The Pew Research Center’s recent poll, “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” primarily tells a minority success story – Muslims are generally widely assimilated, socio-economically empowered and decisively American in their attitudes.

It also discloses much about American media and their treatment of Muslim-related stories. From its coverage, one may draw valuable inferences about the media’s functions “both descriptive and normative” in our war-ridden world.

A major headline-grabber was that 26 percent of U.S. Muslims age 18-29 believe suicide bombings against civilians to “defend Islam and its enemies” are often/sometimes (15 percent) or rarely (11 percent) justified. Of the total, 78 percent believe such tactics are never justified, 8 percent say often (1 percent) or sometimes (7 percent) justified.

Now here’s some perspective.

A December 2006 University of Maryland study – one that failed to create a similar media circus when released, and escaped a mention even now – shows that 51 percent of Americans think “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians (are) often, sometimes or rarely justified,” while 46 percent say “never justified.”

Further, 54 percent of Americans still support use of the A-bomb on Hiroshima, according to a 2005 AP poll – a decrease from 80 percent in 1945. Should we thus conclude that young Muslims are even more American since their attitudes mirror those of Americans in general?

As the comparison illustrates, support for such tactics is considerably less among Muslims.

Undeniably, any such support among any group is worrying. But also worrying is mainstream media’s failure to cite these studies – whether due to bias or oversight – thus unfairly depicting Muslims as a lone group that encourages targeting civilians.


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