Beliefs Culture

Poll: 1 in 4 Americans say Islamic State represents true Islam

Muslims perform Friday prayers along a street outside al-Husainy mosque before a march in downtown Amman on February 6, 2015. Thousands of Jordanians gathered to show their loyalty to the King and to show solidarity with the family of the pilot, Muath al-Kasasbeh, killed by Islamic State. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ISLAM-POLL, originally transmitted on February 12, 2015.
Muslims perform Friday prayers along a street outside al-Husainy mosque before a march in downtown Amman on February 6, 2015. Thousands of Jordanians gathered to show their loyalty to the King and to show solidarity with the family of the pilot, Muath al-Kasasbeh, killed by Islamic State. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed  *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ISLAM-POLL, originally transmitted on February 12, 2015.

Muslims perform Friday prayers along a street outside al-Husainy mosque before a march in downtown Amman, Jordan, on Feb. 6, 2015. Thousands of Jordanians gathered to show their loyalty to King Hussein and to show solidarity with the family of the pilot who was killed by Islamic State. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ISLAM-POLL, originally transmitted on February 12, 2015.

(RNS) More than a quarter of Americans and nearly half of senior Protestant pastors say the Islamic State terrorist group offers a true representation of Islamic society, according to a pair of new surveys by LifeWay Research.

The findings that indicate many Americans have a dim outlook on Islam come as President Obama sent a formal request to Congress on Wednesday (Feb. 11) to authorize the use of military force to combat the Islamic State. Meanwhile, police in North Carolina tried to determine whether the shooting deaths of three Muslim students were hate-motivated.

Forty-five percent of 1,000 senior Protestant pastors surveyed say the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, “gives a true indication of what an Islamic society looks like.” Forty-seven percent disagreed with the statement, according to LifeWay, a Nashville-based nonprofit Christian research group. LifeWay surveyed only clergy who identified themselves as the top pastoral officials in their organizations.

The pastors had a much darker view of Islam than Americans at large. In contrast, in the second survey, 27 percent of Americans say the Islamic State reflects the true nature of Islamic society.

“People are increasingly antagonistic, and religious leaders are particularly antagonistic towards Islam, and perhaps what people are seeing nightly on TV news is driving this,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “They think about it and say, ‘I see this every night. I don’t want this here.'”

Stetzer said LifeWay decided to probe Americans’ and pastors’ attitudes after Obama declared in September that “ISIL is not Islamic,” part of an effort to undercut the idea that the group represents the religion.

This isn’t the first study to suggest growing distrust among Americans about Islam since the rise of the Islamic State, whose militants have abducted aid workers and journalists, carried out beheadings of hostages and taken control of swaths of Syria and Iraq. Last month, a poll published by the Brookings Institution in Washington found that 14 percent of Americans say the terror group has the support of a majority of Muslims around the world.

What might be most notable about the LifeWay surveys is the strikingly harder views on Islam among clergy, compared with Americans at large.

Sixty-one percent of senior pastors disagree and 30 percent agree with the statement “True Islam creates a peaceful society.” Fifty percent of African-American pastors say Islam can create a peaceful society, while only 30 percent of white pastors agree with that statement. By contrast, 43 percent of the laypeople surveyed agree with the statement, and 40 percent disagree.

Other findings:

  • 37 percent of Americans say they worry about Shariah, the Islamic legal and religious code, being applied in the U.S. Older Americans, those over 45, are more likely to hold that concern than adults 18 to 44. Women (42 percent) are more likely to worry about Shariah than men are (33 percent).
  • 76 percent of pastors say airstrikes against the Islamic State are needed to protect Christians in Iraq and Syria, while 13 percent disagree.

LifeWay polled 1,000 Americans and 1,000 senior Protestant pastors throughout the country as part of the surveys. Of the pastors surveyed, 724 identified themselves as evangelical; 474 consider themselves mainline. Pastors were permitted to consider themselves under both labels.

The survey of Americans has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the margin of error for the pastors’ survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

(Aamer Madhani writes for USA Today.)


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Aamer Madhani


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  • Lifeway Research’s work must be taken with a heaping portion of salt. They have very specific Christian sectarian agendas to their work.

    All it shows is there is a significant number of Americans don’t know squat about the situation at large.

    I bet if they polled American Muslims with the same questions, the results would be a lot more stark. I would guess the overwhelming majority would say ISIS does not represent their beliefs.

  • ISIS is doing today what Mohammed and his followers first did when they financed Islam by raiding caravans and then expanded their new “religion” across North Africa, often at the expense of existing Jewish and Christian communities that were swallowed up in Islam’s wake.

  • So even by the standards of the Islamic faith, they are a bit behind the times. If anyone acted in accordance with much of the behavior of many depicted in the Old Testament, they would be locked up.

    Do we need to go into detail about how other religions were spread by the sword or are you satisfied with that little bit of “All Muslims are evil” hysteria”?

  • Among many problems with this statement, the idea that Mohammed expanded Islam across North Africa is by far the most incorrect. He had DIED before Islam had even arrived in Egypt.

    Learn history or be quiet.

  • Yes, please do go into the data regarding “how all religions were spread by the sword” to see if your own preconceived notions match up with reality. Please compare the number of battles and causalities to see which religion has killed the most throughout it’s existence. And after that, please look into the data regarding the spread of other non-religious human philosophies by the sword as well (such as communism, and national socialism). It might also be good to look at the data related to Darwinistic social engineering endeavors such as eugenics, abortion, and forced sterilization.

    I’m sure your findings will be enlightening to us all. 🙂

  • As long as the questions asked whether ISIL/ISIS/IS/LMNOP represents “a” true representation of Islam rather than “the” true representation of Islam, I don’t see a problem with answering in the affirmative.

    Insisting that ISIL/ISIS/IS/LMNOP bears no relation whatsoever to Islam, as Obama and others are doing, is blatant No True Scotsman stuff. It’s just silly.

  • Anyone quixotic enough to deny that Christianity spread largely through conquest and empire building is not going to be worth wasting time with lengthy history lessons. So I am not going to bother. You feel entitled to your own facts. So be it.

    Btw cute attempt at strawman’ing by including “all” to my more generalized “other religions spread by the sword”. It shows a real dishonesty in the level of discourse here. I didn’t even mention Christianity. You just felt the need to whip out some canned argument nonsense in defense.

  • Forth Valley, you’re post contains the same kind of intolerance one finds in Muhammadism. I mean who are you to tell anyone about history and be quiet when you have accepted religious propaganda about the spread of Islam? It doesn’t take actual war to frighten communities into conversion when they are told they must convert or die like others had who resisted the Muhammadan armies. I’ve been on internet religious forums for years now trying to talk rationally to Muhammad believers and find it’s impossible. These people are thoroughly brainwashed by Muhammad’s method of injecting only his ideas into each Muhammadan believer’s head five times a day. It’s not going to be easy to de-program Muhammadan believers because they are our modern idol worshipers along with fundamentalist Bible Evangelicals and both groups do not think rationally but emotionally and are thus dangerous groups for freedom loving people.

    Americans are right to worry about ISIS and Muhammadism as ISIS does show what can happen when Sharia Law rules and there is no tolerance for anyone’s beliefs outside the one dead man’s. We cannot allow Muhammad’s totalitarian fascist “religion” to get established in America as is because it contains and promotes not only hate speech urging Muhammadans to kill people who don’t go for the idol, Muhammad and the other idol, his book, the Quran, or the other idol, the invisible ghost of Muhammad, Allah, who thinks and commands exactly like Muhammad would, there being no way to tell the two apart by non-Muhammadans. I use the term “Muhammadans” vs. Muslims as I actually like the term “Muslim” and the spiritual concept behind the word “Islam” which Muhammad didn’t know and never followed. “Islam” contains the idea of surrendering one’s self to God as Peace. Muhammad left the “Peace” part out as he didn’t seem to know that “salaam”, the Arabic version of “shalom”, is derived from the ancient pagan Venus gods of Jerusalem, Shalom being the Evening Star, and symbol of rest and peaceful conclusion of the day.

    There are real Muslims in the world, the Ahmadiyyah Muslims who filter Muhammad’s words through their Messiah who more or less told them to just ignore Muhammad’s nasty words of war and killing and murder of unbelievers and concentrating on Muhammad’s words of peaceful society. And it works for them although of course “real” Muhammadans can’t stand their idol being shown up by another man so Ahmadiyyahs are persecuted like crazy by Shiite and Sunni Muhammadans.

    Also, do not be fooled by American Muslims who do act very nice when they are in minority communities but watch out when they get majorities. Then you see real Muhammadanism coming out as witness in Britain and Europe. Muhammad was a religious dictator and his religious is religious fascist totalitarianism and if we value our freedoms we will never let Muhammad idol worshipers to establish religious dictatorship of Sharia Law anyway in America. Our fathers and forefathers fought to block such tyranny and we must too or pay the price of another world war round with the equivalent of fanatical Communists brainwashed to the max to make war against everyone not accepting their monomanias.

  • Abrahamics like to brag that they follow “monotheism” and one God only, but once you do a little homework on the one “god”(s) you quickly discover these “one’ gods are composed on early other pagan gods. For instance, the Jewish religious war challenge in their motto: “Hear O Israel, our God is one.” is a joke because the name “Israel” was used to capture three different highly worshiped gods of that region– Isis, RA, and EL– so that three different tribal groups could meld into one peoples Israelites. Three gods in one. Also, a warning to those who think Hebrew definitions are true to their etymological origins of words. Not so, as Hebrew is the world’s most intensely manipulated language made to conform to religious ideas like in the name “Israel” to hide its pagan god origins. This word deception is all over the place in Hebrew such as “Melchizedek” told to us to mean “king of Salem” when it is derived from Moloch worship where Moloch is the same thing as the Great King of War, “Moloch” = “melech” Hebrew for king. Zadok refers to high priests in Judaism so we have really Melchizedek as a high priest of Moloch who serving a famous war god honors Abraham’s war victory. “Benjamin” is said to mean “Son of my right hand” when it really means “sons of Yamm”, Yahweh’s earlier Canaanite incarnation before EL changed Yamm’s name to Yah or Yahwe.

    The Gentile Church Fathers weren’t slow to follow the pagan god capturing of Jews by capturing Rome’s top god, the Invincible Sun, by Jesus stealing his and most sun god’s birthday on Dec. 25th. Many saints in Catholicism are really pagan gods become christianized as saints. Judaism and Christianity are replete with god capturing efforts as Abrahamic religions are really manuals for making war against all your neighbors not believing the way your tribe does.

    Get rid of Abrahamic religions as this is the only way to world peace.

  • The answer is somewhere in between.

    On one extreme is President Bush who after 9/11 called Islam a “religion of peace” and John Kerry and others today who deny that ISIS is practicing Islam at all.

    On the other extreme are people who say that ISIS is a routine picture of what Islam is.

    Both extremes are inaccurate. ISIS goes way beyond Islam and its severe depredations — including mass rape and torture — are condemned by the Koran. At some point, it crosses over into complete nihilistic sadism for its own sake which is closer to Nazism.

    But on the other hand, the mainstream Muslim belief in jihad, that there is a duty to get rid of any government in the world which is either not Muslim or insufficiently Muslim, is a prescription for plenty of war and wars, and explains why, today, most of the wars being fought have one or both sides that are Muslim.

    The answer is two-fold. First, the nihilistic extremes of ISIS are not Muslim and should not be deemed Islamic. But second, ISIS is connected to Islam and highlights the need for us to support Muslims in the world who are serious about reforming their religion from within.

  • Like most, where is your data and facts??? And on the rare occasion they try, its just a one sided attack, I wanna see real evidence and stats from both sides, I’ve done my research, and I’ve read both books

  • Stephen, the Muslims who have come all the way to America are on the whole a better group than those who settled in western and central Europe. For one thing, Europe’s closer to Muslim-majority lands, so the journey was easier. Also Europe has far more generous cradle-to-grave welfare systems than America does.

    Put those two facts together and what you get are Muslim immigrants to America who have come here to succeed economically and build a better life for their kids. We already have Muslim families who have been here for generations and are fine.

    In other words, we generally get the better people than Europe does, including Muslims.

    A third factor is that our society is far more willing and able than European societies to integrate immigrants into our mainstream, because we are and always have been a nation of immigrants.

    That’s not to say we don’t have any Muslims who are trouble. We do, but the numbers and percentages are nothing like Europe’s.

    The thing we do have to worry about is the next generation of Muslims, because so many new mosques are being financed with Wahhabi funding. That’s a red light for the future.

    But for the present, America is filled with Muslims who are hardworking, nonviolent, decent human beings…..They are light years better than a big percentage of their European counterparts.

  • True, but Islam followed in his footsteps to continue the killing and rape, and the Quarn is on his side, Islam is just plain violant, with killing and rape , hell and weird Mo even wore Aisha’s dresses to gain better revelation, he kiss boys toungs, seen the sun set in mud, had more wives than he said was OK, and at 53 had sex with Aisha when she was 9, just sick, look at David Woods debates, absolute slaughter fest and soo many debates and videos, and the worst part is, I look it all up and its all found in the Quarn and had it’s,
    The s why ppl call Mo a sick pedo

  • So Larry, which religions are you condemning as violent? Hinduism, Buddhism or Judaism? And of course not Islam, who you have defended vigorously. Am I the only one who smells hypocrisy here?

  • In its 20 centuries, much of the time, Christianity has been spread through “conquest and empire building.”


    But for a surprising amount of time, it wasn’t.

    That also is true.

    For the first 3 1/2 centuries, from its beginnings as a tiny sect to its exponential growth across the Roman Empire, Christianity spread by itself, without any help from government or conquests or empire building of any kind.

    In fact, during that entire time, the powers that be, mostly Rome and local officials across the Empire, ranged in attitude to mildly hostile to murderously opposed.

    In fact, what led to the church-state combine in Europe was the Roman Empire’s decision under Constantine and his successors to co-opt this enormously spreading faith and harness it as a unifying factor for the Empire.

    Then, and only then, did it begin to spread through conquest – once the state got its grubby paws into it.

    And for the next thousand years, Christianity’s spread was typically connected with conquest and empire building.

    But….over the past several hundred years, as religion and state began to become more separate, beginning with forces unleashed by the Reformation and continuing with the Enlightenment, conquest became progressively less a factor and simple nonviolent missionary work more of it.

    Most important, Christianity has spread faster through this voluntary effort over the past century than it did in any prior century.

    So while for at least half its history, Christianity has been spread at least with the help of conquest, for nearly the same amount of time before and after, it has been spread through the simple preaching of the Gospel, without force. And it is during those times that it experienced most of the most dramatic growth of its history.

  • Jack, I hope you’re right and I’m wrong as I have both Muhammadan American friends and Ahmadiyyah Muslims. But I tell you truthfully, I would never let Muhammadans, Shiites or Sunni, install their Sharia Law which I still highly suspect even most American Muslims still want to do if they could. Sharia Law is outright totalitarian religious fascist dictatorship and has no place in America. I don’t think it’s possible for intelligent people to remain enthralled with Muhammad after critically examining Muhammad’s words and matching them to real life situations. The man was a product of his times and those times had zero comprehension of why human rights and laws protecting them are so important to society. Ahmadiyyah’s show how a Muslim can read Muhammad’s book and come away peaceful. It’s a trick of the mind that their Messiah taught them which is simply ignoring all the satanic verses of Muhammad’s war manual the Quran and concentrate on all the peaceful verses. It’s way too hypocritical for me to swallow but Ahmadiyyahs do and they are the Muslim equivalent of Quakers and good people. I have no beef with Ahmadiyyah Muslims.

    I do predict it will be Muslim women who bring about a total Islamic Reformation to bring out the best in Islam and chuck the bad stuff, just like we Jews had to chuck Mosaic Law which if any Jew practiced fully would land him in prison likely. All the Abrahamic bad religious ideas have to be composted before we get relief from constant Abrahamic religious warfare going on somewhere in the world at all times. Every day people are being killed or threatened with prison or their human rights denied in the name of Abraham’s god, that Moloch monster desiring burnt firstborn sons..

  • Stephen, I agree with you about Shar’ia law: It is incompatible with our Constitution, our liberties, and our way of life, and that’s one big area where I draw the line. I oppose Shar’ia at every point. We should give it no quarter anywhere.

    I’ve met Ahmadiyyah Muslims and they’re wonderful people. I can’t judge their theology from a Muslim standpoint because I’m not a Muslim nor a scholar or historian of Islam.

    I think their messianic element is odd, but again, as people, they seem fine.

  • You know, I think it would very good if Americans and Europeans too learned the difference between Ahmadiyyah Muslims and Sunnis and Shiites who members join the killer ape Reaver version of Islam. (“Reavers” refer to an interesting parallelism between the berserko cannibal killers made that way from “Pax” (= “Religion of Peace”) given secretly to the whole planetary population turning the vast majority into literal dead heads and then really dead while a small percentage were turned into these Reavers and out to kill, kill, kill. It’s in the sci-fi movie, “Serenity”, great stuff for sci-fi fans of which I used to be one for decades but stopped after leaving atheism behind when God came a knocking many years ago.

  • Western leaders should publicly praise Ahmadiyyah Muslims more and maybe the Muhammadans might get the message their religions of Muhammad are too violent prone and anti-freedom to be tolerated in modern democratic human rights protecting societies. It’s very telling that it took another Messiah to mellow out Muhammad’s religion in practice. Celestial Torah Christianity is based upon the way God is evolving the Humanitarian Archetype through time to guide humanity from being just human beings to becoming our potential, truly humane beings. This is the essence of the Messiah Message from God Most High, that relationship coming most clearly through our Jewish linage (often despite what official Judaism preached or preaches) which is why it is said “salvation is of the Jews”.

  • Say, who or what controls the avatar image on our comments? Can the one somebody else selected be changed by the commenter?

  • @Mohan
    Although you are trying sarcasm, ALL OF THE ABOVE were spread by conquest.

    Judaism-Do you remember reading those chapters of Exodus concerning the reclamation of the Holy Land from the Canaanites? I guess not.

    Hinduism-Created largely and formed through the various incursions of the Subcontinent by groups coming in from all sides. The caste system was created as a way to separate conqueror from conquered.

    Buddhism-Buddhism is not an exclusive religion. It openly subsumed native religious beliefs into its own. Spread through China, Japan, and Southeast Asia through connection with monarchies and formation of various empires.

    Jack already gave a primer as to how Christianity did so.

    ” And of course not Islam, who you have defended vigorously.”

    I did not say that at all. I merely said that its spread was no different from others. One should not feign surprise that a religion is spread by conquest as you do. It makes you look either ignorant or dishonest.

  • Except for about 400 years when it did not expand much further. Especially once the Muslim world began to be colonized by Europeans from the 19th Century to 1940’s. All you are telling me is you would rather sling cheap attacks at a religion than be informed of the situation.

    In fact Islamicism as you know it is not even a particularly old idea. Up until the late 1980’s the overwhelming majority of the “Muslim world” were secularist and nationalist in nature. Islam being pushed into the background in favor of modernity.

    Before the end of the Cold War, terrorists from those areas were mostly radical leftists or areligious nationalists (Like the PLO and successors). It wasn’t until the 1979 Iranian revolution that fundamentalism started becoming a global phenomena. The Saudis tried to out-Islam the Iranians with their own sectarian terrorists.

  • “In other words, we generally get the better people than Europe does, including Muslims. ”

    The US also doesn’t openly antagonize them either. Separation of church and state and free exercise of religion cuts through a lot of the animosity which European governments produce. We don’t radicalize our Muslim populations, we integrate them.

    Also our immigration system has real forms of naturalization/citizenship that most European countries don’t. Citizenship by birth pretty much guarantees an integrated 2nd generation for immigrants here. None of the guest worker nonsense you see in Continental Europe which only results in multigenerational slums.

  • The concern about Sharia in the US is ignorant nonsense. Separation of Church and State prevents any religious law from being applicable in any real sense. It is simply a right to contract.

    If you understand religious freedoms, you understand its limits as well. What the responses showed is that more than 1/3 of Americans polled don’t know a damn thing about how our laws work.

    The US has a long history of using religious laws as a form of voluntary arbitration (subject to judicial review). Most notably Jewish Courts.

    They do not involve anything beyond minor civil disputes or religious matters. Both parties have to willingly agree to be bound by the religious court’s rules. (coercion would negate its ability to bind) Its merely a form of contractual alternative dispute resolution. Disputes over the religious court’s rulings can be challenged if there was some issue as to whether both parties voluntarily agreed to using them.

    Anyone who thinks Sharia law as applied in Saudi Arabia, with its hand chopping and stoning to death, can be done in the US, is delusional or just ignorant. It is telling that a lot of the arguments tend to come from people who do not appreciate Separation of Church and State. Most notably Christian Dominionists. People who want to set up their own version of such religious legal power.

  • The problem with shar’ia no matter how it’s defined is its ultimate context. That context is a religion which has no history of setting clear boundaries between religion and state. Christendom had the same problem but the difference is in canonical texts. The Koran is of little help here. Not so with the Bible. It’s not only compatible with such boundaries; it really demands some boundary in order for faith to be genuine and hence salvific from a Christian standpoint, rather than coerced and hence fraudulent and worthless for salvation.

    Freedom requires ample space between what is considered legal and what is considered moral. This space is a key trait of western democracies. Unfortunately, it is not a trait of the mindset of Islam. And until moderate Muslims gain enough power to reform Islam so it can speak for some separation, sharia law or its applications are going to be a problem. There are moderate Muslims who are practically begging us to draw as clear a line as possible against sharia for that very reason. They do not want unreformed Islam to have anything like sharia courts here or anywhere. These are Muslims speaking.

  • :,,,perhaps what people are seeing nightly on TV news is driving this,” said Ed Stetzer.
    Or, perhaps, the SBC’s decade-long investment in Islamic ‘experts’ like Ergun Caner is paying off.

  • EVERY major religion has trouble with the separation of church and state. (Many Christians here talk of the term as a “myth” or dredge up dominionist fictions ala David Barton). It is something imposed upon religious authorities against their will or by minority faiths seeking to fight off sectarian discrimination.

    Attributing such things to Islam’s text is short sighted and self-serving. Christianity in practice has never been satisfied with such boundaries. Outside of the Anabaptist sects, limits on political power of Christianity has always required imposition from the outside.

    Instead of waiting for religious reform, we can do what has been working throughout history. Support secular government and laws. Avoid the entanglement of any religion with the apparatus of state.

    Sharia is only a major worry to people in the US who do not understand or appreciate secular government. It bespeaks of public ignorance and deliberate misinformation by those whose goals are not much different from Islamicist fundamentalists. In this country Sharia is not anything different than the Halakha “courts” already in place.

  • While your “the name ‘Israel’ was used to capture three different highly worshiped gods of that region – Isis, RA, and EL – so that three different tribal groups could meld into one peoples Israelites” is interesting, it’s also disputed (as via the link below), and I wish you’d cite some definitive reference for it.

  • Sir Winston Churchill generally regarded as the greatest ever Englishman who understood Islam very well from fighting the Mahdi’s army in the Sudan wrote in his famous book,The River War, of 1899 about that ideology. “Islam is as dangerous in a man as rabies in a dog” and “No greater retrograde force exists in the world” From my acquaintance with this ghastly ideology his words are very true.

  • What nonsense! In the 1890s the extremely powerful Islamic leader the Mahdi in the Sudan very nearly took over Sudan and Egypt until he was defeated by a British army. How do you explain the emergence of extreme Islam in the Sudan,Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran,Mali etc,etc.

  • You are all wrong islam is the right region
    You guys are in a pile of lies the 9/11 is fake it wasnt the muslims it was some of americas who planned for all this