According to Pew, fewer Muslims today believe suicide bombing is always or sometimes justified than did five years ago.

This reduction is good news and Pew’s take on it is quite positive:

Dwindling Muslim Support for Terrorism

The marked decline in the acceptance of suicide bombing is one of several findings that suggest a possible broader rejection of extremist tactics among many in the Muslim world. In many of the countries where support for suicide attacks has fallen there also have been large drops in support for Osama bin Laden. For example, the percentage of Jordanian Muslims who have confidence in bin Laden as a world leader has fallen 36 percentage points since 2003 while the proportion who say suicide bombing is sometimes or always justified has dropped 20 points.

But keep it in perspective. It’s good news that far fewer people think this is an acceptable method of achieving political goals. However, using the percentages provided by the Pew poll and each country’s Muslim population according to the CIA World Factbook, we can deduce that 102,876,651 Muslims in the countries listed still find suicide bombing an acceptable option.

Suicide Bombing Table

Few Muslims who believe suicide bombings are acceptable in the abstract will act on those beliefs. However, if only 5% acted, there would be over 5,143,832 suicide bombings. If only 1%, there would be 1,028,766. If a tenth of a percent acted, that would be 102,876. The truth is that while the percentages involved might be small, the actual numbers are significant, especially considering the damage 19 people (9/11/2001) or even 4 people (7/7/2005) can do.

In May, 2007, Pew reported that “by nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) Muslim Americans do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.” The Associated Press spun the headline furiously, trying to find an acceptable angle to present the information that approximately 752,000 Muslims in America did see a conflict between their faith and modern society. Buried in this Pew survey on Muslim Americans on page 54, it states that a mere 5% of Muslims in the United States express a favorable opinion of al Qaeda. However, there are 2.35 million Muslims in the US, so that means 117,500 Muslims in the United States have a favorable opinion of al Qaeda.

The mainstream media generally reports unqualified good news about the attitudes of Muslims, and unqualified bad news about Iraq. They provide context for neither, where context is badly needed. Hopefully the Pew report’s conclusion is true, and that these improvements represent a “rising tide.” But the way the media is covering the story minimizes a serious problem. We should not minimize the problem – we should be finding out what caused the reduction and working to improve on it. Hot Air provides more analysis of the latest Pew survey, taking note of the fact that “as a general but not ironclad rule, the closer a country is to Israel the more suicide-happy they are. The standout numbers are of course for the Palestinians, who continue to set the standard for savagery against which all others are measured.”

Laura Curtis blogs at

Pew Research: Muslim Americans – Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream
Pew Research: A Rising Tide Lifts Mood in the Developing World – Sharp Decline in Support for Suicide Bombing in Muslim Countries
More on the “tiny percentage” of radical Islamists in the PH archives.

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