First Published: 2008-02-16

Book: Who Speaks for Islam?

Majority of Muslim women, men do not see rights and religion as being mutually exclusive.


Middle East Online

By John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed WASHINGTON, DC

This poll is the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind

Extremists and terrorism have too often monopolised the media's coverage and thus the message coming out of the Muslim world. But what do the vast majority of mainstream Muslims really believe, think, and feel? What are their hopes, fears, and resentments? Why is it that a robust anti-Americanism seems to pervade the Muslim world? Is it the sign of a clash of cultures do they hate who we are? Or is it what we do? Rather than listening to extremists or simply relying on the opinions of individual pundits, why not give voice to the silenced majority?

We asked Muslims around the world what they really think and discovered that when we let the data lead the discourse, a number of insights are revealed. The most important finding from our research was this: conflict between Muslim and Western communities is far from inevitable. It is more about policy than principles. However, until and unless decision-makers listen directly to the people and gain an accurate understanding of this conflict, extremists on all sides will continue to gain ground.

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think is based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations. Representing more than 90% of the world's Muslim community, this poll is the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind. The results defy conventional wisdom and the inevitability of a global conflict even as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.

The study revealed some surprising findings. It showed that Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable. Those who do choose violence and extremism are driven by politics, not poverty or piety. In fact, of the 7 percent of responders who did believe 9/11 was justified, none of them hated our freedom; they want our freedom. However, they believe that America, and the West in general, operate with a double standard and stand in the way of Muslims determining their own future.

We are constantly bombarded with images of angry Muslim teens partaking in violent demonstrations or being trained in Al Qaeda camps. This study showed, however, that the vast majority of young Muslims aren't dreaming of going to war; they are dreaming of finding work. Similarly, when asked about their hopes for the future, Muslims of all ages said they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.

The findings also revealed that Muslims across the world want neither secularism nor theocracy. They want freedom, rights and democratisation. At the same time, however, they claim that society should be built upon religious Islamic values and that the sharia (Islamic law) should be a source of law. Simply put, the majority of Muslim women and men want rights and religion, and they don't see the two as being mutually exclusive.

The West will be pleased to learn that nine out of ten Muslims are moderates good news for those optimistic about co-existence. Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims, respect Islam and re-evaluate foreign policies.

The unfortunate news is that there is a large number of politically radicalised Muslims (the 7 percent previously mentioned, which translates to approximately 91 million individuals) that could be pushed to support or perpetrate violence against civilians. Challenges for the West will only grow as long as these Muslims continue to feel politically dominated and disregarded.

Who Speaks for Islam? is available at Amazon.

John L. Esposito is a Georgetown University Professor and Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Dalia Mogahed is a Gallup Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service and can be accessed at GCNews. It was first printed in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.


Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting