Significant national attention has turned in the past week toward dissecting all of the data from the Pew Research Center's study on an array of subjects concerning Muslim Americans. The full Pew study, Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, contains information on a number of issues of great importance to our direction in the ideological struggle against political Islam (Islamism). The data obtained by Pew, first and foremost, demonstrates the necessity of future polls of Muslim Americans, perhaps with more of an ideological focus on the exact place of Islamism, anti-Islamism, Shari'a and Muslim reform and enlightenment issues in the context of the practice of Islam in 2007.
The Pew poll touches on the periphery of some of these issues but leaves the reader to infer a number of conclusions on political Islam from the data. The focus of most media attention thus far has simply been the study's indicators regarding the threat of terrorism from the Muslim population and its counterbalancing data on the apparent general assimilation of Muslims.
Optimism v. Realism: Where's the counter-jihad?
Optimistic mainstream media (MSM) have understandably focused on the study's positive aspects indicating that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, assimilated, and condemn terrorism. This optimism is necessary because that same majority holds the keys toward decreasing the numbers of the more troubling minority. The realists, however, did the math and raised valid concerns about the implications of the number of potential militant Islamists. The statistics reveal that 1% of the study's estimated 2.3 million Muslim Americans say that suicide bombings against civilian targets are "often justified" and 7% felt, "sometimes justified." This demonstrates a potential threat of 184,000 potential Islamist terrorists in the United States. The study does nothing to connect the imminent responsibility of the remaining 92% in changing, deprogramming, and defeating this radical 8%. Moreover, even more concerning is the total 26% of those younger than 30 who even ‘rarely' find justification for terrorism. Again, we find no questions or conclusions from Pew about the responsibility of the remaining 74% to lead a counter-jihad.
Similarly, 5% of Muslim Americans expressed "somewhat favorable opinions of Al Qaeda". Yet, only 63% of foreign-born Muslims were able to muster "strong hostility" toward Al Qaeda, with 52% of all native-born Muslims, and a shocking 36% of African American Muslims doing the same. The need for a counter-jihad becomes all the more relevant in this context with such an "underwhelming" majority of Muslims demonstrating the moral courage simply to identify the clearest enemy of America in our time. Certainly, the seeds of leadership in this counter-jihad will come from these Muslims who have the courage to name Al Qaeda and have the courage unequivocally to condemn terrorism as an immoral act with never a justification.
Thus, from here, what is so sorely needed in reviewing the data, and what few have done, is actually to begin to connect the study's plethora of revealed ideologies of Muslim Americans diagnostically to the radicalized minority over which so many have expressed concern. To discuss the 184,000 potential terrorists (FOA - friends of Al Qaeda, if you will) in a vacuum, with no ideological connections or offshoots from the Muslim majority is to flail helplessly in post 9-11 diagnostics with no insight into cause, effect, or treatment. FOA are not a crime problem.
There can be no other explanation as to how it is that Al Qaeda, basically a euphemism for the whole of radical Islam, is able continually to regenerate itself like a metastatic cancer immune to any chemotherapy. The Fort Dix Six had no apparent contact with Al Qaeda. Yet their ends, their means and execution were the same as Al Qaeda. The only common thread is radical Islam, which is a militant offshoot of an even more common thread - political Islam.
Islamist Insiders obfuscate the dangers of political Islam
The Pew Research Center interestingly sought the advice of some known leading Islamists such as Ingrid Mattson and Ihsan Bagby. Islamists will often try to obfuscate or deny the threat and the goals of political Islam. It doesn't seem that any anti-Islamist Muslims had any input on the poll, which perhaps would have clarified the results on political Islam. Regardless, the data still did not camouflage the problem of political Islam, and the hope from the study that there is a significant plurality if not a majority of Muslims who are potential anti-Islamists. We ignore the signs and symptoms of the threat of political Islam in the Pew study at our own peril.
Make no mistake: current Islamist leadership in America are already running away from the reality of political Islam revealed in this study. Ingrid Mattson, an adviser to the study and the head of the Islamic Society of North America released her "Reflection on the 2007 Pew Report". Her self-described ‘Call for Moral Leadership' was not in any way a call against the ends of political Islam. It was not a clear, solitary call of moral courage against Islamist extremism. It was, rather, an apologetic against terrorism, which had the audacity to claim a moral equivalency of Al Qaeda's terror means with the claim by America's politicians that American armed forces also employ torture! Ms. Mattson equates the political ends of Al Qaeda with the ends of our armed forces intending to liberate Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a sweeping statement of grand moral equivalency between terror and torture, she says, "We have allowed the appropriation of sinful and immoral means for political ends."
Nowhere in Mattson's political screed presented under the laudable guise of theological leadership of "imagining of a new Heroism" is she actually able to condemn the ends of America's enemies—the Islamic state. Yet, she is able to juxtapose in an insulting equation a discussion of the barbaric evil of the likes of Al Qaeda with an admonition to our legislators and President to stop supporting torture—a classical Islamist doublespeak mixture of religion and politics. Such juxtaposition of radical Islamism with American political leadership feeds directly from the demagogic techniques of Islamists in order to speak to their Islamist constituencies under the guise of even-handedness. This technique actually perpetuates a greater divide between Muslims and the general American public. Is it any wonder that political Islam is thriving and continuing to provide political fodder for its militant offshoots when such a mixture of religion and politics speaks for American Muslims?
The only saving grace is that the Pew study itself shows some hope that most Muslims - when asked - denounce the mixture of politics with Islamic issues. Islamist insiders obfuscate the dangers of political Islam. They ignore the anti-Islamists, who may be a majority, and who, once awakened, will displace the current intimidation of the Islamists over the general American Muslim community.
Reviewing the Pew data in the context of political Islam
On the war in Afghanistan
The penetration and influence of Islamism (political Islam) is deep in the American Muslim community. While most of the media focused on Muslim opinions of the Iraq war. Only 35% of American Muslims supported the war in Afghanistan while 61% of the general public did. The only explanation for the difference between Muslims and the general American public who are exposed to the same anti-war MSM is the impact of rampantly political sermons and the additional consequences of the constant barrage viewed by Muslims of national and international Muslim media (from Al Jazeera to CAIR's eletter) against the war.
Muslim media repetitively defined the conflict in Afghanistan in terms of a "war against Muslims" rather than a war against the oppressive Taliban, who would not give up the sworn enemy of the American people - Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, within this much deeper discussion is evidence that political Islam brings with it loyalty to the ummah (the transnational Muslim nation or community) over loyalty to one's own nation even when our national interests in a just war such as in Afghanistan are clear and moral.
The study repeatedly demonstrated a significant direct correlation between religious observance and extremism. The Islamists have and will dismiss the extremism as ‘political extremism" having nothing to do with the practice of religion. While to a moral, spiritual Muslim, extremism and coercion is an anathema, this correlation, however, between Muslim observance and extremism is a direct indicator of the lethality of political Islam (Islamism). Political Islam is a dominating societal and governmental ideology that is wedded to and exploits the theology of Islam while trying to overwhelm the voices of reason, pluralism, humility, and secularism. Islamists in their typical denials will reject the correlation of extremist views with religious observance as misguided or purely political unrelated to religious practice. They cannot have it both ways—that is to live and practice in a toxic mixture of religion and politics and then say that the dominating political ideology of Islamism has no connection to the religious (immoral leadership).
The Pew study confirms this. Its indicators of political Islam—opinions of the use of mosques for social and political speech, attitudes against the war in Afghanistan, conspiracy theory explanations for 9-11, and an affection for big government (i.e.) - all correlated directly with religious observance. Thus, the pervasiveness of Islamist political ideologies (shown in the Pew study) within the Muslim community provides a substantial stimulus for radical Islam and its extremism. It only stands to reason that a pervasive political ideology that cloaks itself in religion will have an order of magnitude toward greater fertilization within the religious practicing community than outside it. Obviously, the more immoral the religious leadership and its apologetics, the more political Islam will spread. Thus the correlation between religious observance and extremism is clear. Certainly, some Islamists may preach non-violence, which can serve as a short-term prevention of militancy. But in the long term, the only antidote is the separation of the political from the religious in Islam.
And again, while the Islamists will deny this correlation, some, reviewers may choose contrarily, to blame the religion for this rather than Islamism. A more appropriate strategy as I've discussed before, is to blame the oppressive, immoral influence, which political Islam has within the Muslim consciousness. Islamism can only be defeated by a counter-jihad from a spiritual Islam devoid of the political and governmental realms and led by a universally moral, pluralistic, and humane construct from the God of Abraham.
For example, the study showed that religious observance correlated with an over two times higher rate of justification for suicide bombing in youth under 30. The conclusion can only be that when political Islam meets moral depravity in impressionable immature youth, the ends quickly justify the means. This is a volatile mixture. The mixture of politics and religious fundamentalism can most effectively be countered by defeating political Islam and reclaiming a spiritual, moral, and moderate Islam from the stranglehold of the political agenda of Islamists. This can only be done through a potent anti-Jihadist articulation by moderate anti-Islamist Muslims. Anti-Islamist Muslims need not only to condemn unequivocally the targeting of noncombatants (free of apologetics), but they must also deconstruct the religious legitimacy and the ideology of the Islamic state (political Islam). The study gives hope for this, but it provides few answers.
On conspiracy theories
How is it that only 40% of Muslim respondents would identify the fact that Arabs carried out the attacks of 9-11? This cannot be ignored. More specifically, 32% of American Muslims refused to answer and 28% were in complete disbelief that Arabs did it. Again, the more religious the Muslim American, the more likely they are to believe in this conspiracy theory. So if Islam is to provide moral courage for making brave stances against evil, significant concern should be raised that political Islam and its propaganda have a significant impact upon moral clarity.
Political Islam at its core thrives on dishonesty, fabricated enemies, and conspiracies in a world of spin over truth and corruption over morality. At the center of mechanisms of denial, is the creation of fantastic stories, which create false assumptions and feed the ego of those with inferiority complexes. In order to exert control, theocracy (political Islam) must manipulate information and create enemies while uniting the masses in Machiavellian ends - in many ways planting the seeds for fascism.
On big government and societal control
The study described Muslims as "Big government social conservatives". Unfortunately, this is a superficial, dangerous description, which is misguided and misapplies our own understanding of ‘social conservatives' in the U.S. While Muslims certainly have a significant emphasis upon family values which are very similar in nature to American social conservatives in the general public, this poll shows that American Muslim reliance upon government deviates profoundly from the average American social conservative. American social conservatives are most often for ‘small government,' pro-liberty, anti-bureaucracy and decentralist free-marketeers who believe, in the words of President Reagan, that "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem."
The Pew data demonstrate that Muslims are generally for big government. One sees this in the data that American Muslims desire an increase in government entitlement programs, bureaucracy and overall government intervention in our daily lives. It would appear that the association of classical liberalism with social conservatives has had little penetration into the general Muslim mindset. This stands to reason because the enlightenment of the West, which created America on the heels of freedom of religious expression and piety free of government has not generally made its way into the grass roots Muslim consciousness. This also stands to reason since the current predominant mindset of Muslim leadership apparent in the West is Islamist and Wahhabist with ideological roots in theocracy and autocracy.
When Muslim Americans were asked, 70% prefer larger government providing more services while only 21% prefer smaller government and fewer services. A majority of American Muslims (59%) also believed that government should protect morality. Yet, a majority of these same Muslims did not accept the government's actions against Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, or terrorism. Thus, there seems to be a schizophrenia - a strong detachment of American Muslims from any trust of American government military action while simultaneously asking for increased domestic government social programs, all the while disbelieving in homeland security government efforts in the Patriot Act and against Islamists. Thus, the only overriding explanation is that their endorsement of big government must be tied mostly to Islamist governance (political Islam).
On Mosque and state
A significant percentage (43%) of Muslims felt that mosques should express their views on social and political questions. The fact that 49% felt that the mosque should not be involved in politics gives hope to the dream that ultimately the primary vehicle of religious education, the mosque, can possibly be cleansed of the toxic Islamist influence. However, the penetration of political Islam is not only in the mosque, it includes the Muslim media, and Islamist political organizations. So the 49% is as small as it is possibly because only 40% of Muslims frequent the mosque. Therefore, their answers may have more to do with idealized perceptions of the mosque than of the faith of Islam and the need to separate religion and politics. More study is desperately needed in this question.
For the very reason that we are daily faced with national Muslim organizations who exploit the faith of Islam for their own heavy political agendas, it is more and more essential to dissect the current reality and telescope the process by which anti-Islamist Muslims can lead the extrication of spiritual, moral Islam from political Islam.
On American Nationalism
When American Muslims were asked whether they were American or Muslim first, 47% felt they were Muslim first and only 28% American first. The study compared this to Christians who reported 42% as being Christian first. This comparison is unfortunately not valid in this context. A better comparison would have been to ask Muslims and Christians whether the United States should be "under God," "under Islam," or "under Christianity." It would stand to reason that while most Christians would say ‘under God,' far more Muslims would say, ‘under Islam.' In the concept of political Islam, the theocratic Islamic state has not been reformed or defeated in the way the Christian theocracy has in American history. Those 47% of Muslims pose a more significant ideological threat in the context of current Islamic thinking vis-à-vis the state.
This is especially true when considering the ends sought by radical Islamists. - theocracy over our pluralistic democracy. The study demonstrates this by showing that "13% of those who think of themselves primarily as Muslim believe that suicide bombing to defend Islam from its enemies can be often or sometimes justified compared with 4% of those who are American first." Additionally, those who identified themselves as Muslim first were twice as likely to believe that Arabs did not commit 9/11 (40%-20%). Those who were American first were much more likely to accept that 9/11 was committed by Arabs (61%). Again we see a significant correlation between religious observance, radicalism, and Islamism.
Political Islam is the problem. Identification of nationality as Muslim is fertile soil for conspiracy theories. The only antidote to the spread of Islamism is a counter-jihad, which includes a strong American nationalism embodied in a belief in liberty, freedom, and pluralism under God. American nationalism alone is not an antidote because Islamists may have theocratic goals for their own American patriotism. American nationalism can defeat Islamism only if it also takes back the mantle of faith from the Islamists with the growth of a moral, spiritual Islam that can combat the immorality of terrorism in a counter-jihad from within a nation under God but anti-Islamist.
While political Islam may seem to be pervasive, it is not overwhelming. The untold story in this poll is the hope it gives to anti-Islamist Muslims. As noted, a plurality of Muslims - 49% - believe that mosques should stay out of politics. Interestingly, most of those are the foreign born Muslims versus the native-born Muslims who seem to have grown up in Islamist incubators without understanding the harms of political Islam, which so many immigrants lived through.
If we are going to win this global conflict, analysis of studies like this one should not be overly negative or positive and should be reviewed through the Islamist lens to understand the context—the root cause (Islamism), effect (radicalization), and treatments (a counter-jihad separating spiritual Islam from political Islam). A morally clear spiritual Islam can eliminate politics from the domain of faith, which should be only a personal journey of individual Muslims to God. This process requires ijtihad, which is a re-interpretation of scripture in light of modern day. It also requires imams and scholars with moral courage to denounce each and every suicide operation around the world as immoral, un-Islamic, and barbaric without any justification - ever.
Many Muslims already do - and most can understand - the argument that government abrogates religion, and that faith is no longer genuine faith when government legislates morality and prevents its citizens from choosing to believe or not believe - to sin or not to sin.
One can only hope that the next study of the American Muslim population will include a much more probative questioning, specifically with regard to political Islam in order to distinguish how many Muslims believe in theocracy over pluralistic democracy. Current Islamist leadership in mosques and national political organizations like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council), MAS (Muslim American Society), or ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) have no personal interest in pushing an exposure of political Islam since it embodies the daily practice of their organizations.
With time, the MSM, the government, and the general American public will have to become more savvy regarding the need to expose the insidious threat of political Islam and its causative association with radical Islamism.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor M. Zuhdi Jasser is the founder and Chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix Arizona. He is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a physician in private practice, and a community activist.