Deflating Stereotypes: New Study Debunks Link Between Mosque Attendance And Radicalization

According to IPSU, the religious practices of Muslims bear close resemblance to their devout Protestant neighbors – news that should come as a surprise to the Religious Right.

A recent survey by the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding (IPSU) finds that American Muslims and American Protestants have more in common than many people think.

According to IPSU, the religious practices of Muslims bear close resemblance to their devout Protestant neighbors – news that should come as a surprise to the Religious Right.

“What emerged from the results is a profile of a Muslim community that is both pious and patriotic, optimistic and weary of discrimination; a community that is similar to Jews in its politics, and much like Protestants in its religious practice,” the report stated.

IPSU found that 91 percent of Muslims who reported that their faith is “important” to them also said that being an American is important to their identity. Muslims were also more likely than any other faith group to condemn the extrajudicial killing of civilians by U.S. armed forces, and were just as likely to condemn the targeting of civilians by radical individuals or groups.

Nor does the study uncover any evidence that piety reliably indicates that radicalization has occurred. In other words, the American Muslims who frequently attend mosque in America don’t become terrorists.

“There is no correlation between Muslim religious identity, the importance of religion or frequency of mosque attendance and Muslim attitudes toward violence,” it concluded. 

In fact, Muslims who attended mosque regularly were actually more likely to report being engaged with their communities in positive ways, either by registering to vote or by working alongside neighbors “to solve community problems.”

That defies some stereotypes about the relationship between Muslim piety and radicalization.

As previously reported on this blog, these stereotypes sometimes become embedded in counterterrorism strategies. The New York Police Department (NYPD) finally settled two ongoing lawsuits over its secret program of surveilling Muslim neighborhoods earlier this year. Its now-defunct Demographics Unit planted undercover agents in Muslim Student Associations at the City College of New York, Baruch College and Hunter College. Officers also attended local mosques and patronized Muslim-owned businesses and cafés.

The Demographics Unit existed for over a decade and failed to catch a single terrorist. This year’s settlement prohibits the NYPD from spying on communities based solely on their racial or religious affiliation.

But one presidential candidate didn’t learn from the NYPD’s example. After last month’s bloody terrorist attacks in Brussels, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released a statement urging the U.S. government to “patrol” Muslim communities.

“We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence,” he said. “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

It’s little surprise Cruz made this recommendation: His “Religious Liberty Advisory Council” is headed by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. Perkins made headlines last January when he erroneously asserted that Minneapolis contains Muslim “no-go zones” that enforced strict Islamic law.

There have indeed been American Muslims who have traveled to Syria to join ISIS, and a radicalized husband and wife team committed last year’s attack in San Bernardino, Calif. But this does not mean that most Muslim communities have become terrorist incubators. There are no “no-go zones” in Minneapolis or anywhere else in America – a lesson the NYPD learned years ago. And Muslims themselves have taken proactive steps toward addressing signs of extremism in their own communities.

IPSU’s study further weakens Cruz’s position. If there is no evidence to support the surveillance of Muslim communities, then recommendations they be singled out and “patrolled” are based on nothing but bigotry. That’s incompatible with the First Amendment.