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.
- 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. . .
- Ordinary Muslims (view PDF) العربية
- Islam and Democracy (view PDF) العربية
- Muslims and Americans: The Way Forward (view PDF) العربية
- Moderate vs. Extremist Views in the Muslim World (view PDF) العربية
- Perspectives of Women in the Muslim World (view PDF) العربية
- Muslims in Europe