An Important Caveat…


In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

This week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a poll of American Muslims. It only said what American Muslims have been saying all along, that American Muslims are “middle class and mostly mainstream.” The Center conducted more than 55,000 interviews to get a national sample of more than 1,000 Muslims living in the United States. The poll found that Muslims in America 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.”

Yet, of course, some of the findings of the poll were seized upon by those who hate Islam to insinuate that U.S. Muslims are a “fifth column” who are closet extremists – wolves in sheep’s‘ clothing.

For example, the poll found that – which was truly surprising to me – that 8% of U.S. Muslims believe “suicide bombing against civilian targets” are often/sometimes” justified. More than three times as many young Muslims – between the ages of 18 and 29 – believe that suicide bombing of civilians are “ever justified.”

Therefore, as the editorial in the Investors Business Daily said, “the country is embedded with a ticking time bomb of Muslim youth who condone suicide bombings.” Others have said similar things, as Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com has noted in excellent detail. Further “showing” that American Muslims are a “fifth column,” is the finding of the poll that 47% of Muslims see themselves as “Muslim first,” rather than “American first.” This means, somehow, that American Muslims are not patriotic.

Yet, there are facts that these pundits and commentators either do not know or fail to acknowledge. As excellently pointed out by Shahed Amanullah at altmuslim, “But something is missing from this poll that any scientist would understand – a ‘control.’ That is, one needs to ask non-Muslim Americans the same questions about terrorism to see where the answers deviate.” He is absolutely correct.

Is this phenomenon particular to Muslim Americans? Or, do non-Muslim Americans have similar views? Fortunately, such a “control” does exist.

The University of Maryland’s Program on International Public Attitudes conducted a survey in December 2006 that polled public opinion in both Iran and the United States. In that poll, when asked if “bombing and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are justified, 24% of Americans said that these attacks are “often/sometimes” justified. That is three times the number of American Muslims (8%). That number, 24%, was more than double of the number of Iranians who believed the same (11%). You can see the results of this specific question here.

In fact, the number of Americans who said that attacks intentionally aimed at civilians were “never justified” was far less than the number of American Muslims who said the same (46% vs 78%). Yet, no one seemed to mention this very important caveat.

Similarly, the Pew study pointed out that, in a May 2006 Pew Global Attitudes Project national survey, 42% of Americans saw themselves as “Christian first” as opposed to “American first,” almost the same number of Muslim Americans (47%). Yet, again, no one mentioned this very important caveat. Why is that?

Now, I am not trying to belittle the findings that 8% of U.S. Muslims believe suicide bombings are often/sometimes justified. In my mind, that is 8% too many. Still, to point to this finding to “prove” that Muslims are violent by nature is exceedingly disingenuous. The point of the matter is this: American Muslims are middle class, moderate, and mainstream. They are good neighbors and are as American as everyone else.

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