Are Muslims “The Enemy Within?”

Sheila Musaji

Posted Jul 26, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Are Muslims “The Enemy Within?”

by Sheila Musaji

In a recent article on “Frontline America” entitled The Enemy Within the author notes some of the results of a recent PEW Poll and comes to the following conclusion:

“So what conclusions can we draw? Well, it is simple but let me break it down for you anyway: A significant number of Muslims bedding down in the US consider themselves Muslim not American, they worship Islam and the culture of death instead of life, they support our enemies when in fact they are our enemies and the remaining balance of American Muslims will not stand up and defend America, their “homeland”, against these hate and evil filled people.

Maybe its time we wage a war here at home


This is a theme that is being repeated over and over - There is no such thing as a Muslim American, or Can Muslims Be Good Americans?, Muslims Can’t Be Trusted, How loyal are American Muslims? are headlines that go mostly unquestioned.

Even the polled distrust of Muslims by Americans acknowledges dramatically lower numbers for those who actually know a Muslim personally (42% of them). Knowing this, the results - 39% think Muslims aren’t loyal to the US, 22% don’t want them as neighbors, and 39% want Muslims to have a special ID (a green crescent pinned to their shirt, perhaps?) - reflect public ignorance more than the existence of an actual threat.  Polls, Damn Polls, and Statistics, Zahed Amanullah

A new “Newsweek” poll on American attitudes toward Muslims and Islam has found that 46% of Americans believe that the United States is taking in too many Muslim immigrants. 40% think Muslims are as loyal to the U.S. as to Islam, 32% think that Muslims in America are less loyal to the United States than they are to Islam. 28% believe that the Qur’an condones violence, and 41% hold that Islamic culture “glorifies suicide.” 54% are either “somewhat worried” or “very worried” about Islamic jihadists in this country, and 52% support FBI surveillance of mosques, with the same percentage rejecting the claim of American Muslim advocacy groups that Muslims are being singled out by investigators and police.

It is easy to find bloggers, commentators, radio talk show hosts, and many others who state very clearly that Islam should be “dealt with” or “confronted”. They are on some of the most-listened to radio shows, the most-read op-ed columns, and the blogs with the highest traffic. But what do they mean by this? Tellingly, each can speak or write forever about the “threat” that Muslims in the US pose, but they have hardly a word about the “solution”. (It would be informative if the media, when bringing these people on the air, would ask that simple question.) They leave no room for “moderate Muslims”, no respect for Islam as a legitimate faith, and do not want Muslim Americans - more than half of whom were born in America and know no other home - as neighbors. Perhaps they haven’t yet bothered to take their rhetoric through to its logical conclusion (the amount of time they devote to this obsession makes it unlikely). They are only responsible for whipping people into a frenzy. What happens next is in the domain of the lynch mob. And we all know where that gets us. Which is the extremist threat in America: Muslims or Islamophobes, Shahed Amanullah

There are 5 points that come up over and over again from the most recent PEW poll results, and from previous polls, and that are used and misused by these individuals to support their “conclusions”.  However, they do not refer to other polls that provide information that calls those simplistic “conclusions” into question.

1)  Only 26% of American Muslims believe the war on terrorism is aimed at actually reducing world-wide terrorism.

72% of Britains think Tony Blair’s foreign policy is responsible for terrorism according to a 2006 ICM poll.

In a 2004 BBC Poll Respondents from Europe, Asia, North and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Australasia, 52.3% ranked the power of the US and large corporations as a greater threat than terrorism.

A plurality of American Muslims think that the U.S. is fighting a war on Islam (38%) rather than terror (33%).  Georgetown University 2004 American Muslim Poll

A 2007 PEW international poll showed: “Global distrust of American leadership is reflected in increasing disapproval of the cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy. Not only is there worldwide support for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but there also is considerable opposition to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan. Western European publics are at best divided about keeping troops there. In nearly every predominantly Muslim country, overwhelming majorities want U.S. and NATO troops withdrawn from Afghanistan as soon as possible. In addition, global support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism ebbs ever lower. And the United States is the nation blamed most often for hurting the world’s environment, at a time of rising global concern about environmental issues.”

2)  Only 12% of American Muslims believe we should be in Iraq and 88% disapprove of Iraq war, and only 35% believe we should be in Afghanistan. 

A July 2007 CNN poll showed that 53% of Americans now believe that the war with Iraq was a mistake.

In a 2006 PEW international poll - The Pew Centre said: “Despite growing concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the US presence in Iraq is cited at least as often as Iran - and in many countries much more often - as a danger to world peace.”  The survey, carried out annually, shows a continued decline in support for the US since 1999. The US image for most of the 20th century has been relatively positive, being regularly identified with democracy, human rights and openness in spite of criticism from the left, which reached a height during the Vietnam war, and a residual suspicion in the Muslim world.  But even in the UK, Washington’s closest ally, favourable ratings have slumped from 83% in 1999 to 56% this year. The pattern is similar in France, down from 62% to 39%, Germany 78% to 37%, and Spain 50% to 23%.  In Muslim countries with which the US has traditionally enjoyed a good relationship, such as Turkey - a member of Nato - and Indonesia, there have also been slumps. In Indonesia favourable ratings for the US have dropped from 75% to 30%, and in Turkey from 52% to 12%.

3)  5% of American Muslims express some positive opinion about al Qaeda.

There is nothing to say about this except that this 5% needs to be quickly “un-brainwashed” or deported.

4)  1% of American Muslims say that suicide bombings against civilian targets are often justified to defend Islam; an additional 7% say suicide bombings are sometimes justified in these circumstances.

A false number of 26% has been widely discussed but it comes from either misreading or misrepreseting the actual findings of the report.  Among its many findings, the poll showed that 8% of American Muslims believe that “suicide bombing against civilian targets” is “sometimes or often” justified. Among Muslims age 18 to 29, more than three times that many (26%) believe suicide attacks against civilians are “ever justified.”

The University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes conducted a public opinion poll of Americans and Iranians simultaneously in 2006.  In that poll, when asked if “bombing and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are justified, 24% of Americans said those types of attacks are “often/sometimes” justified (three times the number of American Muslims). That was also more than twice the number of Iranians who answered the same (11%).  Furthermore, far fewer Americans believed attacks against civilians are “never justified” 48% compared with 78% U.S. Muslims in the Pew poll.

A survey, conducted in December 2006 by the University of Maryland’s prestigious Program on International Public Attitudes, shows that only 46 percent of Americans think that “bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians” are “never justified,” while 24 percent believe these attacks are “often or sometimes justified.”  Contrast those numbers with 2006 polling results from the world’s most-populous Muslim countries – Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. Terror Free Tomorrow, the organization I lead, found that 74 percent of respondents in Indonesia agreed that terrorist attacks are “never justified”; in Pakistan, that figure was 86 percent; in Bangladesh, 81 percent.  Do these findings mean that Americans are closet terrorist sympathizers?  Hardly. Yet, far too often, Americans and other Westerners seem willing to draw that conclusion about Muslims. Public opinion surveys in the United States and Europe show that nearly half of Westerners associate Islam with violence and Muslims with terrorists. Given the many radicals who commit violence in the name of Islam around the world, that’s an understandable polling result.   The myth of Muslim support for terror, Kenneth Ballen

5)  47% of American Muslims see themselves as “Muslim first” as opposed to “American first.”

42% of Americans saw themselves as “Christian first” as opposed to “American first” according to a Pew Global Attitudes Project national survey conducted in 2006.

In 2004 conducted a poll of their visitors. This is a conservative Protestant web site and probably most of their visitors are Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Protestants. They asked the question: “Do you believe the US Constitution calls for separation of Church and State?”  The response was:  No 88.7%, Yes: 11.2?  So, 88% of Evangelicals do not believe in separation of Church and State.

In case you think that this is only a small minority of uninformed people who are not well versed in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, the following quotes should give any concerned American (Muslim or otherwise) more than a little to think about:

“I emphasize, that is the priority for me as the President. It’s my faith, my family, and my country.” President George Bush on April 19, 2007 in remarks on the global war on terror.

“I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. “And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I’m an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is [1] my faith in God, then [2] my family and then [3] country. I share my faith because it describes who I am.”  U.S. General Jack Catton, Jr. 2006

Does the Department of Defense grant that my fundamental obligation is not loyalty to country but obedience to God? I doubt it. In such circumstances, where Caesar cannot distinguish between our proper subjection and our ultimate allegiance, it may be best to say bluntly, “A loyal American? Of course not. I’m a Christian!”  D. Brent Laytham teaches at North Park University in Chicago.  In an article Loyalty oath: a matter of ultimate allegiance