Do Muslim Minorities Support Religious Extremism?
When it comes to religious extremism, some western media outlets spread the fear of the creeping shariah law and sleeper-cell terrorism embedded within the Muslim communities living in western societies. The real pressing question is, is there a wellspring of bitterness and disenchantment that will yield even more violence and extremism?
Doug Saunders in his book “The Myth of the Muslim Tide” explains that Muslims appear to be among the least disenchanted and most satisfied people in the west. Muslim immigrants are unusually content with their host countries, governments and democratic institutions. Recent years have witnessed a sweeping analysis and a broad investigation of the Muslim minorities’ feelings, beliefs and the outcomes came unambiguous and reassuring.
British Muslims for example according to Gallup are half as likely as average Britons to have experienced feelings of anger the previous day, and slightly less likely than ordinary Britons to report “experiencing a lot of negative emotions, including anger.” They are about as likely as ordingary Britons (76% for Muslims and 82% for the general public) to report “feeling a lot of enjoyment”.
French Muslims are even less angry than the Brits. They are more likely than the French population to say they feel well rested or that they “smiled and laughed a lot” the day before the survey. Only 19% of French Muslims said that they “felt a lot of anger the day before the survey” versus 33% of French people in general. A detailed survey conducted by two French academics revealed that Muslim immigrants in France were more likely to have “feelings of closeness with other French people” (85%) than they did with members of their own religions group (71%) or people of the same national origin (77%). This means that Muslims felt slightly more comfortable in the company of non-Muslim French people than they did with other Muslims. This feeling of closeness and comfort was not the product of secularization as some people would expect. This feeling is rather dominant among self-declared Muslims who define themselves by their religion rather than their nationality and they scored higher rates which reached to 90% versus only 84%of of non-Muslim French people who felt “feeling of closeness” with other French people.
American Muslims suffered the brunt of terrorist attacks which led to the fear of a wider disenchantment within the Muslim community, but the results were surprising. Muslims in America are more likely to say they are “satisfied with their lives” (84% for foreign-born Muslims) than average Americans are (75%). The percentage of satisfaction rises to 90 % for second-generation Muslims born in the United States to immigrant parents. Approximately the same number of Muslims (79%) as ordinary Americans (83%) say that their community is an “excellent” or “good” place to live. Even among Muslims living in neighborhoods whose community mosque has been vandalized, fully 76% reported that their community is a good place. Obviously as any religious community, some Muslims are angry and decided to take up their rage to acts of violent revenge yet the studies show that these acts do not spring from a wider anger in the general Muslim community.
Some people might play the devil’s advocate and say that though Muslim immigrants are not harboring rage at the world around them, it might be possible that some of them find joy in the violent spectacles of terrorism by their extremist fellow Muslims. This simply makes the majority of Muslim communities as a silent approval of violence and acts of terrorism. Putting this theory into reality check, we would find this claim irrational given that 88% of the victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims. Across the western world, support for violence and terrorism among Muslims is no higher than that of the general population and some cases it is even lower. Fore example, when a large-scale survey asked if “attacks on civilians are morally justified,” only 1% of the French public, 1 % of the German public and 3% of the British public answered in the affirmative. Among Muslims in the capital cities of these countries, the responses were a statistically indistinguishable 2 %, 0.5 %, and 2 %. When the general public was asked if it was “justifiable to use violence for a noble cause”, 7 % of the French public agreed along with 8 % of the French Muslims, 10 % of the German public and fewer than 2 % of German Muslims, 10% of the British public and 8% of British Muslims. The majority of those who said it was “not justifiable” was usually somewhat higher among Muslims than among non-Muslims.
A number of individual Muslims showed higher levels of Muslim-immigrant anger at the United States, Britain among other Western powers which participated in the Iraq war. Only 63% of foreign-born Muslims in the United States had “very unfavorable” views of al- Qaeda but it appears that it was only a passing moment because in another survey in 2010 the percentage rises to 75% which is not far from the disapproval levels of the general public. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that much of this support was not for al- Qaeda per se but for the group’s renegade image and political message which by then had become a generic anticapitalist, anit- imperialist narrative not that different from more popular left-wing and anti-globalization voices.