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Is Bill O'Reilly Correct About A Global Muslim Problem?

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Last October, Fox News TV political commentator Bill O’Reilly appeared on the show The View and stated that Muslims attacked America on 9/11. Outraged, the liberals Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked out of the discussion in protest.

Muslim Protestors

News analyst Juan Williams was also fired from the left-leaning National Public Radio (NPR) after he explained his personal feeling during a discussion on the O’Reilly Factor of being worried before boarding an airplane whenever he sees folks in “Muslim garb”.

Left-leaning people were furious about such statements because they claim that people like O’Reilly and Williams are accusing all Muslims to be terrorists. Instead, liberals insist, Muslim extremists have committed acts of terror. The objection is about the political incorrectness of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and they feel that terrorists ought to be labeled with the “extremists” tag to be fair.

So now if we want to discuss about whether the world has a “Muslim” problem or not, it would be helpful to poll some of the attitudes of Muslim countries in order to see if “extremist” ideas are actually “mainstream”. Thanks to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, we can attempt to make some conclusions.

I will examine this debate in light of four criteria—Support for extremist groups, gender segregation, support for severe laws, and support for suicide bombers.

Point 1: Do “mainstream” Muslims support “extremist” groups?

views of extremist groups chart

The survey, conducted April 12 to May 7 by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, finds that the Palestinian organization Hamas, which, like Hezbollah, has been classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other Western governments, receives mixed ratings across the Muslim publics surveyed. For example, the Hamas and Hezbollah are seen positively by basically half of the population in Jordan, Lebanon, and Nigeria. Turkey and Pakistan, however, seem to strongly oppose these “extremists” groups. On the question of Al-Qaeda itself, almost all of these countries have an unfavorable opinion of Al-Qaeda (especially in Turkey and Pakistan), though it is a bit disturbing that this terrorist group is actually viewed favorably by almost half of all Nigerians!

So based on this point (Are extremist groups mainstream?), I’d give a slight edge to Whoopi and Behar. Score: Behar and Goldberg 1; O’Reilly 0.

Point 2: Views on Gender Segregation.

gender segregation in the workplace

Some of the Islamic countries varied in their degree of vitriolic fanaticism. For instance, Pakistan overwhelmingly supports women's segregation in the workplace. The idea also has mainstream support in most Muslim nations, though not in the more secular Turkey and Lebanon.

I find this trend on the face of it, a little disturbing. I do not believe the mainstream media does a poor job showcasing these Muslim attitudes. Ironically for Behar and Goldberg, if Pakistan had its way, they would be subjected to inferior, second-class citizen conditions (if they would be permitted to work, that is). As usual, partisan women’s groups like the National Organization for Women are silent on poll results like this…probably because none of the respondents in Pakistan were named Sarah Palin. Women’s groups give a pass to the Islamists at every turn, proving their shameful hypocrisy.

Score one for O’Reilly.

Point Three: Support for Severe Laws.

views of harsh punishment

With the exception of Turkey and Lebanon, the Muslim world seems to have a notion of justice that reminds me more of the Middle Ages than the 21st century.

At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion. Majorities of Muslims in Jordan and Nigeria also favor these harsh punishments.

Here is a finding I find most disturbing-- A strong majority in Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan favors killing any person who converts from Islam to any other religion. On this point, Western values such as the rights of the individual and freedom of religion seem to be completely foreign to the “mainstream” people of much of the Muslim world.

Score another one for O’Reilly.

Point Four: Support for Suicide Bombers

muslim views of suicide bombers

The Muslim publics surveyed generally reject the notion that suicide bombing against civilians can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies, but there is considerable support for this kind of violence in some countries. Muslims in Lebanon and Nigeria are the most likely to say suicide bombings can often or sometimes be justified; nearly four-in-ten Lebanese Muslims (39%) and 34% of Nigerian Muslims say that is the case.

Support for suicide bombing has declined considerably over the years. For example, while 74% of Muslims in Lebanon said these violent acts were at least sometimes justified in 2002, just 39% say that is the case now; double-digit declines have also occurred in Jordan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia.

Score one for Behar and Goldberg.

Finally tally—O’Reilly 2 and Behar and Goldberg 2.

With this conclusion I reached from the Pew Center, it seems the debate on “How Moderate is the Muslim World” will not be solved today, though we can make some final generalizations.

• Turkey and Jordan seem to have more modern, less fundamental beliefs than other Muslim nations, especially Nigeria.

• Most of the Muslim world seems to reject extremist groups and support for suicide bombings, which is a good sign for Westerners.

• However, the widespread support for harsh laws, like stoning of those who commit adultery and the killing of those who leave Islam are astonishing to most Westerners.

I don’t know if the world has a “Muslim Problem”, but I can conclude from these results that the much of the Muslim world has a women and justice problem.

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com