Someone should do a book about suicide as a weapon of war. From Masada to kamikazes to Sept. 11, suicide has been a petrifying tool in asymmetrical warfare, mostly because it symbolizes an entire enemy army for whom death is not frightening.
Now a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has found that almost one-fourth of Muslim-Americans under 30 think suicide bombings are justified in some circumstances. Of the 2.35 million Muslims in the USA, that amounts to more than 500,000 people who can rationalize suicide bombing.
These aren't displaced Palestinian refugees in a Gaza camp. These aren't brainwashed children in a Pakistani madrassa. These aren't young men and women who grew up poor and uneducated in some of the world's richest countries. These aren't even al Qaida-trained fanatics.
They are high school kids in Iowa, Vermont and ... Southeast Texas. They are college students on campuses all over the country, maybe the college your child attends. They are young professionals of Muslim descent living just down the street from you. And they think there are some good reasons why someone might strap on an explosives-laden belt and walk into a crowd of people ... a school bus or a mall or a sports bar or a local festival ... and blow themselves up.
That's the bad news. The good news, according to the survey, is a much bigger part of the picture, including:
g Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live.
g A large majority of Muslim Americans believe that hard work pays off in this society. Fully 71% agree that most people who want to get ahead in the U.S. can make it if they are willing to work hard.
g Athough many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society. And by nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.
g Roughly two-thirds (65%) of adult Muslims in the U.S. were born elsewhere. A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries, but many also come from Pakistan and other South Asian countries. Among native-born Muslims, roughly half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam.