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Obama’s Bad Math on Islamic Terrorism

by Josh Gelernter     •     National Review

Obama SmirkObama says 99.9 percent of Muslims reject terrorism. His math is bad.

Since the Paris attacks last week, a lot has been made of the Muslim world’s overwhelming disapproval of terrorism. Let me toss in my two cents:

There are 3,500 Muslims in the U.S. military. Muslims have fought for our side in all of America’s major wars. There are decorated Muslim soldiers buried in Arlington.

There are Muslims in the Israel Defense Forces — all of them volunteers. An Israeli Muslim officer, Major Fehd Fallah, says he became a Zionist after visiting the death camps in Poland as a teenager. Now in his 30s, he is described by an Israeli colonel as “one of the best officers in the IDF.”

Muslims serve loyally in Britain’s armed forces too — as of last February, according to the Telegraph, there were 480 of them. But, as the Telegraph points out, that’s 120 fewer British Muslims than fight for ISIS.

Muslims are no more fundamentally bad than Christians or Jews. But it is not true that, as President Obama has said, “99.9 percent of Muslims” reject Islamic terrorism.

Obama’s 99.9 percent figure is demonstrably false. Pew Research has polled the issue extensively. In surveys of the Muslim populations of nine majority-Muslim countries, plus Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank, an average of 57 percent have an unfavorable view of al-Qaeda, not 99.9 percent. Thirteen percent have a favorable view of al-Qaeda, not 0.1 percent.

The same proportion supports the Taliban. One in four of the Muslims polled supports Hezbollah. For those who need a Hezbollah refresher: In 1984, it kidnapped the CIA’s Beirut station chief, William Buckley. For 15 months, Hezbollah slowly tortured Buckley to death. The CIA received videos from Hezbollah that showed Buckley “close to a gibbering wretch. His words were often incoherent; he slobbered and drooled and, most unnerving of all, he would suddenly scream in terror, his eyes rolling helplessly and his body shaking.” His remains were eventually discovered dumped on the side of a road. One in four Muslims in the Muslim world supports Hezbollah.

One in three supports Hamas. If you need a Hamas refresher: On March 27, 2002, the Park Hotel in the Israeli city of Netanya was holding a Passover meal for mostly elderly Jews who had no family and nowhere else to go for the holiday. Several were Holocaust survivors. A member of Hamas walked into the hotel dining room and detonated a suicide vest, killing 30 and wounding 140 others. The Palestinian Authority dedicated a soccer tournament to the bomber’s memory. One in three Muslims in the Muslim world supports Hamas.

In Turkey — which is a member of NATO — one in four Muslims believes suicide bombings are sometimes justified. More than one in two Muslims believe this in Egypt and Jordan; more than two of three believe it in Nigeria.

The situation is not much different among Muslims in Western countries. In Britain and Spain, one in four Muslims believes suicide bombings are sometimes justified. One in three believes it in France. Slightly more than one in ten believes it in the United States (per a Pew poll from 2011). According to a poll conducted by a Georgetown Islamic Studies professor and a Gallup pollster, more than one in three Muslims worldwide believe that the 9/11 attacks were “somewhat,” “largely,” or “completely” justified (23.1 percent say “somewhat”; 13.5 percent say “largely” or “completely”).

According to CBS, polling shows that “almost one in four British Muslims believe that the [2005] 7/7 attacks on London were justified.” According to the Financial Times, polling shows that more than one in three British Muslims see Britain’s Jewish community as a “legitimate target as part of the struggle for justice in the Middle East.” Not Israelis but British Jews. Their Jewish neighbors. One in three.

According to the BBC, more than one in four British Muslims agree with the statement: “I have some sympathy for the motives behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.” According to a major Turkish newspaper — the Hürriyet Daily News — one in five Turks believes Charlie Hebdo’s murdered cartoonists “got what they deserved.”

When a position is held by one in five, one in four, one in three, it’s part of the mainstream. According to Gallup, one in three Americans believes abortion should be illegal even in the first trimester; one in four Americans believes it should be legal even after the first trimester. The proportion of Americans who believe abortion should always be illegal is the same as the proportion of French Muslims who believe suicide bombings are sometimes justified. The proportion of Americans who believe abortions should be legal after the first trimester is the same as the proportion of British Muslims who believe the 7/7 attacks were justified. How many pro- and anti-abortion acquaintances do you have? Which of those views is at the fringe of American society?

I whole-heartedly believe that Muslim pro-terrorists are in the minority — but it’s a large and powerful minority; not a tenth of 1 percent. Pretending otherwise, for the sake of being sanctimonious, accomplishes nothing. Imagine if Muslims did shun terrorists the way Christians shun the KKK. At the risk of sounding sanctimonious myself, a little healthy shunning would make the world a much safer and much better place. It’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility — but wishing won’t make it so.