The Washington Post‘s On Religion column takes a look at one of the details found in a new study [45-page PDF] released by the Public Religion Research and Brookings Institutes. The study is a wide ranging affair, from which I’ll extract future posts. This aspect looks at ow Americans apply a double standard when it comes to their understanding of religious violence. It contrasts their attitudes toward religion violence committed by Muslims and that committed by Christians.
The study finds that Americans are willing to assume that violence done by Muslims is done by ‘real Muslims’ whereas that done by Christians is only rarely seen as being committed by ‘real Christians’. While prejudice is certainly a large part of the mental calculations – group members dislike pointing fingers at other members of the same group – I think ignorance plays a large part as well. Having little actual knowledge about Islam, they find it easy to slip into stereotypical views generated by media. Which media one watches is a self-selecting choice. That is, people tend to choose media the reaffirms their prejudices, good or bad, in a sort of echo chamber. There’s little to challenge to prejudices, at least in their chosen media. You’d have to search long and hard to find positive images involving Muslims. And those that you find are not being conveyed by major media.
The data is depressing, but there it is…
The American double standard on religious violence
Robert P. Jones
When the news of a bombing in downtown Oslo, Norway, was closely followed by the shocking mass shooting at a teen youth camp on the island of Utøya, major news outlets were quick to pin the blame for the attacks on Muslim extremists. The New York Times briefly reported that a terrorist organization called “Helpers of Global Jihad” had claimed responsibility, while the British newspaper The Sun declared that the events were “Norway’s 9/11.” Hours later, it was clear that these early reports that the violence was related to religious extremism were correct, but the religion with which they associated the violence was wrong. The perpetrator turned out to be a blond-haired, blue-eyed Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, who publicly identified himself as Christian on his Facebook page and also posted online a 1500-page ideological manifesto in which he declared himself to be a “cultural Christian” crusader standing up for Europe’s “Christian culture” against the forces of “Islamization.”
This revelation re-opened a fundamental question: are those who carry out acts of violence in the name of a religion true followers of that religion, or not? A new survey from Public Religion Research Institute, and a new joint report by PRRI and the Brookings Institution, reveals that Americans literally apply a double standard when answering this question, depending on whether the perpetrator is Christian or Muslim. More than 8-in-10 (83 percent) Americans say that those who commit violence in the name of Christianity are not truly Christian. On the other hand, less than half (48 percent) of Americans extend this same principle to Muslims and say that those who commit violence in the name of Islam are not truly Muslim.