Friday, February 29, 2008

What Muslims Want

Did you know that over the past six years, Muslims in 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East have been interviewed for a survey that is part of Gallup’s World Poll?

Well, results of this survey were released earlier this week, and they offer informed, interesting, and, to my mind, hopeful insights into the Muslim world - and, in particular, what the vast majority of Muslims want.

Following are excerpts from Karin Zeitvogel’s news story on the release of this survey’s findings. These excerpts are accompanied by images of Moorish architecture, a term used to describe the Islamic architecture of North Africa and parts of Spain and Portugal where the Moors were dominant from 711-1492. Unique in its ornamentation and beauty, it’s definitely one of my favorite styles of architecture.


A huge survey of the world’s Muslims released Tuesday challenges Western notions that equate Islam with radicalism and violence.

The survey, conducted by the Gallup polling agency over six years and three continents, seeks to dispel the belief held by some in the West that Islam itself is the driving force of radicalism.

It shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington.

“Samuel Harris said in the Washington Times [in 2004]: ‘It is time we admitted that we are not at war with terrorism. We are at war with Islam’,” Dalia Mogahed, co-author of the book Who Speaks for Islam, which grew out of the study, told a news conference. “The argument Mr Harris makes is that religion in the primary driver” of radicalism and violence, she said.

“Religion is an important part of life for the overwhelming majority of Muslims, and if it were indeed the driver for radicalization, this would be a serious issue.”

But the study, which Gallup says surveyed a sample equivalent to 90 percent of the world’s Muslims, showed that widespread religiosity “does not translate into widespread support for terrorism,” said Mogahed, director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.

About 93 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are moderates and only seven percent are politically radical, according to the poll, based on more than 50,000 interviews.

. . . [Muslim extremists] gave political, not religious, reasons for condoning the attacks, the poll showed. The survey shows [these extremists] to be neither more religious than their moderate counterparts, nor products of abject poverty or refugee camps.

. . . Gallup launched the study following 9/11, after which US President George W. Bush asked in a speech, which is quoted in the book: “Why do they hate us?”

“They hate... a democratically elected government,” Bush offered as a reason. “They hate our freedoms – our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

But the poll, which gives ordinary Muslims a voice in the global debate that they have been drawn into by 9/11, showed that most Muslims – including radicals – admire the West for its democracy, freedoms and technological prowess. What they do not want is to have Western ways forced on them, it said.

“Muslims want self-determination, but not an American-imposed and -defined democracy. They don’t want secularism or theocracy. What the majority wants is democracy with religious values,” said [John] Esposito [a professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University in Washington].

The poll has given voice to Islam’s silent majority, said Mogahed. “A billion Muslims should be the ones that we look to, to understand what they believe, rather than a vocal minority,” she told Agence France-Presse.

To read Zeitvogel’s article in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Coming Out in Africa and the Middle East
A Dangerous Medieval Conviction
The Blood-soaked Thread
A Reign of Ignorance and Fear in the U.S.
Tariq Ali Discusses Rudyard Kipling
The Real Fascist Threat in Europe

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you think you have a problem being gay in a world created out of Christendom, just wait til the Muslims feel strong enough to start pressing their theocratic agenda.