The good news from the recent Pew Research poll report about American Muslim attitudes is that they are economically better off, socially more integrated, and politically less radical than European Muslims.
The bad news is that 8% of the 1.4 million American Muslims believe that “suicide bombing against civilian targets to defend Islam from its enemies” is sometimes or often justified. [poll report, p. 53] That’s 112,000 Americans.
Actually, the news is even worse, since the Pew report indicates that fully 15% of American Muslims under 30 years of age hold this view.
According to the 2000 census, there were 4,668 Muslims in the Fresno area; assuming that the growth in Muslim population since then matched the national average of about 6%, (a very conservative assumption), today there are 4,948.
Therefore, about 396 of my neighbors believe that suicide bombings against civilians “to defend their religion” are sometimes or often justified.
In the hopes that Fresnans were more moderate than the national average, I looked at the website of the local Islamic Cultural Center, and was pleased to find a fatwa which unequivocally denounces terrorism, which begins as follows:
The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam’s absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism. Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”
At the end of this declaration is a list of mosques and Islamic centers that support it. As of today, 23 May 2007, neither the Islamic Cultural Center, the Masjid Fresno, or any other local Islamic institution appeared on this list.
Either this is an oversight or my neighbors are not as moderate as I’d hoped.