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.