Mixed Signals from Media on Muslims
There is a new Pew Research Center poll of Muslims in America out today. What are the findings? Your answer to that question depends on where you're reading about it.
If you pick up USA Today at your local newsstand, you'll find out that "American Muslims Reject Extremes." If you check out the Washington Post, the headline there tells you "U.S. Muslims Assimilated, Opposed to Extremism." If you check out the Washington Times, however, you'll discover that "Young Muslims Defend Suicide Attacks." The Los Angeles Times says that the American Muslim community is "Mostly Moderate, Not Monolithic."
This is one of those times in hyperpoliticized 21st century America when the less catchy the headline, the more responsible the journalism. Like the Chicago Tribune's "Poll Takes Post-9/11 Pulse of Muslims in America."
The poll – as any poll attempting to quantify a constituency of 2.35 million citizens – has highs, lows and 'huh's.
The good news? Most Muslims in America believe in the American work ethic, and they don't look favorably on extremism. Muslims in America are far less sympathetic to extremists than those in England, Spain and France.
The bad news? There is a generation gap in the American Muslim population. Where Muslims over 30 are by-and-large moderate and happy to assimilate, 26% of the under-30 crowd believes that suicide bombings of civilian targets to defend Islam can be justified. (This itself is a combination of 11 percent who said "rarely" and 15 percent who said "sometimes/often.") The Los Angeles Times put it best:
Nearly 80% of all Muslim Americans say suicide bombings in defense of Islam are never justified, although one in four younger Muslims say such attacks are acceptable in some circumstances, according to a nationwide study released Tuesday.The 'huh'? While most Muslims consider themselves Democrats, they are socially conservative – agreeing that "government should do more to promote morality." Also, American Muslims answer the poll questions very similarly to German Muslims.
The Pew Research group declined a chance to comment on the media coverage, opting to let the study speak for itself. "It is what it is," said a Pew staffer. While it's hard to argue with that statement, the headlines suggest that when we look at "it" we're not all seeing the same thing.