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July 31, 2017 7:11 pm

Decisive Majority of US Muslims Oppose Violence Against Civilians, New Survey Shows

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avatar by Ben Cohen

A July 2017 Pew survey found deep unease about Islamic extremism among US Muslims. Photo: File

A new survey of political and social attitudes among the US Muslims shows that over three-quarters of the community rejects violence against civilians in the name of religious or political beliefs.

The survey, released on July 26 by the Pew Research organization, revealed that 76 percent of respondents agreed with the contention that “targeting and killing civilians can never be justified to further a political, social or religious cause.” Eight percent believed such actions were justified “rarely,” while a further 12 percent believed terrorist killing is “sometimes” or “often” justified.

While the question as phrased by Pew implies that Islamism is among the several “political, social or religious” causes that can underpin terrorist violence, the survey did not seek responses regarding violence committed in the name of Islam specifically, or against particular countries, most obviously Israel.

At the same time, the survey uncovered deeper misgivings concerning Islamic extremism among Muslims than among the public at large. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they were “very concerned” about “extremism in the name of Islam” around the world, compared to 49 percent of non-Muslim Americans.

However, in terms of how American Muslims perceive the level of extremism in their community, most do not believe there is a serious problem to begin with. “Nearly three-quarters of US Muslims (73%) say there is little or no support for extremism among American Muslims, while about one-in-six say there is either a ‘fair amount’ (11%) or a ‘great deal’ (6%) of support for extremism within the US Muslim community,” the report said.

The survey also displays a growing sense among American Muslims that they are facing heightened discrimination as well as unjustified scrutiny from law enforcement.

“About a third of Muslims, for example, say they have been treated with suspicion over the past 12 months because of their religion,” the report stated. “Nearly one-in-five say they have been called offensive names or singled out by airport security, while one-in-ten say they have been singled out by other law enforcement officials. And 6% say they have even been physically threatened or attacked.”

Unsurprisingly, American Muslims do not hold President Trump in high esteem, with 74 percent perceiving him as “unfriendly” towards their community.

However, the report adds, “this is not the first time the community has looked askance at a Republican in the White House. Indeed, Muslim Americans are no more disapproving of Trump today than they were of George W. Bush’s performance in office during his second term a decade ago.”

In terms of religious observance, the survey found that about four of every ten Muslims prays five times a day, in accordance with Islamic custom. “But many others say religion is less important to them,” the report continued, “and that they are not so consistent in performing salah, the ritual prayers that constitute one of the Five Pillars of Islam and traditionally are performed five times each day.”

Overall, the survey painted a far rosier picture of Muslim life in America than in Europe, and certainly in the Middle East.

“Despite the concerns and perceived challenges they face, 89% of Muslims say they are both proud to be American and proud to be Muslim,” the report said. “Fully eight-in-ten say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their lives. And a large majority of US Muslims continue to profess faith in the American dream, with 70% saying that most people who want to get ahead can make it in America if they are willing to work hard.”

Approximately 3.3 million Muslims – about 1 percent of the population – live in the United States. One of the most culturally and linguistically diverse of this country’s immigrant populations, US Muslim communities are drawn from Arab countries, Iran, Turkey, Africa, the Balkans and South Asia, among other locations.

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