Gallup has a new poll out that sheds some light on American religious views on violence, some of which might be startling. Muslims are by far the least likely among all religious groups to justify targeting civilians, whether done by the military or by "an individual person or a small group of persons." Seventy-eight percent of Muslims say that military attacks on civilians are never justified, while the numbers for Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and atheists hover in the 50s. The only religious denomination that comes close to Muslim disapproval is Mormons at 64 percent.
The number of Muslims who say attacks on civilians by "an individual person or a small group of persons" are never justified even higher, at 89 percent, while the other religious denominations fall somewhere in the 70 percent to 80 percent range.
In a nutshell, Muslims are more likely than any other religious group to disapprove of targeting civilians, whether it's done by the government or by a terrorist group. That means their views are most in line with international law, which prohibits the deliberate targeting of civilians under any circumstances. The finding is somewhat intuitive -- whether we're talking drone strikes or suicide bombings, Muslims are often the most likely victims.
Asked whether Muslim Americans are sympathetic to al-Qaeda, well there's another broad divergence, with 92 percent of Muslims saying no and atheists/agnostics and Jews largely agreeing:
Since Jews and atheists/agnostics make up a relatively small percentage of Americans, that means a rather large number of American citizens think American Muslims are sympathetic to al-Qaeda. There's something ironic about that, given that according to the poll, Muslims are the least likely religious group in the U.S. to justify violence against civilians.