Pew Survey Shows Importance of Screening Muslim Immigrants

Two-year-old Aiden Abdelaziz prays next to his dad Mohamed Abdelaziz (L) during prayers at the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque, December 4, 2015 in Falls Church, Virginia. Members of Congress and media were invited to visit the Friday Prayers at the mosque two weeks after it was attacked with Molotov cocktails and …
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is again exerting a profound gravitational pull on the nation’s political discourse.

His proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country has elicited widespread condemnations from the media, Democrats and most establishment Republicans. The most recent Pew survey of Muslim attitudes around the world, however, suggests that heightened scrutiny of Muslim immigrants is warranted.

All nations, including the United States, have a right and interest in determining who is allowed to emigrate. America, uniquely, has historically been bound by a belief system, rather than demographics or a singular, shared history. The US was founded on the freedom of the individual to pursue their own destinies, as free as possible from government interference or the limits of one’s socioeconomic background.

Many Americans may recoil at a proposal to bar individuals from coming to the U.S. based on their religion, but that doesn’t preclude a system of vetting and screening to ensure that individuals emigrating here share the country’s values.

Four years ago, Pew Research conducted an in-depth survey of Muslim attitudes both in the U.S. and in countries around the world. The Pew survey was a follow-up to a poll it conducted in 2007, providing a valuable baseline to measure changing attitudes. The findings show that, in many areas of the world, Muslim attitudes are very different than the views of the American public. In others, however, Muslim attitudes are very similar to ours.

In Bosnia, just 15 percent of Muslims believe that Sharia law should be the legal framework of a nation. Sharia law is a legal code based on the Koran. A Sharia code would restrict the freedoms of women, limit free speech and make many currently acceptable behaviors illegal. In Iraq, however, 91 percent of Muslims believe Sharia should be the law of the land. In the Palestinian Territories, 89 percent want a Sharia legal code, while only 29 percent of Lebanese Muslims do.

In Palestine, 68 percent of Muslims believe that suicide bombings and other acts of violence against civilians is sometimes justified to defend Islam. Just 5 percent of Muslims in Pakistan believe that violence is sometimes justified. By way of comparison, 11 percent of US-born Muslims believe suicide bombings are sometimes justified.

In Indonesia, just 21 percent of Muslims have an unfavorable view of Al-Qaeda, while in Lebanon, 92 percent of Muslims oppose Al-Qaeda. With a supermajority of Indonesian Muslims holding at least some sympathy for Al-Qaeda, it seems imminently prudent to subject migrants from there to at least some additional vetting.

Among American Muslims, 60 percent were concerned about the rise of radical Islam around the world in 2011. The rise of ISIS and recent spectacular terrorist attacks have likely pushed this number even higher today.

Four years ago, one-in-five U.S. Muslims said they saw support of Muslim extremism within their own communities. Almost half, 46 percent, said Muslim leaders were not doing enough to combat this extremism. Although we don’t have current survey data, fears of Muslim extremism among US Muslims has likely increased since 2011.

The Pew surveys show that Muslim attitudes towards extremism and violence vary widely around the world. In some nations, the Muslim population holds views radically at odds with those of the general public in America. It is not only prudent that the government screen potential immigrants and refugees on these views, it is the government’s duty to do so.