Thursday, May 24, 2007

When is a Small Number a Big One?

A recent Pew Research Poll (pdf) found that roughly 26% of American Muslims youths (under 30) believe that suicide attacks targeting civilians in defense of Islam are acceptable (p. 53-54). More interesting to me, while the vast majority of Muslims polled said that suicide missions are never justified, a greater number said that the attacks are "often" or "sometimes" justified (15%) than "rarely" justified (11%). I interpret that trend as evidence of polarization.

Again, the responses of American Muslims in support of suicide bombing are lower than the responses of the Muslim population in Europe. Don't think I'm talking about Islam. I am talking about some radical fringe.

I heard a lady on CNN say something to effect of "the poll shows that three quarters of the most disaffected group of American Muslims, those most prone to radicalization, are opposed to suicide attacks on civilians in every instance."

But when is 25% a small number and when is it a large number? To say that 75% of my organs are functioning is to say that I am dead; however, having my heart beat at 75% of its maximum rate is to say that I am walking briskly.

These numbers do not interpret themselves.

Another number that stood out to me: 40% affirmatively said that Arabs "carried out the 9/11 attacks" (p. 51). Almost an equal number refused to respond. For Muslims under 30, 38% stated that Arabs did not carry out the attack.

Are these numbers large or small?

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