The majority of American Muslims are moderate, middle-class immigrants who disapprove of extremism, but 15 percent of the younger generation believe suicide bombings are sometimes justified to defend Islam, a new survey released Tuesday says.

The Pew Research Center’s report, based on nationwide interviews with 1,050 Muslims from January to April, offers a nuanced portrait of a distinct community mostly in concert with American ideals – from hard work to assimilation.

Researchers, however, were alarmed by findings that 15 percent of young Muslims – those 18 to 29 years old – said suicide bombings were “often” or “sometimes” justified. Plus, another 11 percent said bombings were justified, but only “rarely.” The majority of young Muslims – 69 percent – said such actions were never right.

“Any time you see numbers like that, one has to take notice,” said Luis Lugo director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Though Muslim leaders welcomed the survey overall, they questioned certain points, including the findings about suicide bombings. They also doubted its assessment that there are 2.35 million Muslims in America – far below the 6 million to 7 million Muslim groups usually cite. Researchers stood by their numbers, calling their methodology “the most comprehensive ever used to study Muslim Americans.” The interviews were conducted in English, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi. In addition, researchers initially interviewed nearly 60,000 people to gather a representative sample.


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