Middle East poll tackles key questions about future of Arab World

Published November 9th, 2005 - 12:33 GMT

The Arab Business Council has been discussing the findings of a poll which sheds light on some of the key issues facing the Arab world. The poll by Zogby International asked citizens in six Arab countries across the Middle East for their views on education, business and the importance of Shari’a law.


In the countries where the poll took place, (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), a majority of citizens said Shari’a law should be applied to businesses, although they agreed that further interpretation is needed to allow businesses in the Muslim world to integrate into the global economy.


Citizens in different Muslim nations also differed substantially on whether they would trust a popularly elected Islamic government to abide by the rules of a democracy. Asked whether they would trust an elected Islamic government to follow these rules, 72% of Saudis and 70% of those in the UAE said yes, while just 36% of those in Lebanon agreed. Christians in Lebanon were most sceptical – just one in five said they believe an Islamic government would abide by the laws of a democracy.


The survey also found a striking split between various Arab states on the quality of the education systems in their home countries, with Egyptians the least confident their nation’s education system is preparing young people for success, and with Saudis and Emiratis the most confident.


The findings of the poll were presented on the first day of the Arab Business Council meeting in Bahrain. The ABC is composed of the leading representatives of the Arab private sector who are committed to enhancing economic competitiveness in the Arab world. Given the economic reality of a global, knowledge-based economy, the Arab world needs much deeper cooperation among the leading voices of the Arab business sector.


Speaking for the Arab Business Council, the World Economic Forum’s Middle East Director, Sherif El Diwany, said, "These poll findings make interesting reading for the participants at our meeting in Bahrain. Education, rule of law and employment are all key issues for the future development and integration of the Arab world in the global economy. By bringing together Arab business leaders to tackle these issues, the Forum hopes to facilitate this development which will be good for the Middle East in particular but also for the world."


"The Arab Business Council was wise to recognize that, as the region’s private sector grows, there’s a need to test the waters of public opinion. Zogby International is proud to have collaborated with the Council in this unprecedented poll and will continue to monitor public opinion in these important areas," said James Zogby, Founder and President of the Arab American Institute.


The Zogby International Poll In Depth
Egyptians are particularly sceptical that their education system is working. Just 15% said they believe the current system there prepares young people for successful careers in today’s global economy. Saudis and residents of the UAE were most optimistic, but still not thrilled with their education systems; 56% of both Saudis and UAE residents believe their systems are working properly.

Does the current education system prepare the young for successful careers?

Shari’a Law Embraced, But Flexibility for Business Needed
A majority of respondents in most nations, except Lebanon and Jordan, called for applying Islamic Shari’a law to business operations. In Lebanon, the majority overwhelmingly rejected this view while, in Jordan, it was the position of a plurality.


Should business operations be governed by Shari’a?

Majorities or pluralities in every nation also expressed the opinion that Shari’a law requires further interpretation to allow businesses in the Muslim world to integrate into the global economy. This was a majority view in most states, while a 40% plurality of Egyptians and a 43% plurality of Jordanians also favoured further interpretation of Shari’a.


Zogby International conducted surveys on the following dates: Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, 15-21 October 2005; Morocco, 15-22 October 2005; Jordan, 15-23 October 2005; UAE and Egypt, 18-24 October 2005.

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