The numbers we didn’t discuss
The Pew Research Center’s May 22, first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of American Muslims was interesting not just for what the survey revealed about this demographic sub-group, but also for the way the findings were presented by much of the media.
The header on the Pew Research Center Home Page read in part, “… American Muslims find themselves to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.” The report’s cover page states, “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream.”
USA TODAY ran the headline, “American Muslims Reject Extremes,” while the majority of mainstream newspapers focused on the benign, i.e., “… most Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger American society,” or “Most (Muslims) say their communities are excellent or good places to live,” etc.
The preponderance of news coverage related how Muslim Americans believe they should adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society, and by a nearly two-to-one ratio, that most Muslims are mainstream and do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.
The media also highlighted the fact that the 76 percent of American Muslims are very or somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world.
Nevertheless, the media paid scant attention to the more troubling findings contained in the report.
We all know that the vast majority of Muslims around the world are not terrorists. But at the same time, it’s also true that the vast majority of terrorists around the world are Muslims ” and that’s precisely why the manner most of the media presented this report should concern us.
The Pew Research Center found that almost 74 percent of American Muslims feel the use of suicide bombings against civilian targets to defend Islam is never justified ” but said little about the 26 percent who feel that targeting civilians IS justified?
And if those findings weren’t bad enough, the percentage of Muslim Americans younger than 30 who believe that it’s OK to target civilians with terror attacks rises to an astounding 32 percent.
However, in much of the media’s reportage, those statistics were either buried deep within the respective stories or not reported at all.
Last weekend’s arrest of several Muslim terrorists, including an American citizen, who were plotting to blow up fuel tanks, terminal buildings and the web of fuel lines running beneath New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (that potentially could have killed far more than were murdered on Sept. 11) further illustrates this point.
The administration continually refers to the “War on Terror” ” a choice of words that I’ve resisted since Sept. 11. The choice of words is poor because we’re not fighting “terror,” we’re fighting radical Islamic fundamentalists who make terror a tactic in their “holy war.”
Regardless of the semantics, Americans know this war cannot be won militarily. We will reduce or eliminate the threat from Islamic fascists only when we successfully combine military operations with diplomacy, the disruption of terror financing, more accurate intelligence, alliances with like-minded nations and perhaps most importantly, the unequivocal condemnation of terror tactics from the Muslim community.
In the meantime, when 26 percent of American Muslims feel that suicide bombings are justified, I ineluctably conclude that attempted terror attacks against civilian targets will remain unabated well into the foreseeable future.
Clear thinking people understand that America needs its Muslim community, especially its imams, to take a more proactive role in decrying radical Islam. I wish the Pew report would have found that the majority of American Muslims believe it’s time for a million-man march to demonstrate to the fanatics that good Muslims will not support them simply because they share the same religion.
In the New York Times best seller, “Crazies to the Left, Wimps to the Right”, Bernie Goldberg writes, “(American) Muslims should … isolate the radicals who kill in the name of Islam; to tell them that they are alone in their dark world; to make sure the fascists who pray to Allah know that they have no allies here in America.”
Mr. Goldberg takes this notion a step further indicating he would like to see a million more Muslims march on London, then Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Rome, Amsterdam, Brussels, and then in Cairo, Amman, Damascus and Riyadh.
The Pew Research Center’s report contains many disquieting statistics, i.e. American-born Muslims are far less supportive of the “war on terror” than are Muslims who emigrated here; almost 40 percent of American Muslims under 30 years of age absolutely reject the fact that Arabs were responsible for Sept. 11; and 33 percent either refuse to express an opinion or hold favorable views about al-Qaida.
It should be obvious why these statistics are disturbing. Until the American Muslim community initiates the process and says “Stop this abomination of murder in the name of Allah,” Muslims elsewhere will never openly demonstrate to condemn the outrages terrorists perpetrate.
At the same time, it would be beneficial if our media were a little more forthright about illustrating ALL the statistics contained in the Pew report instead of misleading us with headlines such as, “American Muslims Reject Extremes.”
Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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