Polls have become an easy way to make news. The Pew Research center recently sampled Muslims in the United States. Unfortunately such polls are easy to manipulate to skew the results in favor of what the pollster personally believes. The recent headline that 20% of Muslims between the ages of 18 and 29 feel suicide bombings are justified.
When any poll makes the news the first thing anyone skeptical should ask themselves is “How did they word the question?” The qualifier which the news reports did not mention was Do you feel that suicide bombings are justified in defense of Islam? What would happen if we asked Americans if they were willing to die for their religion? Sure, we may not choose the tactics chosen by the people in the Middle East, but such a poll would result in a higher percentage of people who say yes. Let us extend that a bit further to the beliefs that most citizens of this country also hold with a religious fervor – the rights set forth in our constitution or our bill or rights. The percentage of people willing to give up their lives to continue something as vital as the freedom of expression would be well over 50%.
The pollsters did not ask whether or not those polled would be willing to conduct such an attack themselves. If that had been the case, this article would have taken a much different tone decrying the Imams for continuing to perpetuate violence. Instead, what the poll reveals is only a cultural attitude most likely picked up by the younger generation which they will most likely discard as they get older. When and if the government finds out that those expressing the opinion start to plan attacks, that is the time for action and concern.
We should not be surprised when in youthful exuberance someone says that laying down your life in a largely misguided cause or even one that is fully justified. The demographics in the poll that caused this headline is one noted for hot-headedness and not having fully reached maturity. At a time when this segment of the population already comes under increased scrutiny because of the actions of their co-religionists, journalists should refrain from raising an alarm when the circumstances do not dictate the necessity of the warning. Until further proof such as plans to conduct similar attacks in this country come to the surface, such views should just be written off as the exuberance of youth. The response of Muslim leaders to address the issue and we can only hope to show why such a view is wrong is to be commended and we can only hope spreads to the rest of the world’s followers of Islam.