Kathleen Parker’s Article, “When Topic is Terror, Surveys Are Misleading” is in fact itself a very misleading interpretation of the recent Pew Research Center survey that found American Muslims to be largely moderate and mainstream.
Parker aims to undermine the positive responses that the study has garnered by highlighting, or rather manipulating, the negative findings of the study.
She laments that “sixty percent of the young (Muslims) consider themselves Muslim first, American second.” However, she fails to point out that only 47% of the overall Muslim population see themselves this way, which is comparable to the 41% of Christians and the 62% of White Evangelical Christians who also identify themselves in this manner.
This begs the question: Is it wrong to identify oneself primarily by religion?
Parker is selective about what she reports and deliberately excludes many essential facts from her analysis.
She writes, “In less than happy news…Among all young Muslims, 26 percent think suicide bombing is justified often, sometimes, or rarely.” Then, by assuming that the 5% who do not answer the question secretly support the act, she erroneously advocates that 1/3 of Muslim youth support “terrorism” and “9/11.”
A classic example of Parker’s routine selective reporting is demonstrated here as she fails to mention that only 13% of the overall Muslim-American population feels that “suicide bombings of civilian targets” can be justified (5% saying rarely, and 8% saying sometimes). Compare this to a recent study from the University of Maryland which reveals that a whopping 51% of the American general public feels that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” can be justified. This contrast gives an impression of the Muslim community that is contrary from the one Parker attempts to forge.
She fails to put statistics into context and disregards the conditions under which those surveyed would support these acts. Instead she demeans the issue by ridiculing those who left questions unanswered, saying, “To kill civilians or not to kill civilians is not a tricky question.”
The results of this study deserve further investigation because the beliefs of the Muslims surveyed diverge from basic Islamic teachings. The killing of civilians is clearly condemned by the Prophet Mohammed and also in the Quran which says, "If anyone slew a person...it would be as if he slew all of mankind; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved all of mankind"(5: 32). Countless episodes during the life of Mohammed profess the value of innocent life and the grave sin of suicide. Mohammed said, "He who kills himself will be awarded the same torment on the Day of Judgment” (Sahih Muslim). These are widely accepted principles in Islam, so why would any Muslims support an act that should land them in hell? This fact suggests the necessity of placing the results of the recent study in a political rather than a religious context, as this study reveals nothing about the religion of Islam.
The purpose of the study was to better understand the Muslim members of American society. This necessitates accurate interpretation of the research, rather than flippant and outright fallacious interpretations that are made by Islamophobic fear mongers such as Kathleen Parker.