What’s the matter with the Muslims in our midst?
The arrests in the British bombing plot of some 24 homegrown Jihadists – including at least three recent converts to Islam—suggest a persistent problem that won’t yield to the normal processes of acculturation and assimilation.
Is there some innate element in Islamic identity itself that makes devout believers dysfunctional and dangerous? Or, as suggested by several papers recently presented to the American Psychological Association, are troubled Muslims merely responding to the groundless bigotry of their host societies in the West?
Psychologist Mona Amer of Yale University Medical School studied 611 Arab-American adults and found that they “had much worse mental health than Americans overall.” In particular, the people in her sample showed alarming levels of clinical depression, with about one half of those she studied showing serious symptoms of this disorder, compared to only 20% of a similar group in the general population. In an interview with USA TODAY, Dr. Amer blamed discriminatory attitudes from the public at large for the deep problems of the Arab-American and Muslim communities. “Muslims may have different kinds of names or dress differently and, especially since 9/11, they’re ostracized more,” she said. According to her study, “verbal harassment and discrimination correlate with worse mental health.”
Concluding that prejudice causes these obvious psychological problems, however, violates one of the fundamental principles of social science: correlation does not prove causation. It’s just as reasonable to assume that Muslims who suffer from depression and other disorders would provoke more discrimination and wariness, as it is to conclude that the verbal harassment or social exclusion provokes more mental illness.
Moreover, some the alleged “bigotry” highlighted by USA TODAY actually represents an altogether rational response to recent developments in the war on Islamo-Nazi terror. No one should feel surprised – or disapproving – that some 31% of respondents to a Gallup Poll said they would feel “more nervous flying if a Muslim man was on the plane.” Considering the fact that nearly 100% of deadly airline incidents over the last twenty years have, in fact, involved Muslim men, this hardly constitutes an unreasonable fear. Nor does it seem unforgivably bigoted that 44% of the public thinks that U.S. Muslims are “too extreme in their religious beliefs,” or that 52% don’t see them as “respectful to women.”
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