The Pew Survey about Muslims
What’s Right and What’s Wrong with Pew’s Recent Survey
The Muslim Observer, National news, Politics, Investigative Journalism, 9-23
Courtesy Dawud Walid / The Arab American News
A recently released study by the Pew Research Center on the American Muslim community, which does contain several positive findings about the community, is laced with some problematic and troubling statistics.
Pew’s study states that the overwhelming majority of the American Muslim community is happy with life in America and that it reflects mainstream American identity patterns regarding placement of importance of religious identity with national identity. Moreover, Pew’s analysis also shows that American Muslims resolutely reject extremism in the name of Islam.
The more problematic portions of the study, however, relate to reported condoning of suicide bombing by Muslim youth in the defense of Islam and significant lowering of the generally accepted number of Muslims in America.
According to Pew, 26% of the Muslim youth answered that suicide bombing even against civilians in the defense of Islam is acceptable ranging from 2% having strong endorsement to 11% stating that it is rarely acceptable. Obviously, if these troubling statistics are fairly accurate within a 5% error margin, then these answers must be placed within context, for the same study also states that these same youth are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives in America.
Although Pew’s study shows that Muslim youth show a higher level of religiosity than their parent generation, those who have the pulse of the community know that the majority of Muslim youth do not regularly attend mosques nor are they involved in receiving consistent education on Islam from qualified teachers. Thus, the lectures that are intermittently given in mosques against extremism, to the explanations of the fatwa given by the Fiqh Council of North America against extremism in 2005, may have escaped a sizeable percentage of the Muslim youth. Clearly, the majority of American Muslims (95%) according to Pew, know that attacking civilians or condoning “collateral damage” in defending Muslim lands is unacceptable. A small percentage of Muslim youth driven by lack of understanding or strong emotions due to political conflicts in the Muslim world probably have not internalized the Islamic basis against such extremism.
Knowing the psyche of the Muslim community, however, I believe Muslim youth answered this question based upon a particular geographical location in which the socio-political environment of Muslims is in a state of desperation. Suicide bombing among Muslims in a historical context has been viewed by some as a means of resistance by Palestinians against Israeli occupation. In reiteration that attacks against civilians is clearly prohibited by virtual consensus of Islamic scholars, American Muslim youth answered this question within the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, not within the American context.
In regards to Pew’s demographic results, which state that there are approximately 2.35 million Muslims in America, these numbers are extremely low in comparison to other studies and accepted numbers by scholars and organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which estimates the American Muslim community to be approximately 6 million. For instance, Pew states that 37% of the American Muslim population is of Arab background, which would put the population of Arab Muslims at 859,500. However, according to the Arab American Institute’s scientific study, there were approximately 3.5 million Arab Americans in 2000 with 24% being Muslim. Factoring in population growth due to birth rate and immigration, there are far more than one million Arab Muslims in America. Other shortcomings in Pew’s research includes lack of means of identifying or communicating with Muslims that have names that are not readily known to be traditional names of Muslims such as Muslims who originate from sub-Saharan Africa to converts with legal names such as Robert Smith that do not reflect religious identity. Pew, themselves, admitted this point during their press conference on the report, specifically citing their lack of identification and communication with some Muslims, using Senegalese as their example.
In short, Pew’s latest study appears to have some flaws, but there are lessons to be learned from the study. Muslims are progressing in many areas within the society and are truly part of mainstream America. This study, however, should be a wake up call to the Muslim community that it is incumbent for it to invest more in community organizations and think tanks to disseminate more accurate reports about the Muslim community with proper explanation of the community’s sensitivities as well as giving increased support for Islamic institutions that give proper education to Muslim youth about Islamic positions on contemporary issues to help shield them from extreme positions.
The writer is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan.
SUCCESSFUL NAATIA MUSHAERA ON 2.21.14
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August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
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Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.