But 26 percent looms large when it describes the number of American Muslims, ages 18-29, who support suicide bombings "in defense of Islam" -- one of the sensational, if sensationally underreported, findings of a recent Pew poll.According to Pew, the total Muslim population in America is 2.35 million, 30 percent of whom are between 18 and 29. By my figuring, the suicide-bomb-approving cohort works out to 183,000 people. The poll also tells us that 69 percent of younger American Muslims say suicide bombings are never justified. While representing a majority almost as great as the percentage of American voters who favor border enforcement, 69 percent in this particular case is wholly inadequate; indeed, a strikingly poor showing.
In the case of the immigration bill, the poll reflects public opinion pertaining to a political process, a no-holds-barred, expletive-laced, free-for-all that, loathsome as it may sometimes seem, remains democratically rooted in a nonviolent contest of ideas, politics and flim-flam. In such a context, one-quarter of anything pales next to three-quarters of anything.
In the case of suicide bombing, however, the context changes. According to Pew's data, one-quarter of younger American Muslims approve of the presence of skin-ripping, skull-crushing, organ-piercing violence in civilian life as a religious imperative -- "in defense of Islam." (The Pew pollsters declined to define "defense of Islam," but having lived through Pope Rage, Cartoon Rage, Koran Rage, Satanic Verses Rage, etc., I think it's safe to say this is a rather broad category.)
Such approval for religious violence is not just another unfettered political opinion finding expression in a poll-taker's tally. On the contrary, the fact that a significant young chunk of American Islam believes such violence has a place in society indicates something closer to the end of unfettered political opinion. It may signal the beginning of physical coercion as a factor in the American political process. Which helps explain why the 69 percent figure is no consolation prize; only unanimity is acceptable here.