Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Americans Still Confused about Forms of Islam

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Americans Still Confused about Forms of Islam

Article excerpt

A week after 9/11, President George W. Bush told a hurting nation: "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace."

Faced with a tsunami of hellish news about the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and the Levant, President Barack Obama updated that soundbite this past fall: "ISIL is not 'Islamic.' No religion condones the killing of innocents. ... ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple."

The problem, of course, is that Islamic State leaders keep serving up quotes such as the following, part of the judgments rendered by the leader of recent rites to behead 21 Coptic Christians, filmed on a beach in Libya.

"The sea you have hidden Sheik Osama bin Laden's body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood," said the executioner, as he pointed his knife at the camera. "Oh, people, recently you have seen us on the hills of as-Sham and Dabiq's plain, chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time. ...

"Today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message." No wonder many Americans remain uncertain when asked questions about Islam -- such as whether the Islamic State represents one approach, or even the dominant approach, to Islam today. Some are even concerned that Sharia, or Islamic law, may find its way to the United States, according to new surveys conducted by LifeWay Research.

"From all of the questions we asked, we would summarize that a little less than a quarter of Americans have a strongly held belief that Islam is dangerous by nature, a little less than a quarter have a strongly held belief that Islam is peaceful by nature, and over half of Americans don't share one of these strong opinions or are unsure what to believe," said Ed Stetzer, LifeWay's executive director.

While the "somewhat agree" and "disagree" numbers vary from question to question, there is no doubt that the "not sure" numbers are "definitely higher than we typically see," he added.

In particular, White House insiders can see that "the whole 'the Islamic State is not Islamic' idea is not winning the day," said Stetzer. …

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