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American Muslims as part of the electoral kaleidoscope

In virtually every respect, this Pew analysis finds, American Muslims closely resemble African-Americans in their attitudes about religion and politics. They’re serious about religion, "liberal," and moralistic--for the most part, a solid contributor to a Democratic coalition, at least inasmuch as the liberalism trumps the religion (as it does for African-Americans).

I have three questions. First, to what degree is the self-identified liberalism a product of a reaction against the Republican identification with intervention in the Middle East (and support for Israel)? To the degree that it is, I wonder how serious they are about it, since it seems to me that the American presence "over there" is the closest thing we have to a means of "liberalizing" the Middle East.

That leads me to my second question. While there is some evidence that in Europe, life in the West doesn’t transform (or pluralize, if you will) Muslim attitudes, some people have in the past made the case (somewhat plausibly, to my mind) that the Muslim diaspora was likeliest to be a source for the reform of Middle Eastern societies and polities. If and when any of these folks go home, will they bring "American values" back with them, or shed them. In other words, once again: is their "liberalism" simply a product of their opposition to American intervention?

Finally, I know that the sample in the Pew surveys is likely to be too small for finely-grained distinctions, but I’d love to know whether there’s any ethnic heterogeneity in the Muslim responses. Are Kurds different from Palestinians, who are different from Moroccans, who are different from Pakistanis, who are different from Indonesians, who are different from Iranians, who are different from Turks, who are different from Kurds?

Discussions - 9 Comments

If this is the "closest thing we have to a means of liberalizing the Middle East" then I don't think the odds are very favorable.

Would you prefer this or this?

Ah yes, "moralistic" and "a solid contributor to the Democratic coalition." As with African-Americans, the Dems don't mind the moralism, to the extent it exists. They'll condescendingly put up with it. What matter to them are the votes. As for winning Muslims to the GOP because they ought to believe in the attempted liberalization of the Middle East ... that deserves a prize for pipe dream of the year. Like it or not, politics on the electoral level isn't about ideas; it's more about identity. A hard truth, perhaps, but the Pew study is additional evidence for it.

As for the numbers, I think the monolithic (black-level) support for Kerry is more telling than the large number of Muslims who think they're "moderates," or "aren't sure" of their politics.

I see one piece of good news here: Only half of American Muslims, if the poll is right, take the Koran literally.

Note that comparable numbers of Muslims and blacks think they're "moderate." And there are actually more blacks who think they're "conservative" than Muslims who think they're conservative. As we know from black politics, this is perfectly consistent with wholly-owned, in-the-hip-pocket, Democratic voting.

Islam has to change. Islam MUST change. There's no debate on that.

So how?

I see three methods:

1} Divine intervention, there are precedents.... But which of us can rely upon such a divine intrusion on the internal development of that totalitarian creed;

2} Internal reform, but that's nowhere on the horizon, there are NO signs of such reform, at least no serious signs; and

3} A massive jolt from the outside, such as that which Commodore Perry delivered to the Japanese in the mid 19th century, when he forced them to "open" up. And like that which our fathers, "the greatest generation," delivered to the Japanese and to the German.

Take your pick.

I choose curtain number 3. We know that's worked for us in the past; we've done it before, and we can do it again.

But it's going to take far more firepower than GW's feeble "hearts and minds" campaign.

And there's one other danger here that needs to be avoided, DON'T WHITEWASH the teachings, the tenets, the history of islam. Nor whitewash the life story of the founder of that creed.

I believe that about 30% of Muslims in America are native born blacks, so it is not surprising that the overall Muslim population shares many attributes with black Americans.

it seems to me that the American presence "over there" is the closest thing we have to a means of "liberalizing" the Middle East.

The fact that Muslims in America are opposed to "liberalizing" the Middle East gives some clue as to what they would like America to look like in the future.

John, well said, and well observed.

Not to mention their penchant for anti-semitism. That too is a canary in the coal mine, that tells us we're all in the midst of a poisonous presence.

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