A new poll [.pdf] from the Pew Research Center found that American Muslims are largely assimilated to American society. The study, based on more than 1000 interviews, found that while many American Muslims disagree with aspects of American foreign policy, they are still "decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes." For those disinclined to read the report, check out this piece from Jim Lobe.
Right-wing media have pursued a boring and obvious line, arguing that mainstream media has ignored the study's finding that there are Americans who would support violence against civilians in certain circumstances. The New York Post ran the headline “Time Bombs in our Midst – 26% of Young U.S. Muslims Back Killings. Fox News: “Poll: 1 in 4 U.S. Young Muslims OK with Homicide Bombings against Civilians."
It is interesting to note that the minority group of American Muslims who support violence against civilians in some rare circumstances are not alone in America. Take, for instance, a January World Public Opinion survey that found 51 percent of all Americans believe “bombing and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are justifiable. According to the poll, 21 percent of Americans believe that attacks by Israelis on Palestinian civilians are sometimes justified, while 13 percent believe that Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians are justified. Sadly, it would seem that support for attacks on civilians pervades all strata of American society.
Certainly it is alarming that young American Muslims are becoming more sympathetic to the use of violence than their parents. But to take this statistic to breed hysteria and to justify Islamophobia is to misread a sophisticated and informative poll.
A closer reading of the survey suggests that it is precisely the same hysteria which right-wing media seek to tease out of this poll which is alienating this small minority of young Muslims. The study found 58 percent of young (between 18 and 29-years old) American Muslims feel that it has become “more difficult to be a Muslim since September 11th,” and 42 percent report having been singled out for violence or suspicion because they are Muslim. While this report finds that the vast majority of American Muslims are well-assimilated to American society, there is a strong indication that the United States will squander an opportunity to nurture a positive trend if it continues to alienate its Muslim communities by a combination of Islamophobic security measures, bad policy in the Middle East, and by allowing anti-Muslim hysteria to run rampant in American society. That truly startling finding is the real “Time Bomb in our midst.”
Ironically, the survey found negative media portrayal to be the 5th most important problem facing Muslims, after “Discrimination/racism/prejudice,” “Being viewed as a terrorist,” “Ignorance about Islam,” and “Stereotyping.”