Some interesting polling data… We’ll start with the fact that more Americans feel attacks on civilians are “completely justified” than Iranians, Lebanese, or even Saudis.

As a starting point, Muslims do not hold a monopoly on extremist views. While 6% of Americans think attacks in which civilians are targets are “completely justified,” in both Lebanon and Iran, this figure is 2%, and in Saudi Arabia, it’s 4%. In Europe, Muslims in Paris and London were no more likely than were their counterparts in the general public to believe attacks on civilians are ever justified and at least as likely to reject violence, even for a “noble cause.”

It gets more interesting.

After analyzing survey data representing more than 90% of the global Muslim population, Gallup found that despite widespread anti-American sentiment, only a small minority saw the 9/11 attacks as morally justified. Even more significant, there was no correlation between level of religiosity and extremism among respondents. Among the 7% of the population that fits in the politically radicalized category — those who saw the 9/11 attacks as completely justifiable and have an unfavorable view of the United States — 94% said religion is an important part of their daily lives, compared with 90% among those in the moderate majority. And no significant difference exists between radicals and moderates in mosque attendance.

In other words, religiosity has very little to do with it. Islam isn’t the problem. Politics are the problem.

Gallup probed respondents further and actually asked both those who condoned and condemned extremist acts why they said what they did. The responses fly in the face of conventional wisdom. For example, in Indonesia, the largest Muslim majority country in the world, many of those who condemned terrorism cited humanitarian or religious justifications to support their response. For example, one woman said, “Killing one life is as sinful as killing the whole world,” paraphrasing verse 5:32 in the Quran.

On the other hand, not a single respondent in Indonesia who condoned the attacks of 9/11 cited the Quran for justification. Instead, this group’s responses were markedly secular and worldly. For example, one Indonesian respondent said, “The U.S. government is too controlling toward other countries, seems like colonizing.”

The most radical people feel that relations would improve if – gasp – the West would “respect Islam and stop imposing it’s beliefs and policies”. Moderates want – gasp – economic concerns addressed.

… perceptions of being under siege characterize those who sympathize with extremism.

The “war on islam(ofacism)” rhetoric from wingnuts here just serves to further radicalize Muslims. There is an interesting comparison drawn between the Watts race riots and the demonstrations over the Danish cartoons – the trigger was not the cause. The comparison is compelling, and highlights the fact that the civil rights movement here might be a better model for combating violent extremists than the idiocy the right wing pushes for now.

Which sounds a lot like what I’ve been advocating for 6 years. Addressing the valid concerns and needs of the majority, causing the violent extremist minority to be marginalized by their own community.

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