According to the preliminary results of a recent public opinion survey of 1,700 Egyptians by the Ibn Khaldun Center, Hezbollahís kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers garnered 75 percent approval, and Nasrallah led a list of regional public figures ranked by perceived importance with a score of 82 percent. The poll was conducted between August 3rd and August 20th in fifteen governorates, in both rural and urban areas. Respondents were asked to answer written survey questions, and those who were illiterate were read the questions and multiple choice options aloud.
They were asked to rank thirty prominent Middle Eastern public officials from one to twenty in order of importance. Ibn Khaldun then counted the total number of times that each figure was chosen. Nasrallah appears on 82 percent of responses, followed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi nejad (73 percent), Khaled Meshal of Hamas (60 percent), Osama bin Laden (52 percent) and Mohammed Mahdi Akef of Egyptís Muslim Brotherhood (45 percent).
Other questions dealt with respondantsí familiarity with hot news topics and their views on current events, particularly the fighting in Lebanon. Overwhelmingly, those polled indicated that they were paying close attention to the war between Hezbollah and Israel, and tended to view Hezbollah as justified. The results may change slightly when the final report is released in early September. The report will be then be posted on the Ibn Khaldun Centerís website, www.eicds.org.
Commenting on these preliminary figures in a column that ran on August 23rd in the Washington Post, Ibn Khaldun Chairman Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim wrote: ďThe pattern here is clear, and it is Islamic.
And among the few secular public figures who made it into the top 10 are Palestinian Marwan Barghouti (31 percent) and Egyptís Ayman Nour (29 percent), both of whom are prisoners of conscience in Israeli and Egyptian jails, respectively. None of the current heads of Arab states made the list of the 10 most popular public figures.
ďWhile subject to future fluctuations, these Egyptian findings suggest the direction in which the region is moving. The Arab people do not respect the ruling regimes, perceiving them to be autocratic, corrupt and inept. They are, at best, ambivalent about the fanatical Islamists of the bin Laden variety. More mainstream Islamists with broad support, developed civic dispositions and services to provide are the most likely actors in building a new Middle East. In fact, they are already doing so through the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, the similarly named PJD in Morocco, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine and, yes, Hezbollah in Lebanon.Ē