- ISBN13: 9781595620170
- Condition: NEW
- Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.
In a post-9/11 world, many Americans conflate the mainstream Muslim majority with the beliefs and actions of an extremist minority. But what do the world’s Muslims think about the West, or about democracy, or about extremism itself? Who Speaks for Islam? spotlights this silenced majority. The book is the product of a mammoth six-year study in which the Gallup Organization conducted tens of thousands of hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents of more than 35 predominantly Muslim nations — urban and rural, young and old, men and women, educated and illiterate. It asks the questions everyone is curious about: Why is the Muslim world so anti-American? Who are the extremists? Is democracy something Muslims really want? What do Muslim women want? The answers to these and other pertinent, provocative questions are provided not by experts, extremists, or talking heads, but by empirical evidence — the voices of a billion Muslims.
5 thoughts on “Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think”
I took a look at this book in my school’s bookstore expecting one of two extremes, either all Muslims are radicals or all Muslims are pacifists, but hoping for a balanced, unbiased report on the truth. Unfortunately, what we have here is an ‘extreme’ piece, one that claims the majority of Muslims are peaceful people who wish no harm to others. While I would love to believe this, I find it incredibly hard to when presented with the facts. Every poll released shows a majority view believing the west is wrong, that it is justified to murder innocent civilians, and that Islamic law should govern. Another propaganda piece to throw in the garbage. By that I mean get my money back on.
Rating: 1 / 5
As I write this review ( On July 28 2008) the first headline of Google is about three women Sunni suicide bombers who have just murdered in Iraq fifty Shiite religious pilgrims. No doubt these three suicide bombers are a minority among the Sunnis of Iraq and the Sunnis of the world, who disapprove of murdering other Muslims. But the minority sets the tone and creates the reality.
This fact points out the weakness of this present book. It aims to show that the Islamic world is more diverse, more desirous and admiring of Democracy, more eager to learn modern Science and Technology, more deserving of Western respect than has it been given credit for being.It tries to undermine stereotypical views of Muslims as terrorists and suicide- bombers. And it presents much evidence that in the world of opinions Muslims are more moderate, more eager for accomodation with the United States and the West than is generally understood in the West.
But in presenting the results of the Gallup polls which were done in a wide variety of Islamic societies the authors misrepresent the total reality behind Western distate for the Islamic world. They do not point out the tens of areas around the globe in which Islamic groups are in violent conflict with others. They do not focus on the major role in Terrorism which those who adhere to Islam have.
So while their call for greater understanding about, learning about Islam is justified they do not deal with the basic reason why the Islamic world is seen as a threat. Nor do they speak about the passivity of Islamic populations in allowing themselves to be ruled by cruel authoritarian leaders.
They too underplay the whole inciteful and violent side of Islamic media, and their spreading of anti-Western anti- Christian and anti-Jewish views through their populations.
Rating: 2 / 5
Review of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed released March, 2008
Both John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed work for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, which claims as its mission providing data-driven analysis on the views of Muslims around the world. Esposito is known in his own right as a Sunni convert to Islam and a professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, famous for Muslim-Christian interfaith work, some of it funded by the royal family in Saudi Arabia.
This book is a very fast read based on Gallup’s World Poll that seeks to address common, if biased, views of Muslims with the results of the survey claiming to represent the actual views of Muslims. Thus, it cannot be construed as representing an official Islamic viewpoint, but rather the views from a sample intended to represent 90% of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.
Some of the supposedly surprising revelations of this study are practically humorous in a sad, insulting way: one “counterintuitive discovery” is “When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job.” Other similarly hardly amazing tidbits are presented in the course of five chapters: Who are Muslims?, Democracy or Theocracy?, What Makes a Radical?, What do Women Want?, and Clash or Coexistence?
In the first chapter, we learn the basics of Islam, such as that “Muslims pray not only as a religious obligation, but also because it makes them feel closer to God”. A gray box highlighting brief, important facts occurs on many pages throughout the book and one in this chapter tells us Islam means, “a strong commitment to God”, implying that is how the Arabic translates.
In the second chapter we learn results of the survey indicating views that Muslims do not want wholesale adoption of Western democracy in their countries, but at the same time, a majority of Americans don’t either, saying that they want the Bible as a major source of legislation. There is an unmistakable, but overdone, effort to show that American views and Muslim views are much closer than many think.
In the third chapter, we find questionable altruisms like, “The real difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety,” leaving open the possible interpretation that a truly pious person could condone terrorism. This brings to question the definition of piety employed by the authors and the survey.
In the fourth chapter, we learn things such as that while Western women view the hijab as showing inferior status of women, Muslims view lack of modesty in Western women as showing their degraded status.
And in the last chapter, we find out results like Muslims don’t “hate us because of our freedom.” The book concludes with an appendix explaining the scientific design of the poll, how it was conducted, and notes.
The book also draws on numerous other poll results, news articles, and interviews. For example, it refers to a Christian Science Monitor interview of Jenan al-Ubaedy, a female member of Iraq’s National Assembly, in 2005. She told the newspaper that “she supported the implementation of Sharia. However, she said that as an assembly member, she would fight for women’s right for equal pay, paid maternity leave, and reduced hours for pregnant women.” I doubt Ms. Al-Ubaedy would have found the use of “however” as appropriate, as if what she was fighting for in equal pay and maternity leave were in opposition to Islamic law as she understood it.
While the poll itself is statistically valid and possibly even worthwhile for addressing certain misconceptions about Muslims, I struggled to think of an audience that this book would actually reach. Anyone who found the majority of the study results as enlightening is unlikely to be open-minded enough to read the book or believe the poll results, anyway. Further, the authors seem to have several questionable interpretations and views, such as a few mentioned earlier, as if they are going too far to adapt to their perceived audience. It seems to have been written too quickly and with too many questionably worded sentences, such as the one about terrorism and piety or the one about Ms. Al-Ubaedy’s interview, that can allow for incorrect negative impressions about Islam that the book is supposedly aiming to dispel. Thus, the sincerity of the intent of the work is called to question.
If you like reading interesting takes on statistics, such as Freakonomics by Stephen D. Levitt, there is still some enjoyment to be had in reading this book. I could now cite in a dinner conversation that 88% of Muslims polled in the survey support women’s right to vote, or that 80% of Iranians say that bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians are never justified, while only 46% of Americans surveyed agreed, but that you might get a different result if you use substitute “terrorist attacks” in place of “attacks intentionally aimed at civilians.”
I can’t help thinking that a much better book could have been written with the results from the survey than this one. Despite the academic nature of the survey, when I finished the book I felt like I had just read something only pseudo-academic, flawed, off-target for an intended audience, and with questionable intent.
Rating: 2 / 5
Two plus two equals four, sugar is sweet, and most Muslim don’t want to slit the throats of unbelievers. My guess is that you needed neither this humble reviewer nor the Gallup Organization to convince you of those facts.
So to no one’s surprise, when Gallup polled 50,000 Muslims over six years and three continents, and asked them whether they supported violent jihad, the vast majority of respondents — 93 percent — said no. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that percentage to be correct, despite the nagging suspicion that not all backers of jihad would readily cop to their true sympathies when pressed on the subject by a U.S.-dispatched stranger with a clipboard.
The happy finding was cause for much rejoicing in Western media, which, in reporting on the poll, virtually belted out whatever the Arabic equivalent of Kumbayah is (Kumb-allah, maybe).
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 Dalia 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.
Wow. Only seven percent. That’s fantastic. Nothing to worry about, then.
Only 91 million Bin Laden aficionados who cackle at the murders of Jews, Christians, atheists, apostates, artists, and authors.
Only 91 million devotees of stoning adulterers and insufficiently covered womenfolk.
Only 91 million religion-of-peace worshippers ready to either slay Danish blasphemists or celebrate such butchery.
Only 91 million would-be warriors so steeped in spirituality that they cheer when airliners piloted by their brethren slam into office towers, and when bombs placed by their co-religionists literally rip the limbs of off clubgoers in Bali and train travelers in Madrid.
What an encouraging number. I’m hugely relieved, really. How about you?
Rating: 2 / 5
This book uses polls and interviews to show what the real view of Muslims are and the diversity of views within the Muslim world. A book that needed to be written in a time of great misinformation.
Rating: 5 / 5