Wednesday, May 23, 2007

30% of American Muslims Willing to Touch Al Qaeda With a Ten-Foot Poll

As most of our well-informed readers are already well aware, according to a Pew Research Center poll of American Muslims just published, 26% of young American Muslims polled say suicide bombings in defense of Islam can be justified, and only “40% of all Muslims say they believe Arabs were behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”

The Pew report has in only one day devolved into two stories: the story of the results themselves, and the story of the media spin. For instance, the headline of the online version of Niraj Warikoo's Detroit Free Press’s article reporting the poll, (“Younger U.S. Muslims more likely to support suicide bombings, poll shows” ) changed from yesterday to today so as now to read “Nearly 80% of U.S. Muslims call suicide bombings unjustifiable,” a clearly more chipper heading. Maybe the change is explained by the optimist copy editor coming in overnight to relieve the pessimist copy editor.

Meanwhile, over at the Detroit News, today's edition of Gregg Krupa’s story had the interesting half-headline “Most Muslims are moderate, but.”

That isn't a typo: it really ends with the word, "but." This headline was also a re-do of the previous day’s, which read, “Survey: Muslims largely assimilated in U.S.”

Perhaps at the News the pessimist editor relieved the optimist editor. Or maybe the News headline writer simply recognized that it was ludicrous to report that 26% of young American Muslims endorse suicide bombing under a headline suggesting that this state of affairs qualifies American Muslims as “largely assimilated.”

Krupa’s story, which was better written, included this reaction from one local Muslim leader:

“'Our tradition leaves no place and no justification for suicide bombings,' said Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, the leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights. 'I think that if other Americans read this stuff they'll say, "Wow, and they are right next door."'Elahi said. 'But I am 17 years in this country and I haven't faced any young individuals who say it is OK in Islam to have a suicide bomb and to support suicide bombings.'"

Clearly, Imam Elahi was not part of the Pew survey team, or he would have faced about 273 members of the sample population telling him exactly that.

The 26% number is going to be well worked over by the time I post this, and I have nothing of interest to add. What is more shocking to me anyway is the percentage of all Muslims (as downplayed by the Free Press’s Niraj Warikoo), that, of all Muslims polled, “only 40% said they believe Arab men carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” Stated another, and more logical way, the same result ought to be stated 60% of Muslims polled do not believe Arab men carried out the attacks.

60%. That represents a significant majority of American Arabs. Which raises a few questions for me.

Number one, If Arab men did not carry out the attacks, what kind of men did? Or do they simply not believe that the attacks ever took place? (The poll results do not indicate how many American Muslims get their information from Rosie O’Donnell.)

Number two, If 60% of all American Muslims do not believe that Arab men carried out the 9/11 attacks, then how does that translate into their support, or lack of support, for America’s war on Al Qaeda, which is directly linked to the terrorist group’s 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

In partial answer, there is this interesting finding: according to the poll, “Only 5% of U.S. Muslims expressed favorable views of the terrorist group al Qaeda, though about a fourth did not express an opinion.”

No opinion on Al Qaeda?

Really now, since I’m not obliged to follow any rules of statistics nor any other social science, I’ll just take the liberty of adding the coy 25% who have never given AQ any thought to the 5% admitted AQ admirers, which rounds up to a neat 30%. I don’t think this is so unfair, especially considering that 60% of Muslims polled do not believe Arab men carried out the attacks, which pretty much means Al Qaeda did not do it.

And, of course, if Al Qaeda didn’t do it, then UBL and the Taliban were innocent, at least of 9/11, and did not deserve to be chased out of Afghanistan by the USA. It turns out that this conclusion actually does track nicely with the Pew result that “a third” of respondents thought the US was “wrong” to invade Afghanistan.

Which raises one more question, namely, why doesn't this sizeable minority translate into more than 5% AQ admirers? For forty years we have been given to understand that the victim status of Palestinians at the hands of Israel so stirred the chords of sympathy of all the world’s Muslims, that the Palestinian cause has been a bottomless well of justification fueling wave after wave of terrorist armies and terrorist atrocities around the world.

So why isn’t AQ also viewed with sympathy and admiration as a victim group, similarly mistreated by the world on the false charge that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks?

Polls are designed to tell us about what Americans think, but I can’t help becoming alarmed about what they tell us about what Americans know, think they know, or don’t know, about fundamental historical facts. And I use the term “historical” in its broadest sense, to describe not only prominent events that happened long ago, like Pearl Harbor or Ghettysburg, but also to include things that happened practically yesterday, (on an historical scale), like the Congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq, or the overwhelming consensus on the evidence of Al Qaeda’s guilt for the attacks on 9/11—things that most of us concerned actually lived through--and about which millions of Americans, and not only Muslim Americans, suddenly are displaying the most shocking ignorance now.

In other words, much more troubling to me than the opinions revealed in these polls is the predicate credulity, ignorance, and disinformation that can only explain such opinions.

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