US Muslims more peaceful than their fellow citizens?
May 23, 2007 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Surprising findings in Pew study of US Muslims. The interweb is all atwitter over some of the findings of a Pew Research Center study of the attitudes of Muslim-Americans (the most comprehensive one done yet). While most of the findings should be welcomed (US Muslims are well off, appreciate being here, have non-Muslim friends, shun extremism, etc.), there is one troubling statistic: 6% of US Muslims - and 15% of US Muslims under 30 - believe that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified". Sounds bad, but what happens when you ask the same question of non-Muslim Americans? Turns out that 24% of all Americans agreed - four times the 6% of US Muslims who share that view. So are US Muslims more peaceful than their non-Muslim neighbors?
posted by laz-e-boy (63 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not that I don't agree that most Muslims are not much different than the average American, but one could easily argue that the honesty of their responses are skewed by the fact that Muslims are super-conscious of their long tenure in the spotlight?
posted by pmbuko at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2007


bombing is OK if delivered from an altitude of 500 feet or greater, or distance of 100 nm or more.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:07 PM on May 23, 2007 [12 favorites]


Nanometers?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:08 PM on May 23, 2007


24% of americans said that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified" seems incredible to me.
posted by mrnutty at 12:10 PM on May 23, 2007


To bad we can't get 15% and the 24% in an open market together.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:12 PM on May 23, 2007


24% of americans said that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified" seems incredible to me.

It doesn't to me. Keep in mind that that's in the neighborhood of the Bush Administration's approval ratings, and it makes perfect sense.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


24% of americans said that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified" seems incredible to me.

Why not? Isn't that about the same percentage as approve of Bush's performance as President?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Glenn Greenwald at Salon has more on this, including snippets of both surveys.
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2007


Heywood Mogroot, I have the same point re: violent militarism. The question of suicide attacks has to be coloured by the fact that suicide attacks are an effective contemporary tactic.

I think the question is a bit misleading too. "To defend Islam from its enemies." How can such a question not be skewed towards answering in the positive? Defending Islam is a different question from settling particular political matters.
posted by Firas at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


darn it pope guilty!
posted by saulgoodman at 12:17 PM on May 23, 2007


I wonder what the ratio would be if you interviewed folks from Dresden.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:19 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Or Vietnam.
posted by anthill at 12:20 PM on May 23, 2007


If there's one thing history has shown us, Kid Charlemagne, it's that victims rarely end up sympathetic of other victims. (post WWII Germany is a special case of course because contrition is sort of ingrained there.)
posted by Firas at 12:21 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Nanometers?"

Nautical Miles.
posted by stenseng at 12:25 PM on May 23, 2007


24% of americans said that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified" seems incredible to me.

Given that something like 75% believe in a literal heaven and hell, why wouldn't they? Bomb 'em all and let God sort it out!
posted by DU at 12:29 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Islamic people I have met in my life have been far more peace-minded people than 95% of my Republican or uber-Christian relatives, I'll tell you that.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


The desire of the media to sensationalize this is just flat-out bizarre. Look at the first-linked article. The table clearly says that 15% of American Muslims under 30 think suicide bombing is sometimes justified. Then in the text, in a paragraph directly in line with that line in the chart, oddly, is the following:

One-quarter of Muslims under age 30 said suicide bombing is legitimate on some occasions. That compares with 6 percent of older Muslims.

So . . . 15% is one quarter? Am I missing something, or can 100% of NPR editors not do elementary-school math?
posted by The Bellman at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2007


The quarter includes those that say "rarely" in addition to "often or sometimes", which on its own is 15%.

My head hurts.
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2007


24% of all Americans agreed

"all Americans"??? I dont recall being asked. Statistics are bullshit.

82% of liberals beleive black and white thinking is evil and fundamentalist in nature. 94% of those liberals beleive bombing and other attacks on civilians are never justified under any circumstance. Therefore 77% of all liberals are evil and fundamentalist in nature. probably gay, too.
posted by quonsar at 12:42 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


there is one troubling statistic: 6% of US Muslims - and 15% of US Muslims under 30...

This is only troubling because it's too low. These are surrenderistas who aren't willing to do what has to be done to defeat the enemy, if they're not for us, they're against us! Where do you stand, Muslims? There's a war on!

Wait. Which civilians are we talking about? Ours or theirs?
posted by luser at 12:42 PM on May 23, 2007


My experience mirrors that of miss lynnster's; the followers of Islam in my neck of the wood are far less scary than the really devout followers of Christ.

And from chatting with them, I now know how to properly pronounce Assalaamu `Alaykum and when it's appropriate to say Wa' Alaykum Assalaam in response. Which makes me happy.
posted by quin at 12:45 PM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


And from chatting with them, I now know how to properly pronounce Assalaamu `Alaykum

Sallam? Oh, I like 'im.
posted by gurple at 12:47 PM on May 23, 2007


PEW PEW PEW
posted by mendel at 12:57 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't really speak authoritatively to the findings of the study, but the one thing I do know is that US Muslims are far more likely to be Muslims than their non-Muslim neighbors.
posted by The Straightener at 1:01 PM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Before the war, some friends of mine who were from Iraq pointed out that most Muslims come to the US to get away from the crazy folks in their home countries.

Sadly, few Americans understand that.

I guess the crazies are greener on the other side, right?
posted by yeloson at 1:01 PM on May 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


"often or sometimes" makes it a stupid question.

Do you believe that the U.S. use of atomic bombs in Japan in WWII was justified? Then your answer to the question is yes.
posted by The World Famous at 1:02 PM on May 23, 2007


laz-e-boy: The quarter includes those that say "rarely" in addition to "often or sometimes", which on its own is 15%.

Well, maybe, but I've now read all the relevant sections of the report and I don't see that broken out anywhere. The chart in the NPR article has three categories: "Justified (15%)" "Not Justified (80%)" and "DK/Refused (5%)" -- so are you suggesting they are lumping some of the "Not Justified" people into "Justified"? I can't find any granularity in the report itself either on the number of below-30s who answered "rarely" so if such numbers exist I can't seem to find them (though they certainly might be around).

I suspect bullshit, not research, on the part of NPR.
posted by The Bellman at 1:03 PM on May 23, 2007


PEW PEW PEW
posted by quin at 1:11 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Following up on myself, I found the data and laz-e-boy is right. Some of the "Not Justified" (Rarely) have been included in the "Justified" for purpose of making the text more OMGARABZ!!
posted by The Bellman at 1:18 PM on May 23, 2007


"bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians"
If you include the phrase "women's health clinics where abortions are performed" it might make more sense.

The impression I get from most muslims I've known is that they come here to get away from the violence and the primitive screwheads, so I wouldn't be the least surprised to find that they are less inclined to support violence than your typical freeper mook.
posted by 2sheets at 1:21 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


"bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified"

Just to be the contrarian, I would say that it is unequivocal such attacks are indeed "sometimes," but very rarely, justified. Imagine you are a member of a civilization that is close to being entirely wiped out by a reckless, marauding tribe. Do you (a) continue to engage in gentlemanly warfare, i.e., soldier v. soldier, or (b) engage in a no holds barred deathmatch that includes killing every living member of the tribe that you can get your hands on, including civilians, in order to maximize your chances of survival. Well, if you care about the perpetuation of your culture, people, civilization, etc, your answer has to be (b). If you are an idealistic pacifist right down the core your answer is probably (a). Of course this scenario is taken out of context from the survey, but I think it is a justifiable position in certain situations.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:22 PM on May 23, 2007


"bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians"
If you include the phrase "women's health clinics where abortions are performed" it might make more sense.


How about IG Farben Chemical Plant, Auchwitz, Poland, 1943, would that change it for anyone?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


bombing is OK if delivered from an altitude of 500 feet or greater, or distance of 100 nm or more.
posted by Heywood Mogroot


I almost always agree with your sentiment Haywood Mogroot. I also almost always have to hit the dictionary, but that’s cool.

nautical miles, proper use of distance for Naval artillery

It would seem that being cavalier with the idea of trading civilian lives for political expression is linked to being on the trigger end of a ship to surface missile. I think we would see a catastrophic drop in that 24% figure if any of us actually had to go to bed tonight wondering if one might drop on our house. Lets all hope we never do.
posted by BostonJake at 1:30 PM on May 23, 2007


gagglezoomer, exactly. I think you have to adjust your conflict tactics for your desired outcome. This can mean anything from your own surrender to 'salt their fields' type approaches. The moral question is what outcome you want and what collateral damage you'll accept, not what mechanism you undertake.
posted by Firas at 1:38 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


What's really depressing is that Foreign Policy, a normally decent rag actually missed this all together and went with the evil Muslims article.

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/4856

You can send them a note via the "contact" link in the upper right corner of their nav bar.
posted by tiamat at 1:46 PM on May 23, 2007


Studies like these invariably leave me with more questions than answers.

More than half of Muslims overall hold a very unfavorable view of al-Qaida — but only 36 percent of African-American Muslims do.

I wonder why that is? And how much bigger was the overall study population "over 1,000" anyway?

One-quarter of Muslims under age 30 said suicide bombing is legitimate on some occasions. That compares with 6 percent of older Muslims.

I wonder if that's because older Muslims are more likely (a) have actually seen what happens when people get blown up, (b) have a little bit better-rounded sense of human mortality, or (c) both?
posted by pax digita at 1:47 PM on May 23, 2007




Firas -- This is why I think you must approach the problem of Muslim extremism pragmatically. To the extremist, the killings of civilians is entirely justified since they see Westernism in the Middle East as tantamount to the obliteration of their culture (however perverse it might be). They truly do "hate our freedom" and this is something the Bush administration was actually right about, assuming, of course, "freedom" includes the way American conducts its foreign affairs. We're not going to change their mind -- ever -- and if we want to have a presence in the middle east it truly is us v. them. Of course, if I was president, I might have approached the issue differently, that is, unlike an idiot.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:56 PM on May 23, 2007


maryh, via the Greenwald link, here's that clean-cut young fellow's MySpace page (warning: rap music). I understand this guy wants to be an officer in the US Army, too (/me rolls eyes).
posted by pax digita at 2:14 PM on May 23, 2007


Man...those stats are going to keep FoxNews in the stratosphere for a week.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:45 PM on May 23, 2007


Defending Islam is a different question from settling particular political matters.

Not to the civilians who get killed. They're just as dead either way.

If the "to defend Islam from its enemies" clause changes their answer to the affirmative, then their honest answer should have been the affirmative without it.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:47 PM on May 23, 2007


I disagree, Riki tiki, because the clause that explains why you're making a particular choice effects the context in which the choice is made. Think "would you push a person overboard" vs. "if an extra person would capsize your rescue boat would you take him on regardless."

For example, if the question asked of Christians was "do you think it's ok to kill Muslim civilians" vs "do you think it's ok to kill Muslim civilians to defend Western civilization" do you think the responses to the two would completely overlap? Should everyone answering positively to the latter be positive about the former?

I think the question as they posed it is 'fair', I just don't know if it's useful.
posted by Firas at 2:57 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


2sheets: Was "primitive screwheads" a deliberate reference, or do you just naturally talk like Ash? In either case, groovy.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:14 PM on May 23, 2007


Humans can truly be stupid sometimes. What does one get from bombing civilians? I'd really like to understand what goes on in the screwed up heads of those 15 & 24% of the people.
posted by kasrak at 3:22 PM on May 23, 2007


The link gives some ineresting info but for fuller study, go to PEW itself
http://pewresearch.org/pubs/483/muslim-americans
and at bottom, you can download (pdf) the complete study.

a bar graph at the side of the link I gave offers comparisons between US Muslims and those in some other countries.
posted by Postroad at 4:06 PM on May 23, 2007


24% of regular Americans are too stupid to answer the question (doubt they even understand it), while Muslims, being more well off on average are smarter, and thus, yeah.
posted by delmoi at 4:41 PM on May 23, 2007


quonsar: " 24% of all Americans agreed

"all Americans"??? I dont recall being asked. Statistics are bullshit.
"

Statistics are not bullshit, Polls are bullshit
posted by zouhair at 4:42 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


What does one get from bombing civilians? I'd really like to understand what goes on in the screwed up heads of those 15 & 24% of the people.

The definition of "civilian" is not completely crystal clear. Insurgents in Iraq are civilians, because they're not part of any organised military force, and yet I imagine it's not just the 24% that has no problem treating them like legitimate enemy combatants.

Some people have no problem extending enemy combatant status to the support networks of "civilian combatants". It's easy enough to blame an insurgent for planting a roadside bomb, but do you also blame the bomb-maker? And perhaps the bomb-maker's assistant? The bomb-maker's landlord who knowingly let them work in secret? Anyone who supports the bomber in any way? What then must Israelis think when they hear 70% of Palestinians support suicide bombers? Do 70% of the population no longer count as civilians?

From the other side, we think it's pretty obvious which of "our guys" are soldiers, and which are civilians. But coalition soldiers couldn't do what they do without civilian support. Osama bin Laden thought American troops invaded Saudi Arabia, paid for by civilian bankers in the World Trade Center, authorized by civilian politicians in the Pentagon, and endorsed by civilian voters across the United States. In his eyes, those civilian supporters of the US "occupation" of Saudi Arabia were no different to the civilian enablers of suicide bombers in Iraq and Palestine.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:04 PM on May 23, 2007


bombing is OK if delivered from an altitude of 500 feet or greater, or distance of 100 nm or more.

Indeed.
posted by homunculus at 5:07 PM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Imagine you are a member of a civilization that is close to being entirely wiped out by a reckless, marauding tribe.

Stop right there. This metaphor is endlessly used these days in various forms (and its cousin, the "ticking bomb").

But the US damn' well isn't in that position today. It seems unlikely that it'll ever be, at least from the Arab states (who are militarily puny). Considering that the US spends more money on weapons than all other countries put together and is also the overwhelmingly dominant force in the world, the Muslim world has one heck of a lot better claim to being in that position than we do.

I understand; you're claiming that under some circumstances, any rational person would resort to violence. We all know that; there isn't any need to reiterate the "thread to all civilization" meme that we've been tirelessly fed for six years now.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2007


I think deliberately "killing" (that's what we are talking about here - killing) civilians is in rare cases perfectly justified. So what?

If your going to buy into the thinking that killing humans is sometimes justified AT ALL than if they are in a uniform or armed or not is only one of many considerations.

You telling me you can't dream up some scenario where bombing the fuck out of (or just plain shooting) "non military" targets can't be justified? I sure can.

Stupid study. Meaningless statistics.

The definition of "civilian" is not completely crystal clear.

Exactly. Terrorists are technically civilians. The company that manufactured Zyklon B was civillian. Joseph Goebbels was a civilian wasn't he?

How about they phrase it like this:

Is it sometimes ok to murder helpless unarmed women and children?

I would then say NO. It's never OK.

Then modern war becomes nearly impossible to wage.

Ah. Get it?
posted by tkchrist at 5:36 PM on May 23, 2007


I think the term to replace civilians that you are all looking for is 'non-combatants'.

hence, 'Do you believe there could be a circumstance when you would support the bombing of non-combatants?'
posted by quin at 5:58 PM on May 23, 2007


quin,
That might cover insurgents and terrorists themselves, but hoverboards don't work on water's point stands. What about the non-combatants who provide support? If there were a factory that was critical to the enemy's weapon-making capabilities, but too far into enemy territory to seize with infantry and minimize casualties, would it be okay to bomb it? I'm not saying it is, just that there are cases where even if the person isn't actively fighting, their efforts make the war/plot happen. I think all people here are saying is that it's silly to act shocked that everyone didn't answer "no" the question. It's a gray area sometimes.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:27 PM on May 23, 2007


Humans can truly be stupid sometimes. What does one get from bombing civilians? I'd really like to understand what goes on in the screwed up heads of those 15 & 24% of the people.

We got the end of WWII by bombing civilians. (Though Dresden was pointless)
posted by The World Famous at 6:33 PM on May 23, 2007


Though Dresden was pointless

Apparently, Dresden was a major node for refugees fleeing the advancing Russians. It makes your supply lines a bit more difficult to run efficiently if the reffos are scattered more widely around the place, clogging the roads & towns to the front. Just repeating something I read somewhere.

/derail
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:55 PM on May 23, 2007


But the US damn' well isn't in that position today.

The question doesn't ask if it is justified for the present-day US to do such attacks, it asks whether they are ever justifiable.
posted by !Jim at 10:35 PM on May 23, 2007


What's really depressing is that Foreign Policy, a normally decent rag actually missed this all together and went with the evil Muslims article.

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/4856

You can send them a note via the "contact" link in the upper right corner of their nav bar.
posted by tiamat at 1:46 PM on May 23 [+]



FP has been acting very strange of late. I felt the need to shut my blog down for a few weeks after they left a few nasty comments on my blog cos I pointed out some of their amazing conclusion jumps and questioned their sources.

As for this entire thread, NYAH NYAH, ;p I predicted this sensationalizing would happen so I feel the need to indulge myself in a snark session ;p

Wait till they get their hands on these very thin, 1% of the people, survey results,
posted by infini at 4:49 AM on May 23 [+]
[!]

posted by infini at 3:14 AM on May 24, 2007


What's really depressing is that Foreign Policy, a normally decent rag actually missed this all together and went with the evil Muslims article.

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/4856


Look who just changed their tune:

In my blog post yesterday, I said it was "unsettling" that "one in four young U.S. Muslims suveyed agreed that suicide bombing of civilians was at times acceptable." Well, now I also find it unsettling that 51 percent of my fellow Americans think it's acceptable to intentionally attack civilians. It's not too surprising, however. Many Americans think that dropping nuclear bombs on Japanese civilians during World War II was acceptable, so it makes sense that a sizable fraction think—at least on certain occasions—that bombing civilians is justifiable. Troubling indeed.
posted by zarex at 5:01 AM on May 24, 2007


This could also all hinge on the meaning of "intent." When your target is military, but you know that civilians will inevitably be killed as well, is that "intentional" targeting of civilians? Or is "intent" only when you deliberately set out to affect civilians? (In tort law, there would be no difference in liability...)
posted by footnote at 7:02 AM on May 24, 2007


Torture is just so much more civilized than bombing, especially if there's a ticking bomb somewhere compelling you to forcefully extract information. That's why 24 is so popular! [/snark]
posted by nofundy at 8:25 AM on May 24, 2007


When your target is military, but you know that civilians will inevitably be killed as well, is that "intentional" targeting of civilians?

If the question explicitly asked about "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians," I don't think that "intentionally aimed at military with the likelihood that civilians will be killed" was either the intent of the polltaker or of the respondent. In such a case, I think the 24% number would be far higher (no guilt, see!)
posted by zarex at 9:57 AM on May 24, 2007


Zarex - I guess my point is that the meaning of "intentionally aimed at" is not entirely clear. If you blow up a house that has one insurgent and three children, is that "intentionally aimed at civilians"?
posted by footnote at 10:04 AM on May 24, 2007


I guess my point is that the meaning of "intentionally aimed at" is not entirely clear. If you blow up a house that has one insurgent and three children, is that "intentionally aimed at civilians"?


Unfortunately, you don't get to address these nuances with polls. Muslims might have been asked if their (extreme minority) sympathy for Al Qaeda might have been for some of its goals (US out of the Middle East, etc.) rather than its tactics.
posted by zarex at 4:48 AM on May 25, 2007


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