Only Half of America Thinks Islamist Militants Aren't Really Muslims

ISIS execution
Islamic State militants stand in a line in the Syrian desert while the lead executioner speaks before the men behead five accused spies in a publicized execution video that was posted to pro-IS media outlets on June 28, 2016. |

While the majority of Americans think self-described Christians who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity aren't really Christian, only half of the public says the same about those who claim to be Muslims and are violent.

Seventy-five percent of the public believes those who claim to be Christians and indulge in violence in the name of Christianity are actually not Christian. But only 50 percent of Americans say those who claim to be Muslims and commit violence in the name of Islam aren't really Muslims, according to a write-up, "Americans' Double Standard on Religious Violence," by two authors from PRRI.

Thirty-seven percent say that such people are actually Muslim, according to PRRI Research Associate Betsy Cooper and PRRI Director of Research Daniel Cox, revealing part of the findings of a 2015 PRRI study report for the first time. 

The two refer to President Donald Trump's campaign promise of fighting "radical Islamic terrorism," and say that "the current administration continues to claim that violence perpetrated by Muslim extremists is unique and a uniquely dangerous threat."

"While Americans of all stripes exhibit this double standard to some degree, there are notable partisan differences," the authors say.

About 75 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats believe that people who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christian. "However, Republicans are far less likely to make these same allowances for Muslims," the authors add, citing that only 33 percent of Republicans believe that people who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are not actually Muslim. However, 55 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents believe that those who claim to perpetrate acts of violence on behalf of Islam are not really Muslims.

"No religious group expresses a larger double standard than white evangelical Protestants," the authors continue. "White evangelical Protestants are the most likely (87 percent) to disown Christian terrorists who claim to be acting in Christianity's name. However, they are among the least likely (44 percent) to say the same about terrorists who say they're Muslim."

Other Christian groups also express a "double standard," Cooper and Cox add. "But it is notable that the gap is smaller than Americans overall."

The report says 77 percent of white mainline Protestants reject the idea that someone can be a legitimate Christian and commit terrorism in the name of religion, and 41 percent reject the idea that true Muslims can commit religious violence. "The double standard is more modest among Catholics—but still present. Seventy-nine percent of Catholics say individuals who commit violence in the name of Christianity are not Christian; 58 percent of Catholics say the same of Muslims."

The religiously unaffiliated stand out as having the "smallest double standard," the authors say, as 61 percent reject the idea that terrorists who claim to be acting on behalf of Christianity are legitimately Christian, and 54 percent say the same of people who say they're acting on behalf of Islam.

Sam Rohrer, the president of the American Pastors Network, earlier told The Christian Post that Democrats' views are down to the "secular humanist mentality that is occupying the West generally, in thinking that all people worship the same God, or there is no God, or all gods are equal."

He warned that if someone does not find a difference between the God of Islam and the God of Christianity, for instance, then they are going to "interpret facts and reality totally different from the way it really is."

Rohrer acknowledged that when it comes to the Middle East especially, most victims of Islamic terror are other Muslims, but pushed back against those who believe that only a very small number of Muslims actually engage in jihad.

"The view for a long time has been that jihadists, wherever they are, are not at all reflective of Islam, and these are only a small number, who don't speak for Islam," he said.

"The unfortunate thing about that is that those involved in jihad are the only ones who are really practicing what the Quran says," the minister argued.

"It's violent all the away around, the total opposite of Christianity, the opposite of what the Bible speaks about. Yet, because there are many who either don't want to know, or don't do their own homework," they come to believe that "well, 'everybody is equal,' when the reality is these various systems of belief are totally different."

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