Interpreting the Data on Muslims in America

The Pew Research Center released interesting numbers that I need to spend some time with. It's about Muslims in America. Apparently American Muslims are fairly happy, middle class, and moderate in their politics and cultural views. Only a small number of American Muslims support actions like suicide bombings, and those numbers are skewed by a larger percentage of younger Muslims that find it possible to justify such actions, but even there its only 25 %, which means 75% say no. And of course even this needs to be nuanced, for such actions are justified only in certain cases. I think I already spoke a bit about that.
I appreciate the analysis given to the report by my friend Diana Butler Bass in her God's Politics posting today. She points out the contextual issue and the differences between polling numbers in Europe and those here in America. European Muslims are much less assimilated, much less happy, and more likely to support radical activities. The question is why?
Well, maybe as Diana suggests, it's our commitment to the separation of church and state and affirmation of the principle of toleration, principles built into our societal foundations.
And to those who would call for changes in this policy, Diana writes:

Since Sept. 11, some Christians have called for an end to the separation of church and state to combat terrorism, claiming a stronger national Christian identity, a “Christian America,” is the way to defeat Islamic extremism – a tactic employed by some reactionary European political parties. The Pew study shows that approach is wrong-headed. The path to peace between Christians and Muslims is that of religious freedom, separation of church and state, and
appreciative toleration in the best traditions of liberality.

We are a religious nation, and at our best we have found ways of welcoming the stranger and have allowed them the freedom to express their faith and their political ideals. Europe has become more secular, but in some ways it has become more oppressive, especially to those whose religious beliefs aren't considered mainstream -- that is not old world!


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