The Washington Post headline--"Most in Poll Back Outreach to Muslims"--is bad enough. That's because "outreach" is one of those gooey words that suggest concession, appeasement, and endless couch sessions to determine "why they hate us."
The poll data that pops out at me as the worst news of the story, however, are the answers to the following question:
"Q; Every religion has mainstream beliefs, and also fringe elements and extremists. Thinking of mainstream Islam, do you think mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims, or is it a peaceful religion?"
Love the way the question's lead-in statement cues up a "tiny band of extremists" answer. But, OK--the question itself is valid: Does mainstream Islam encourage violence against non-Muslims, or is it a peaceful religion? What I learned early on after 9/11 was that "mainstream Islam" does indeed encourage violence and other depradations against non-Muslims (and other Muslims, depending). And folks, this isn't rocket science. Here are the answers:
In January 2002, 57 percent said Islam was a peaceful religion. And no wonder, given the relentless propagandizing of George W. "Islam is peace" Bush, beginning on 9/12/01. (Insert Abu Qatada here.) Fourteen percent said Islam encourages violence. Twenty-nine percent had no opinion.
In September 2003, 46 percent said Islam was a peaceful religion. Hmm--Islam losing altitude. We'd been in Iraq about six months; in Afghanistan since the previous fall. Palestinian Muslim terrorists had engaged in a pre-fence pattern of suicide bombing attacks on Israeli buses and cafes, familiarizing Westerners with the death-cult spectacle Islamic "martyrdom." Thirty-four percent said Islam encourages violence. Twenty percent had no opinion.
Flash forward to today.
Now, 58 percent say Islam is a peaceful religion. Twenty-nine percent say Islamic encourages violence. Thirteen percent have no opinion. (No opinion! How is it possible at this stage of the game to have no opinion?)
Taking stock here: The number of people who believe Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims (not to mention domination and subjugation of non-Muslims, which, of course, the poll didn't) slipped 5 points. Even so, this group has doubled in the last seven years, which is something--although it still represents less than one-third. Meanwhile, the number of people who believe Islam is a religion of peace (repeat after me...religion of peace...religion of peace...) came roaring back, increasing 12 points! That means that between January 2002 and April 2009, the number of people who believe Islam is a religion of peace actually went up a point. Chalk one up for their side (below).