INTERPRETING STATISTICS OR RUSHING TO JUDGMENT?
I'm usually one of the first to defend MSMers (mainstream media people) when conservative pundits label us irresponsible, sloppy or dangerous. After reading commentaries about a recent Pew Research Center study, I have to admit those pundits may have a legitimate gripe - at least in this case.
At first glance, Pew's study, "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream," reveals a positive portrayal of our Muslim countrymen. Most reject "Islamic extremism" and believe that Muslims in the U.S. should adopt American customs.
Good news, right? Dr. Ghazala Hayat, a professor of neurology at St. Louis University, certainly thinks so: "It was a positive study, showing that most Muslims here are well-integrated and believe in the American dream."
Hayat is the past president of St. Louis' Interfaith Partnership and was the first woman to head the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.
Unfortunately, several writers offered a more ominous interpretation. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker admitted that most U.S. Muslims have assimilated but warned that "more than a few … think suicide bombings are justified."
New York Post writers Douglas Montero and Andy Soltis warned in a story headlined "Time Bombs in our Midst" that "one out of four young U.S. Muslims believe suicide bombings against innocent civilians are OK."
Washington Times columnist Diana West urged readers not to "ignore a dangerous percentage" of young Muslims who approve of "skin-ripping, skull-crushing, organ-piercing violence in civilian life as a religious imperative."
Hold up a minute. Let's take a closer look. The survey asked more than 1,000 respondents if suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians were justified to defend Islam from its enemies. "Never justified" was the answer given by 69 percent, while 11 percent said "rarely" and 15 percent answered "often/sometimes."
Critics jumped on the combined 11 and 15 percent numbers, arguing that more than a quarter of young U.S. Muslims support killing civilians.
Is it feasible to believe that some U.S. Muslims, like other Americans, believe in the idea of casualties of war? Last year, the University of Maryland released the findings of polls conducted concurrently with Americans and Iranians. When asked whether bombings and other attacks "intentionally aimed at civilians" are justified, 27 percent of Americans said "rarely," 24 percent said "sometimes" and 19 percent answered "often."
By the way, 80 percent of the Iranians polled said such attacks were "never justified."
Funny, I don't remember panicked commentaries denouncing our cavalier attitude toward the death of Muslim civilians.