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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Justifiable Violence

According to a recently released Pew poll, American Muslims are much more assimilated into our society than are, say, French Muslims into theirs. That is a good thing. But what has righties upset is the finding that the finding that while 80% of American Muslims oppose attacks on civilians in all cases, 13% said they could be justified in some circumstances.

There has been much gnashing of teething, rending of garments, and general frothing at the mouth from the conservative punditocracy, of course. Why? Because such violence is unacceptable, and would never be condoned by real red-blooded peace-loving Americans. Or would it?

Glen Greenwald has this to say about the Pew poll:
The reality, though, is that it is almost impossible to conduct a poll and not have a sizable portion of the respondents agree to almost everything. And in particular, with regard to the specific question of whether it is justifiable to launch violent attacks aimed deliberately at civilians, the percentage of American Muslims who believe in such attacks pales in comparison to the percentage of Americans generally who believe that such attacks are justifiable.

The University of Maryland's highly respected Program on International Public Attitudes, in December 2006, conducted a concurrent public opinion poll of the United States and Iran to determine the comparative views of each country's citizens on a variety of questions...

One of the questions they asked was whether "bombings and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians are sometimes justified"? Americans approved of such attacks by a much larger margin than Iranians – 51-16% (and a much, much larger margin than American Muslims – 51-13%):

Click on image to enlarge

A rather substantial 24% of Americans thought that such attacks are justified "often" or "sometimes," while another 27% thought they were justified in rare cases (total=51%). By stark contrast, only 11% of Iranians think such attacks are justified "often" or "sometimes," with a mere further 5% agreeing they can be justified in rare cases (total=16%). Similar results were found with the series of other questions regarding violence deliberately aimed at civilians – including women, children and the elderly. Americans believed such attacks could be justifiable to a substantially higher degree than Iranians.

As Kenneth Ballen noted in The Christian Science Monitor in February of this year, Americans express greater support for "attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria." Make of that what you will -- and its meaning is debatable -- but those are just facts.
Where is the rightie outrage here? It does make sense, though, from their perspective–I suppose they feel that it's wrong for Muslims to want to attack us, but OK for us to want to attack them, because we are right and good and doing God's work.


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