Islam according to Gallup

In CT has an interview with Dalia Mogahed about the book , Who Speaks For Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (Gallup Press, 2008). The idea for the book was born shortly after 9/11, when Donald Rumsfeld was asked how Muslims felt about the attacks on the U.S. He replied, “I don’t know; it’s not like you can take a Gallup poll.” The survey covered 90 percent of the global Muslim population on, among other things, Muslims’ views of democracy, extremism, jihad, and women’s rights, and Americans’ views of Islam.

What surprised you most in your findings?

It was how much Americans and residents of majority-Muslim countries have in common. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that paints a picture of an inherently conflict-ridden relationship. Americans are as likely, for example, as Iranians to say religious leaders should have no part in crafting a constitution. We found that 57 percent of Americans think the Bible should have at least some role in legislation. (Nine percent think it should be the sole source.) This is similar to many majority-Muslim countries where people don’t want theocracy and don’t favor religious leaders being in control, but they do want legislation informed by religious values.

Other questions:

  • What do Muslim women say about Shari’ah [Islamic law]?
  • What stereotypes does your book challenge?
  • “Extremists” and “radicals”
  • What do most Muslims think about apostates?
  • Don’t all four schools of Sunni Islamic law suggest that a Muslim who leaves Islam and embraces Christianity, for example, should be executed?

We have to look at modern interpretations, because Islamic law is a vibrant, ever-changing set of interpretations. Fiqh, or human interpretation of Shari’ah, maps changes with time and place. Look, for example, at Sheikh Ali Jumu’a, grand mufti of Egypt, whose interpretation of apostasy laws is not to take drastic measures. In the past, apostasy was seen as treason because citizenship in one group was defined by faith, and when people left one faith, they had to work against their community. One’s faith today is no longer seen in the same context, because the nation-state has been completely transformed.

  • How do you respond to conventional wisdom that says the Qur’an espouses violence?

. . . Violence is usually politically, not religiously, motivated. Third, terrorist sympathizers or the “cheering section”—the 7 percent who are politically radicalized—are no more religious than mainstream Muslims who abhor violence and say it is morally unjustified. Muslims are as likely as Americans to denounce attacks on civilians. Finally, people defending their position on 9/11—the 7 percent who think it’s completely justified—do so because of political and geopolitical perceptions, not theology. Not one referred to the Qur’an. . .

  • In Who Speaks for Islam? you suggest that the domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was a Christian. Why?
  • How should evangelicals respond to what seems to be the spread of extremist Islam globally?

Evangelicals should respond the way everyone should respond. Understanding the cause of the problem is important. The data clearly show it is driven not by religious extremism but by extreme political ideology. Second, as a human family, look at the extremists as an outside group, rather than as an outgrowth of religion. This builds bridges between people of different faiths all fighting a common enemy. Let’s not forget that Muslims are the primary victims of violent extremism. . . Third . . . Finally, evangelicals should vocally and unequivocally denounce anti-Muslim hate speech. . . . Hateful statements against what Muslims hold most dear are a gift to bin Laden and a slap to mainstream Muslims who. . .

Read the whole whole interview. Better yet, go to the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies where the following more detailed reports are available:

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2 thoughts on “Islam according to Gallup

  1. steph says:

    First I just don’t believe that 9 out of 10 Muslims in the world were surveyed. The findings however are not at all new or surprising – but of course many people are completely ignorant about Islam and it’s good to try and reach those people.

    Next, slightly unrelated, how do you feel about Muslim missionaries coming to America to convert Christians to Islam?

  2. Ben says:

    Like all polls (American presidential polls being the most recent ), this one would take a representative sampling. I’m sure if we read the read the details somewhere they would tell us how many they actually interviewed.

    Re: your question.
    1. I’m sure Muslim apologists already exist in the US (most likely in different forms than formal “missionaries”).
    2. They should be welcome with open arms and true Christian hospitality.

    Despite the unfortunate social and political climate, especially racism against people of Arab descent, America does have laws protecting the freedom of religious expression. (Militant forms of any religion, Christianity included, are a totally separate issue; there’s no room for that.) Everyone should be free to practice their own religions unhindered as long as they don’t interfere with the freedoms of others. That’s from a legal and social point of view.

    More personally as a follower of Jesus, I believe that the truth claims of Jesus should be able to withstand all challenges. As such, we shouldn’t be afraid to have open and friendly discussions about the wide spectrum of beliefs from all around the world; these kind of open and friendly relationships can mutually benefit all of us.

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