Young Arabs see Islamic State as biggest regional challenge

Young Arabs see Islamic State as biggest regional challenge
2 min read
13 April, 2016
A new survey has found that many young Arabs believe that the rise of the Islamic State group is the biggest challenge facing the region.
Thousands of people aged 18-24 from across the region were polled [AFP]

Young Arab people see the rise of the Islamic State [IS] group as "the single biggest challenge" in the region, a new survey has found, with respondents prioritising stability over democracy.

Fifty percent regard IS "as the biggest obstacle in the region, up from 37 percent last year" the study published in Dubai on Tuesday said.

"Three in four Arab youth are concerned about the rise of Daesh," it said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

But "just one in six believes the terrorist group ultimately will succeed" in establishing a state, it added.

US-based polling firm Penn Schoen Berland interviewed 3,500 men and women aged 18 to 24 from across the Arab world between January 11 and February 22 for the survey.

IS, which has attracted tens of thousands of fighters to its ranks, has seized large swathes territory in Syria and Iraq and claimed deadly attacks both in and outside the region.

"A quarter of young people believe that a lack of jobs and opportunities are the main recruitment drivers" for IS, the survey said.

A quarter of young people believe that a lack of jobs and opportunities are the main recruitment drivers for the Islamic State group

Five years since the Arab Spring uprisings erupted, 53 percent of participants said that "promoting stability in the region is more important than promoting democracy".

But two thirds of respondents also demanded that their leaders do more "to improve their personal freedoms and human rights", the study said.

"In 2016, just 36 percent of young Arabs think that the Arab world is better off following the uprisings, down from 72 percent in 2012 at the height of unrest," it added.

Meanwhile, 47 percent of respondents said relations between Islam's Sunni and Shia sects have worsened over the past five years.

The Arab Spring uprisings that started in Tunisia with calls for democratic reform have spiralled into conflict and chaos in several countries across the region.

The unrest has been exploited by extremist groups, notably IS.