I recently published an article entitled Gallup Poll: Jews and Christians Way More Likely than Muslims to Justify Killing Civilians. The poll found that Muslim-Americans (21%) were far less likely than their fellow Jewish (52%) and Christian (58%) countrymen to think it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians. (For the record, these numbers were 64% in Mormons and 43% in people with no religion/atheists/agnostics.)
Islamophobes didn’t like the results of this poll and quickly protested. LibertyPhile, an anti-Muslim bigot who spends his free time spreading hatred of Muslims (one wonders how empty his personal life is that he kills his spare time doing this?), whined:
…The survey is of American Muslims, who are unlikely to be representative of Muslims in Muslim countries or of Muslims in Europe.
LibertyPhile is among a select group of Islamophobes who have compiled various poll results which portray Muslims in a negative light. The operative logic is usually as follows: x% of Muslims believe it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians, and x% is a lot!
I agree that x% is a lot. Even the 21% of Muslim-Americans who think it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians is unacceptably high. Yet, the point that Islamophobes intentionally fail to mention is that this number is less–far less in this case–than the general public (including Jews and Christians). So while it’s absolutely atrocious that 21% of Muslim-Americans would think so, more than twice that percentage of Jewish- and Christian-Americans think so! This fact “steals their (the Islamophobes’) thunder,” so to speak.
With regard to LibertyPhile’s comment, the data we have from Muslim and European countries confirms that Muslims in general are less likely to justify the killing of civilians as compared to Jews and Christians in America. Interestingly enough, LibertyPhile himself links to a site that references a poll that proves this!
LibertyPhile links to a website citing the Populus for Policy Exchange, a British study that found that between 7-16% of British Muslims think that it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians. This means that Jewish- and Christian Americans are more than three times as likely to justify targeting and killing civilians than British Muslims.
LibertyPhile cites Pew Research Center. Yet, Pew found the same results for French-Muslims: once again, only 16% of Muslims in France believe it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians. Pew notes that this is the case for the Muslims in all the European countries they polled; says Pew (emphasis added):
Like Muslims elsewhere in Europe only a tiny minority of French Muslims (16%) say that suicide bombings and other violence against civilian targets in defense of Islam can often or sometimes be justified.
Indeed, for Muslims in Germany that number is only 17% (according to a Pew poll), far less than the whopping 52% and 58% among American Jews and Christians, respectively. According to the same poll, the percentage of Muslims in Spain is significantly higher, at 31%–which is still almost half of what it is for Christians in the United States.
The conclusion we draw from this is that Muslims in Western countries (such as United States, the U.K., France, Germany, and Spain) are far less likely than Jews and Christians in America to justify the targeting and killing of civilians. This is quite the opposite of the picture that Islamophobes such as LibertyPhile paint.
What about Muslims in the Muslim-majority world? Do they support the targeting and killing of civilians? Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch published an article from CNS News, formerly called the Conservative News Service, which cited a Pew poll to prove that a sizable portion of the population did indeed support this.
Yet, even this source shows that support for the targeting and killing of civilians among Muslims in the Muslim world is still lower than what it is among Jews and Christians here in the United States. The article cited by Spencer reads:
In the Pew Global Attitudes Project poll released on Thursday, 68 percent of Palestinian Muslim respondents said suicide bombings against civilians were justifiable “to defend Islam from its enemies.”
That view was shared by 43 percent of respondents in Nigeria and 38 percent in Lebanon, where 51 percent of Shi’ites held the view compared to 25 percent of Sunnis.
Elsewhere, the proportion of Muslim respondents supporting suicide bombings against civilians was 15 percent in Egypt, 13 percent in Indonesia, 12 percent in Jordan, seven percent in Israel (Muslim Arab citizens), five percent in Pakistan and four percent in Turkey.
The Palestinians are split in between those inside of Israeli proper (1.5 million) and those in the Israeli Occupied Territories (4 million). Using simple math (1.5×0.07+4×0.68)/(1.5+4)=0.51, we find that 51% of Palestinians overall think its sometimes justified to target and kill civilians. On the the other hand, according to a Gallup poll 52% of Israelis think it is OK to target and kill civilians.
What we have then is:
Percentage of people who said it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians:
Israeli Jews 52%
No religion/Atheists/Agnostics (U.S.A.) 43%
Spanish Muslims 31%
German Muslims 17%
French Muslims 16%
British Muslims 16%
*refers to Muslims only
Therefore, Muslims in every country are less likely than U.S. Jews and Christians (and Israeli Jews) to believe that it is sometimes justified to target and kill civilians.
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The recent Gallup poll shows us how important context is when it comes to statistics. For several years, the Islamophobes such as LibertyPhile have been peddling statistics showing that an inordinate number of Muslims in various countries believe it is justifiable to target and kill civilians. For example, they would say something along the lines of:
16% of British Muslims believe it is justified to target and kill civilians. There are over 2.5 million Muslims in the U.K. Sixteen percent of 2.5 million is a lot! That’s how many Muslims there are who believe terrorism is OK.
This number of 16% is certainly alarming, but the Islamophobe needs to prove that Muslims are more accepting of violence than people of other faiths, especially their own Judeo-Christian faith. In order to draw such a conclusion, there must be another value from the other group to compare it to. That’s what the recent Gallup poll gives us: a number to compare the 16% to. And certainly, 58% and 52% are far greater than 16%.
The need for context–and something fair to compare a statistic to–is reflected in other such Muslim-bashing “factoids” that Islamophobes like LibertyPhile peddle. For example, the site LibertyPhile links to notes that x% of Muslims want Sharia. Aside from the fact that Muslims have a whole variety of views about what Sharia means and entails, we need to compare x% with the percentage of Jews and Christians who want Halacha and Biblical law in Israel and America. For the Islamophobes, doing so would steal their thunder.
Ranting and raving about how many Muslims think it’s sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians while your own religious group is worse really is a case of throwing stones living inside a glass house. Throughout the Understanding Jihad Series, I have repeatedly harped on the overwhelming hypocrisy and double-standard Jewish and Christian Islamophobes use when they attack Islam. More often than not, whatever they vilify in Islam is also found in their own religious faith.
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The only worthwhile conclusion that we can draw from all this is that an unacceptable number of people in general–whether they be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or even atheist/agnostic–think it’s OK to sometimes target and kill civilians. This is a sobering thought, and should remind us that we should all work together to end war and bring peace to this earth. The hateful and violent state of humanity–egged on by Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and LibertyPhile (as well as their counterparts in the Muslim world)–is truly disturbing. Something is truly wrong when so many people–of every faith (as well as those of no faith)–believe it’s sometimes justified to take the life of an innocent human being.
My intention here is not to vilify Jews and Christians (see here). It is only to prevent the line of thinking that has become endemic among us Americans: Those Foreign-Looking Moozlum People Over There are Evil and Wicked, Whereas We White Judeo-Christian People are Good and Holy. Once it is acknowledged that we too have the same problem as they, we can draw not only a more accurate conclusion, but a more sensitive, tolerant, and helpful one.
Of course, it would be worthwhile to consider actual results on the ground: we Americans have (at minimum, using conservative numbers) killed 30 times as many Muslim civilians as Muslims have killed of ours, whereas Israelis have killed many-fold the number of civilians as Palestinians have killed of theirs. Clearly, what people and states do is far more relevant than what they merely believe.