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In Defense of The Center for Security Policy 2015 Poll on American Muslims

On June 23, 2015 the Center for Security Policy (CSP) released the results of a survey of 600 American Muslims entitled Poll of U.S. Muslims Reveals Ominous Levels Of Support For Islamic Supremacists’ Doctrine of Shariah, Jihad.  Three days later, the Bridge Initiative released a response to the CSP study entitled New Poll on American Muslims Is Grounded in Bias, Riddled with Flaws.  Two weeks later (July 07, 2015), the Bridge Initiative article was re-posted in the Religion section of the Huffington Post, under the title Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Trust the Latest Poll on American Muslims.

According to the Bridge Initiative, the findings of the CSP survey, which ‘cast doubt upon American Muslims’ loyalty to their country,’ included the following three takeaway points:

  1. “A majority (51%) agreed that ‘Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.’”
  2. “Nearly a quarter of the Muslims polled believed that, ‘It is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.’”
  3. “Nearly one-fifth of Muslim respondents said that the use of violence in the United States is justified in order to make shariah the law of the land in this country.”

In addition, the Bridge Initiative article asserted that the CSP survey ‘should not be taken seriously,’ while citing the following four critiques:

  1. It comes from an organization with a history of producing dubious claims and “studies” about the threat of shariah, and
  2. Was administered using an unreliable methodology.
  3. Its proponents seize upon its shoddy findings, exaggerating and misrepresenting them to American audiences, and
  4. Falsely claim that the survey data represents the views of Muslims nationwide

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this article is to objectively evaluate whether the three takeaway points in the 2015 CSP survey are accurate (or not).

Note: It follows that if such an objective evaluation provides adequate proof that the three takeaway points in the CSP survey are accurate, then the Bridge Initiative’s assertions that the CSP survey ‘should not be taken seriously’ must be considered invalid (irrelevant).

Analysis Methodology

To accomplish this, I followed the premise that the most reliable approach would be to compare the findings in the 2015 CSP survey with the results of as many other similar independent surveys (and/or statistical reviews) as possible. Thus, a comprehensive search for such surveys provided the following dates and titles (all URL’s accessed July 17, 2015):

February 19, 2006       Poll Reveals 40% Of Muslims Want Shariah Law In UK

August 14, 2006          Many British Muslims Put Islam First

March 16, 2008           Why Shariah?

July 07, 2008               Iranians, Egyptians, Turks: Contrasting Views on Sharia

May 25, 2009              Public Opinion In The Islamic World On Terrorism, Al Qaeda & US Policies

August 13, 2009          New Poll Shows 78% of Pakistanis Support Death Penalty for Leaving Islam

December 02, 2010     Muslim Publics Divided on Hamas and Hezbollah

December 22, 2010     1 In 3 British Muslim Students Back Killing For Islam & 40% Want Sharia Law

August 30, 2011          Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism

November 02, 2011     62% Of Muslims In Canada Want Some Form Of Sharia

October 30, 3012         Guess Who U.S. Muslims Are Voting For?

April 30, 2013             The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society

May 01, 2013              Seventy-Two Percent of Indonesian Muslims Favor Shariah Law

September 10, 2013     Muslim Publics Share Concerns about Extremist Groups

December 13, 2013     Europe: Islamic Fundamentalism is Widespread

April 07, 2014             The Support for Sharia Law Around the World

October 14, 2014         Arab Public Opinion & The Fight Against ISIS

November 12, 2014     The Military Campaign Against The Islamic State In Iraq And The Levant

November 28, 2014     Support For ISIS Stronger In Arabic Social Media In Europe Than In Syria

March 04, 2015            Public Opinion Towards Terrorist Organizations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen & Libya

June 28, 2015               ISIS Has Up To 42 Million Supporters in the Arab World

Results

After a careful review and comparison of these 21 published surveys with the 2015 CSP survey’s three takeaway points, we arrive at the following conclusions:

1.  “A majority (51%) agreed that ‘Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.’”

Overall, an average of at least 64% of Muslims in more than 50 countries worldwide would prefer to be governed by shariah law.  At 51%, the American Muslim community falls right in the middle of the spectrum of global Islamic opinion.

2.  “Nearly a quarter of the Muslims polled believed that, ‘It is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.’”

Overall, more than 20% of Muslims around the world support the use of violence to defend Islam from its enemies. In some parts of the Islamic world, this number is consistently higher than 20%.  However, as with Point [1], the American Muslim community falls well within the middle of the spectrum of global Islamic opinion.

3.  “Nearly one-fifth of Muslim respondents said that the use of violence in the United States is justified in order to make shariah the law of the land in this country.”

The use of violence [Jihad] to make shariah the law of the land is the stated goal of groups such as Al-Nusra, Boko Haram, ISIS, Hamas, & etc., as well as the Quran itself (i.e., see 2.191-193 & 8.59-60).  Support for these Islamist groups varies from a low of 13% to a high of 52%, depending on the particular group and/or country in question.  Once again, as with the two points above, the American Muslim community falls right in the middle of the spectrum of global Islamic opinion.

Conclusion

An analysis of 21 surveys conducted over a 10-year period reveals that the spectrum of opinions within the American Muslim community on shariah law and the use of violence either to punish the enemies of Islam, or to make shariah the law of the land, are exactly the same as the spectrum of opinions held by Muslims in the rest of the world.  Muslims in America are not an anomaly within the greater Islamic community (Ummah), nor do they depart significantly from the beliefs on shariah and/or Jihad that are held by Muslims in the rest of the Islamic world.  In other words, the CSP survey not only represents the views of Muslims nationwide, but globally as well.

Rather than habitually recycling ad hominem attacks against their opponents, while emphatically asserting that the results of the 2015 CSP survey were ‘riddled with flaws,’ the Bridge Initiative should:

  1. Provide an acceptable working definition of Shariah law (which dictates every aspect of an observant Muslim’s moral life),
  2. Conduct their own statistically valid survey, based on this acceptable working definition, and then
  3. Publish the results for the world to see.

Perhaps then, we could begin to build trust, and reduce some of the ‘generalizations about American Muslims ricocheting across the Internet and social media.’  Perhaps then, we could also begin dispelling some of the ‘misunderstanding of Islam’ among the poorly informed and non-equipped general public…that we hear about, so often, and so loudly.

Meanwhile, rather than ignoring an extensive 10-year archive of surveys documenting historical trends within the global Islamic community – trends that fully support the results of the 2015 CSP survey – it seems reasonable that we should expect a much higher level of scholastic integrity from such a prominent and well-endowed institution as the Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.  As per its stated purpose, an improvement in professional integrity would be a much more effective way to build bridges, ‘improve relations’ and ‘enhance understanding of Muslims in the West.’