Pew just released the results of the first serious study of Muslim-American attitudes. It found Muslim Americans "to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world." It released the report under the title "Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream."
But when asked the question, "Can suicide bombings of civilian targets to defend Islam be justified?", 13 percent of those ages 18-29 said "sometimes," 11 percent said "rarely," and 2 percent said "often." In all, one in four young U.S. Muslims surveyed agreed that suicide bombing of civilians was at times acceptable. (In contrast, among Muslims 30 and older, 6 percent said "sometimes" or "often," and 3 percent said "rarely.")
Coverage of the Pew survey features many headlines like "Some American Muslims say suicide attacks okay" (AP), "Poll finds some US Muslim support for suicide attacks" (Reuters), and "Are US Muslims cool with suicide bombing?" (Washington Post). 26% of young Muslim Americans saying that suicide bombings are sometimes justifiable is certainly something to which we should pay attention. But some context, please. Look at the results when Pew has asked the same question among Muslims in a number of other countries:
It isn't even close: American Muslims are by far the least supportive of suicide bombing out of any group of Muslims in any country surveyed (except Germany which was similar): 13% say rarely, sometimes, or often. The same question got 24% for the Spanish and 25% for the British. Only German Muslims are overall significantly less likely to support suicide bombing than young American Muslims (British and Spanish about the same) - with the young generally more radical than their elders. Pew concluded that "absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world." It would be nice to see that dimension of the survey covered as heavily as the more alarmist reading, since the large moderate majority would seem to be at least as important as the more radical minority.
update - just to point out credit where due: the Washington Post story today ran under the headline "US Muslims Assimilated, Opposed to Extremism", and in a stunning coincidence explicitly makes the comparison to the other Pew surveys featured in this post. Bravo. Also, text slightly corrected above - I used the figure for "over 30" (9%) instead of the total aggregate (13%) by mistake; doesn't change the point.