The Council on American-Islamic Relations reports that 2015 has produced at least 63 incidents of vandalism and harassment against U.S. Muslims, the most since it started counting in 2009 and three times the 2014 total -- a spot story to pursue.
The biggest spike of such crimes occurred in November, likely a reaction to “Islamists” downing a Russian plane in Egypt October 31 followed by atrocities in Lebanon, Nigeria and Paris that together slaughtered 429 innocent victims and injured hundreds more. Next came the San Bernardino attack that murdered 14 partygoers and injured 22, then the December 15 announcement of an anti-terror military alliance among 34 Muslim nations.
CAIR provides new news. But recycled information can be manna on the red-hot Islam beat as newswriters prepare explainers. The ever-reliable Pew Research Center has assembled prior data for a valuable online report, “Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world.” Thank you Pew.
We learn – or are reminded -- that Pew surveys show 86 percent of U.S. Muslims think violence against innocent civilians is rarely or never justified, compared with 7 percent who think it’s sometimes justified, and 1 percent saying it is often justified.
That’s somewhat reassuring, though the “sometimes” number is worrisome and, by Pew’s estimate of 1.8 million U.S. Muslim adults, 1 percent saying “often” equals 18,000 radicals. Notably, 48 percent of U.S. Muslims think their religious leaders haven’t done enough to oppose Islamic extremists.
Overseas, the rarely-or-never-justified view is held by 91 percent of Muslims in Iraq, but only 39 percent in Afghanistan and 29 percent in Egypt. Pew polling shows Muslims want sharia religious law as the official standard by majorities ranging from 63 to 99 percent in Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and nine nations in sub-Sahara Africa.
Prior to the latest attacks, solid majorities of non-Muslims held favorable views of their Muslim neighbors in France (76 percent), Britain (72 percent), and Germany (69 percent). But when Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries were asked what traits they associate with people in western nations, majorities picked, in descending order of percentages: selfish (a hefty 68 percent), violent, greedy, immoral, arrogant, and fanatical (chosen by 53 percent).
There’s plenty more data there for analysis. Switching to related politics:
* Republican front-runner Donald Trump, a self-identified Presbyterian, has gained support through harsh stands toward immigrants and Muslims, alongside economic and security anxieties all Republicans target. (Among Democrats, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, a Catholic, warned that “anywhere between 5 and 20 percent” of Muslims “have a desire for a caliphate and to institute that in any way possible,” but she later explained that “the overwhelming majority do not support terrorism.”)
* Former New York Governor George Pataki remarked during the December 15 debate that current G.O.P. turmoil rouses thoughts of 1856, the chaotic year when the dying Whig Party split into two “third parties.” The new anti-slavery Republicans absorbed former President Martin van Buren’s Free Soil Party and got 33.1 percent of the presidential vote. Former President Millard Fillmore ran for the American or “Know Nothing” Party and took a substantial 21.6 percent with a tough stance against Catholic immigrants. In 1860, Lincoln’s moralistic Republican platform rejected the anti-immigrant movement and won with only 39.9 percent because the majority Democrats split into three parties.
* Considering current Republican disarray, could Trump win the nomination and reshape the party around such nativism? Or if Trump loses the nomination might he renounce his GOP loyalty pledge (reaffirmed Dec. 15), evade “sore loser” laws and create a strong and perhaps ongoing nativist party? Either way, could the national Republican “establishment” of the past 155 years begin to fade like the Whigs despite party strength at the state level?
“Game Change” indeed. Far-fetched? Perhaps. But depending on how the campaign develops, journalists might run such scenarios past political and religious pundits.
IMAGE: Muslim protesters seeking sharia law in France.