U.S. Majority: Religion Used by Extremists to Justify Violence


Global Islamic leaders have issued statements to counter ISIS, which is "distorting the fundamental role of Islam," said Sayyid Syeed, featured in EthicsDaily.com's "Different Books, Common Word." (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)

A strong U.S. majority (68 percent) affirmed that people and groups use religion to justify violent actions rather than religious teachings being the cause of violence, according to a Pew Research Center report.

Sixty-two percent of Protestants (62 percent) affirmed this position, compared to 70 percent of Catholics and 76 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

Only 55 percent of white evangelicals held this view, while 66 percent of white mainline and 67 percent of black Protestants did so.

Twenty-two percent of all U.S. respondents said the teachings of some religions promote violence, with 14 percent specifying Islam.

Among Protestants, 27 percent held this view and 20 percent cited Islam. White evangelicals were more likely to hold these positions (at 32 percent and 27 percent, respectively), followed by white mainline respondents (25 percent and 17 percent) and black Protestants (23 percent and 14 percent).

Twenty-two percent of Catholics affirm this perspective (with 14 percent specifying Islam), compared to 15 percent of the religiously unaffiliated (with 5 percent citing Islam).

In a set of contrasting responses, 49 percent of respondents said they believed at least some U.S. Muslims were anti-American, even as 59 percent stated that Muslims face a lot of discrimination and 76 percent affirmed that it was increasing.

Responses were mixed when asked how the next U.S. president should speak about Islamic extremists, with 50 percent urging caution against criticizing Islam as a whole and 40 percent preferring that he or she speak bluntly even if critical of all Muslims.

Knowing a Muslim personally impacted responses - a lower percentage of respondents with Muslim relationships said Muslims were anti-American, while a higher percentage perceived discrimination against U.S. Muslims, said religion is used to justify violence and believed the next president should be careful not to criticize Islam as a whole for the actions of extremists.

Pew's findings were released on the same day that President Obama visited a U.S. mosque for the first time during his tenure.

While noting that "a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam," he emphasized that this has resulted in a "hugely distorted impression" of the Islamic faith and urged Americans to speak out against the view that these extremist groups are representative of Islam.

"We've seen [Muslim] children bullied ... mosques vandalized," the president noted in condemning anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. "That's not who we are."

The week prior, 300 hundred Islamic leaders gathered in Morocco and issued the Marrakesh Declaration, which emphasized protecting religious freedom of all peoples and condemning Islamic extremists as "criminal groups."

Several Baptists attended the Morocco meeting, and others have praised the declaration.

This declaration continues a long-standing commitment of Muslim leaders speaking out against violent actions done in the name of their religion.

Soon after the shootings in San Bernardino and the attacks in Paris, multiple Muslim leaders in the U.S. condemned the violence.

Since the emergence of the Islamic State, many international Islamic conferences and consultations condemning the acts have been held.

Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, a prominent Muslim academic in Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa - a legal opinion or learned interpretation based on Islamic law - titled, "This is Not the Path to Paradise."

Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances at the Islamic Society of North America, explained to EthicsDaily.com that in the letter bin Bayyah declared the actions of the Islamic State to be "totally un-Islamic."

He emphasized that the terror group is "distorting the fundamental role of Islam" and that global Islamic leaders "have continuously, tirelessly issued our statements and our sermons and our understanding of Islam" to counter and condemn IS.

The full Pew report is available here.

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Tags: EthicsDaily Staff, Islam, Muslims, Pew Research Center


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