11 December 2015

Sorry, Franklin Graham: it's perfectly American to believe terrible things

Neo-conservative fluff emporium WND reports that Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelical preacher Billy Graham, has echoed the concerns of Donald Trump and his supporters by suggesting that somewhere around 144,000 U.S. Muslims tacitly condone terrorism:
Graham’s comments have been posted over the last 24 hours on his Facebook page, where he noted the mantra from “political leaders and world experts” that “the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people. 
Some have suggested that as many as 99 percent fall into this category. Well, we don’t have to guess or estimate; the Pew Research Center has released extensive research on how Muslims in the U.S. self-identify on questions of violence – and the conclusions are frightening. 
Graham cited the 1.8 million Muslim adults in the United States. 
Pew Research released that eight percent of adult Muslims in the U.S. said that suicide bombings and other forms of violence in the name of Islam are ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ justified. Think about it – that’s 144,000 Muslims who openly say without hesitation that violence in the name of Islam is justified!
This is what the research actually says, from the Pew itself:

More than eight-in-ten American Muslims say suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified (81%) or rarely justified (5%) to defend Islam from its enemies. Worldwide, most Muslims also reject this type of violence, with a median of 72% saying such attacks are never justified and 10% saying they are rarely justified. Just 1% of U.S. Muslims and a median of 3% of Muslims worldwide say suicide bombings and other violence against civilian targets are often justified, while 7% of U.S. Muslims and a global median of 8% of Muslims say such attacks are sometimes justified to defend Islam.
That sounds a bit less alarmist than Graham is making it out to be. And actually, even on Graham's terms, 92% most definitely does constitute a "vast majority". But, okay: 7% of American Muslims think that violence in the name of Islam might "sometimes" be justified. But what constitutes "sometimes"? I couldn't find any similar polls for Christians, but given that religious conservatives seem pretty gung-ho about carpet bombing large portions of the Middle East to 'defend' Christian America from those Evil Muslim Terrorists, it doesn't seem to me like the idea of religiously motivated violence being 'sometimes' justified is a foreign idea to Christians.
But even to whatever degree American Muslims think violence is "sometimes" justified, and whatever those "sometimes" happen to be, these alarmist conservatives are overlooking a pivotal American value: people have every legal right to hold dangerous ideas. In the McCarthy years of the 1950s, Communism was viewed as such a threat to the American way of life that people were detained and even imprisoned for being 'Communists' or 'Communist sympathizers'. McCarthyism remains an ugly scar on American history for one simple fact: it's not illegal to be a Communist. 

Similarly, it's not illegal to believe that Islamic violence is "sometimes" justified. Just as it's not illegal to be a white supremacist, antisemitic, misogynistic, or to hold any other such contemptible point of view. We may disagree, and disagree strongly, about the justification for religious violence. But as long as those Muslims are law-abiding American citizens, they can believe whatever the hell they want.

Addendum: WND, in what can only be described as some of the dumbest nonsense ever published, also suggests that the reason liberals are sympathetic to Syrian refugees is because they want more votes:
The Pew results also suggested a political reason for a Democrat White House to be pursuing hundreds of thousands of such immigrants to bring to the U.S. 
Pew found that 70 percent of Muslims in the U.S. vote Democratic, while only 11 percent vote Republican.

Golly, why on Earth don't more U.S. Muslims vote republican?

Firstly, the "hundreds of thousands" number is completely made up. The U.S. accepts around 80,000 refugees each year; that's not Syrian, by the way — that's all refugees from all over the world.

Secondly, it takes nearly two years just for refugees to be accepted for settlement in the United States. This does not grant them American citizenship, which could take many more years or even decades. Hence, they do not actually have the right to vote. WND, being the intellectual black hole that it is, is just engaging in more ultrapartisan fear mongering by pandering to the lowest common denominator.

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