Pew Survey on Islam, Violence, and Other Religions

ISIS flag (PHOTO CREDIT: TheGlobalPanorama/Flickr)
ISIS flag (PHOTO CREDIT: TheGlobalPanorama/Flickr)

As debate continues over President Obama’s assertion about the religious nature (or lack thereof) of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, a new Pew Research Center study finds that more Americans across the board believe that Islam encourages violence more than other religions.

Obama announced on Wednesday that the United States would begin training forces near Iraq and Syria to combat the well-organized Sunni extremists. In the same speech, the president argued that despite its name, “ISIL is not Islamic.” “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” he added.

[Note: CT refers to the group as ISIS, which refers to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Because the fighters use Syria to more broadly refer to Lebanon, parts of Turkey, and Jordan, the Obama administration uses ISIL, with the last initial referring to the Levant.]

The statement was widely contested, from the Family Research Council to Sam Harris.

“ISIS does not represent the whole of Islam, or even the majority stream within Islam today. As the president said, ISIS victimizes Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and many Muslims are appalled by the group’s conduct,” wrote First Things columnist Mark Movsesian. “But ISIS has definite roots in parts of the Islamic tradition. For example, its treatment of Christians has antecedents in Islamic history. ISIS did not invent the dhimma on its own.”

Pew’s September survey found that 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants now believe “Islam encourages violence more than other religions.” While this number, one of the highest of any demographic group, has risen 13 percentage points since February, the beliefs of Christians from all backgrounds have shifted against Islam.

For instance, agreement among white mainline Christians has risen even more, from 36 percent in February to 54 percent in September (an increase of 18 percentage points). Agreement among Catholics has risen from 41 percent to 53 percent (12 percentage points), and among black Protestants from 35 percent to 43 percent.

The report also finds that a majority of Americans are “very concerned” with the spread of Islamic extremism at home and worldwide. Following Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011, a record low number of Americans (36 percent) were “very concerned” about Islamic extremism. Now the number has risen to 53 percent for domestic threats and 62 percent for international threats. (Prior to bin Laden’s death, concern was 52% for domestic threats and 49 percent for international threats.)

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Morgan Lee