Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Islam Isn't the Problem

Well, I haven't been posting as much as I'd like lately. I just haven't crossed that much that sparked my interest lately. But I think this is important (and it ties in to my previous post as well). This global Gallup poll of Muslims is significant, as its title says, in framing the war on terror. Gallup found that Muslims in the Middle East actually have a lower tolerance for attacks on civilian targets than do average (non-Muslim) Americans. The poll found only a weak link between religiosity and political extremism among Muslims. Gallup notes that while those who found the 9/11 attacks to be wrong often seated those beliefs in religious sentiment, those who thought the attacks justified relied on political rather than religious justifications. The summary of poll concludes that "the difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety."

These are important findings, not only in countering the rhetoric of the more jingoistic right wingers, but also in countering certain middle ground positions (i.e. Andrew Sullivan) that reject the more extreme policies that arise from such rhetoric while still embracing the framing of Islam as the root source of our problems. This conflict is and always has been about political differences. The pollsters find that the Muslims who sympathize with extremism tend to be those who believe that the West does not reciprocate their concerns and is unlikely to ever act on them, creating a siege mentality. This is not a new idea, at least on this blog, but solid data is always a welcome addition to the argument. We cannot hope to end this conflict without at the least understanding the motivations of our adversaries.

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