Tuesday, May 22, 2007

13% of Your Muslim Neighbors Wouldn't Mind Killing You

The headline of this AP story reads, “Most U.S. Muslims Reject Suicide Bombings.” Well, that’s a relief. But, let’s remember that it only takes a tiny handful of extremists to murder and maim thousands of innocents.

Digging into the story, we find that the Pew Research Center, which has been characterized as a left leaning organization, has completed “one of the most exhaustive [surveys] ever of [U.S.] Muslims.” Pew’s brief of the study with a link to the full study can be found here. (As a side note: those that are interested in Mormonism might find Pew’s interview of two LDS leaders and Pew’s discussion entitled Presidential Politics and Mormon Faith to be valuable.)

Pew entitles its brief, “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” ostensibly because it finds that American Muslims are “largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”

But a notable minority of American Muslims appears to buy the radical Muslim line. The survey finds that a whopping 13% of American Muslims agree that suicide bombings of civilians “in defense of Islam” (whatever that means) is acceptable at least some of the time.

Unsurprisingly, Muslims under 30 are far more likely to fall into the category of those favorable to suicide murders than are their elders. Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers regularly garner their suicide bombing perpetrators from the younger and more radical population. Younger Muslims identify much more strongly with their Muslim identity and are much more religiously devout than their elders.

The survey also found that that “native-born African American Muslims are the most disillusioned segment of the U.S. Muslim population. When compared with other Muslims in the U.S., they are more skeptical of the view that hard work pays off, and more of them believe that Muslim immigrants in the U.S. should try to remain distinct from society. They also are far less satisfied with the way things are going in the United States.” This seems to be a reflection of the disproportionately high rate of social problems (including crime and prison population) among African Americans.

Yet another statistic that ought to mean something to us is that only 40% of American Muslims believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks. The report does not say how the general public ranks on this question, but the percentage of average Americans that accept the statement that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks is undoubtedly substantially higher.

It should also not be surprising that “By six to one, [American Muslims] say the U.S. was wrong to invade Iraq, while a third say the same about Afghanistan - far deeper than the opposition expressed by the general U.S. public.” Of course, there is still substantial disagreement on this point among Americans in general, and all are welcome to their opinions.

The United States is made up of many different groups of people. It is not uncommon for citizens to identify even more strongly with a given identity group than with the larger identity group of being American. For example, scholars might consider themselves to be members of a formal or informal academic society before they think of themselves as Americans. Farmers might consider their agricultural identity before their American identity. Religious people might consider their religious identity before their national identity.

But it should be noteworthy when a separate group identity can be leveraged to physically threaten other Americans. When 13% of American Muslims think murder of innocents in the name of their religion is OK, that's a problem. It provides fertile ground for radical ideas to turn into radical actions.

I’m not arguing for a return to Senator McCarthy’s stupid and reactionary responses to the threat of communist domination or for something like FDR’s internment of Japanese Americans. But it’s not a bad idea for the nation to watch for problems in the places they are most likely to originate. We should pursue outreach efforts. But we should be wise enough to pursue appropriate investigative/enforcement efforts as well.


bbart said...

It would be interesting to see what kind of results they would get if surveying other groups of Americans.
Timothy mcveigh was a marine, not sure what the Virginia Tech. shooter was or the Columbine shooters. The Trolley Square shooter was Muslim but I don't think that had much to do with why he did it.

I'm sure 13% of the people I know would probably like to kill me.

Reach Upward said...

I agree that it would be good to have comparison data to add perspective. My guess is that it would be extremely difficult to get accurate data, as people in favor of murder probably have no problem lying about it. But I seriously doubt that more than a tiny fragment of the general population thinks that murder of innocents to defend one's personal belief is an acceptable practice.

Dale Tibbins said...

As a responsible conservative American, I am appalled at this post.

The report says nothing even remotely similar to what your reactionary, simple minded, and VERY McCarthy-like post (and lovely panic-inducing title) offer up as interpretation.

You should be ashamed. You, make a mockery of what it means to be a responsible citizen, and informed conservative voter, if that is what you claim to be.

Reach Upward said...

I am not ashamed. I actually read the report, not just the brief. The report clearly states that 13% of American Muslims believe that suicide bombing "in defense of Islam" is acceptable some of the time.

Precisely what other conclusion are we to draw from this? That this is simply a cultural euphamism? That they weren't talking about killing Americans, but only about killing Israelis? I'm not sure where you think I'm off track here.

And if a threat exists, it certainly bears watching so that murderous activity can be intercepted and halted before someone flies an airplane into a building or something like that.

Democracy Lover said...

What percentage of Christians would think it OK to resort to terrorism if they felt they were being targeted because of their religion? Probably lower only because that experience is foreign to virtually all Christians.

My guess is that Pew dug a bit deeper they would find that the 13% were referring to Palestinians suffering under the Israeli occupation, not their fellow Americans. If Utah were being occupied by heavily armed atheists and being carved up into walled settlements for the unbelievers and making LDS members wait in long lines at checkpoints where they were insulted by armed atheist soldiers, there might be a higher percentage of LDS who supported terrorism.

Hopefully we can get through the next generation without being suspicious of people because of their religion or ethnicity.

Reach Upward said...

Except that we have people who are under no such oppressions that you have developed in your fun house mirror example, and yet are still committing atrocities. We have pizza parlor owners in New Jersey that want to kill members of our military. Why? Because the military is oppressing them? Come on. If a threat exists, it's wise to at least be aware of it.

Reach Upward said...

And if any of these mudererous radicals don't get caught, like the Fort Dix Six did, the hue and outcry among Americans would be immense. Why, the would wonder, were we not op top of this when a certain segment of the population clearly presents a greater threat than the rest of the population? Law enforcement people keep their eyes on folks likely to be involved in gang activity for the same reason.