Wednesday morning’s USA Today features a survey of the attitudes of Muslim Americans toward “extremism,” probably to show how such attitudes contrast with the views of Muslims in Europe and elsewhere. The subtext of the survey seemed to be an exploration of the likelihood of homegrown terrorists within the U.S.:
The USA’s estimated 2.4 million Muslims hold more moderate political views than Muslims elsewhere in the world and are mostly middle class and willing to adopt the American way of life, according to one of the most comprehensive surveys of this segment of the nation’s population.
The Pew Research Center study released Tuesday found that “Muslim Americans are very much like the rest of the country,” says Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. “They do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.”
Muslim Americans, however, have a much more negative view about the Iraq war and the war against terrorism than the U.S. public as a whole, the survey found. The study also found pockets of sympathy for Islamic extremism, especially among younger people. Muslims between the ages of 18 and 29 express significantly greater acceptance than older people of suicide bombings in some cases.
The young show a greater tendency to identify themselves as Muslim first and American second. This faith-first pattern is even more pronounced among Muslims in Europe, according to previous Pew surveys. [Link]
p>The trend that suggests that Muslims in America are willing to adopt the American way of life is something that I expected. We’ve often discussed here on SM that assimilation is stressed within the immigrant population of the U.S., far more than elsewhere. The fact that Muslims between the ages of 18 and 29 show a greater acceptance of suicide bombing doesn’t surprise me either. If you had given the same survey to members of any other religion I am sure the acceptance of suicide bombing would correlate with age. We live in a world where extreme violence is commonplace, and the youngest among us will therefore accept such violence more readily than the older generations. However, the last highlighted finding above did surprise me as I have personally not encountered such an attitude. Then, as I read just a few sentences further, everything was put into perspective:
Previous Pew surveys show that 42% of Christians identify with their religion before their country. Among white evangelicals, 62% say they identify themselves first as Christians. [Link]
So Evangelical Christians in America (who are more likely to have been born in America) are more likely than Muslims to put their faith before their country? That’s food for thought. The final finding in the study is also a trend that we’ve discussed on SM before. African American Muslims (particularly those with a prison record) are more likely to accept extremism.
The poll found that African-Americans are the most disillusioned segment of the Muslim American population, a possible reflection of their economic conditions and experience with racial discrimination. [Link]
So maybe what this survey has really found is that people that live under poor economic conditions and face racial discrimination are more likely to be accepting of violence as a means to change their ends. Did we really need to poll Muslims in America to figure that out?