen (88%) as having a good influence on the way things are going in Egypt. Fully 90% rate military chief Mohamed Tantawi favorably.

Egyptians are welcoming some forms of change more than others. While half say it is very important that religious parties be allowed to be part of the government, only 27% give a similar priority to assuring that the military falls under civilian control. Relatively few (39%) give high priority to women having the same rights as men. Women themselves are more likely to say it is very important that they are assured equal rights than are men (48% vs. 30%). Overall, just 36% think it is very important that Coptic Christians and other religious minorities are able to freely practice their religions.

Egyptians hold diverse views about religion. About six-in-ten (62%) think laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Quran. However, only 31% of Egyptian Muslims say they sympathize with Islamic fundamentalists, while nearly the same number (30%) say they sympathize with those who disagree with the fundamentalists, and 26% have mixed views on this question. Those who disagree with fundamentalists are almost evenly divided on whether the treaty with Israel should be annulled, while others favor ending the pact by a goodly margin.
If more than half of those who favor Shari'a law are not sympathetic to "fundamentalists," this means that the Arab definition of "fundamentalist" is much different than the Western definition. After all, wanting to have the nation ruled by religious law is, by definition, a fundamentalist position.

This means that Western journalists and pundits who try to paint the Muslim Brotherhood as outside the mainstream of Egypt are missing the real story.

Only 20% of Egyptians hold a favorable opinion of the United States, which is nearly identical to the 17% who rated it favorably in 2010. Better educated and younger Egyptians have a slightly more positive attitude toward the U.S. than do other Egyptians.

Looking to the future, few Egyptians (15%) want closer ties with the U.S., while 43% would prefer a more distant relationship, and 40% would like the relationship between the two countries to remain about as close as it has been in recent years.
So in what sense is Egypt considered an "ally" of the US again?