Monday, May 28, 2007

Muslims in America: We Are All the Same, for Better or for Worse

Last week, on May 22, 2007 the Pew Research Center issued a survey report entitled, Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream." This is a valuable resource that points to how well mostly immigrant Muslims are mainstreaming in the United States. Our paranoid news media, however, have been quick to point out that one in four young Muslims will condone suicide bombings in defense of Islam under certain circumstances.

To which, I wondered how many young people in the general population (given incidents like Columbine and Virginia Tech) or more specifically in the inner cities of the United States where gun violence (often under-reported) abounds would feel taking others' lives even without a cause is justified.

In response, yesterday's Seattle Post Intelligencer wrote the following editorial, in which they point to a different study by University of Maryland's Program on International Public Attitudes which reports that an incredible 24% of Americans surveyed agreed that "bombing and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are justified sometimes or often.

The editorial follows:

Those who feel threatened by the millions of Muslims in America (with their mosques, hijabs and Allahu Akbars) need to take a moment to read the new survey on Muslim Americans done by the Pew Research Center. It shows that we have much in common.

Survey results show a population that is "highly assimilated into American society. With the exception of very recent immigrants ... a large proportion of their closest friends are non-Muslims." And 63 percent of Muslim Americans feel they can remain devout while living in a "modern society." Only a quarter believe that the U.S. "War on Terror" is "a sincere effort," which lines right up with the number of Americans who feel the country is going in the right direction (according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll, just 25 percent). Most Muslims here (59 percent) want the government to protect society's moral fiber. Around half, though, support a separation of mosque and state.

Naturally, most will take away one stat from the survey -- that one in four young Muslims would condone suicide bombing in defense of Islam under certain circumstances. The results also show, though, that only 13 percent felt that suicide bombings against civilian targets can be justified ("Often," "Sometimes" and "Rarely"), with only 1 percent saying that such attacks were "Often" justifiable.

Still, let's try a little experiment. Replace "suicide bombings" with just "bombings" and "religion" with "freedom" and what you have are the beliefs of (at least) one in four Americans. According to yet another survey, this one done by University of Maryland's Program on International Public Attitudes, 24 percent of Americans believe that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified." We're all the same, for better or worse.


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