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Wrong questions

Reader comment on item: Suicide Reversal? Polling the Muslim world

Submitted by Archimedes2 (Canada), Aug 3, 2007 at 11:30

Pew is a good polling agency, but they really should get to know the issues and the nature of the population they are polling, the meaning (to that population) of the words they are using, and how they will be interpreted to the wider audience.

First of all, the vast majority of muslims understand suicide to be forbidden in Islam, but do not recognize the validity of the term "suicide bombing" in the sense we do. As in one famous quote by a Hamas-supporting cleric, "They did not commit suicide -- they killed themselves for Islam".

If you ask questions that leave the study group, do decide the meaning of terms you will get meaningless results. Probably 75% of Hamas, PIJ and Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade would have answered that they don't think suicide bombings are acceptable. That is because they don't call these attacks "suicide bombings" -- that is Haram -- they call them "shahid operations" -- which is perfectly Halal.

I remember last year an article distributed by MEW which quotes a military leader in Iran at a conference in which the 40,000 Shiites who have signed up as suicide bombers against the west is being discussed. He wrings his hands over the situation -- not the potential loss of 40,000 young men in their prime, the evils of organized suicide or the targetting of innocents. He was agonizing over the fact that the West seems incapable of understanding the heroic nature of these people's acts (go figure!) and that they are not simply desperate or suicidal. I am certain that this language barrier has skewed the results.

Second, the poll reflects an understandable but extremely unfortunate fixation our press, and our population, has with the phemonenon of suicide bombing. Indeed, this fixation is the primary goal of these "operations" and it is the press that they receive, through publicity like this poll, that encourage them to continue.

Why not ask a question that will be clearly understood both by the population being studied and by the western audience that needs to know how Muslims around the world regard these actions?

My suggested question: "If a country or group of people show determined and continual resistance to the imposition of Sharia religious law in their region, are you in favour of eventually using military struggle, including attacks on civilians and outright war, to impose the Sharia upon them by force?"

There is another question that needs to be posed, and it deals with the "peaceful Islamist" agenda, and perhaps Dr.Pipes is better able to frame it than I. Why doesn't Daniel offer his services in the framing of questions for any follow-up polls, to avoid the problem caused by different groups of people understanding the same words different ways?

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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