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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Who Speaks for Islam? Introduction

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| Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3a | Part 3b |Part 4 | Part 5 |

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Cross-posted on Dailykos & StreetProphets

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We recently posted about the findings of a ground-breaking Gallup Poll regarding what Muslims really think. The findings of this study have been released in a book entitled, Who Speaks for Islam, by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. The Gallup organization was kind enough to advance us a copy of this book to review. I recently finished reading this book, and I must admit I was quite surprised, not necessarily at the findings, but at the objectivity with which the results were presented in a simple and effective manner. Given the usual books found in mainstream bookstore like Borders or Barnes&Noble, this is quite possibly one of the best books in that market, if not the best. Moreover, due to the data found in the book, this is an essential read for Muslims, especially in the anti-Muslim post 9/11 environment in which we live.

I would take it so far as to say that every Muslim living in the West needs to read this book.

We will review this book in a 5 part series (one for each chapter of the book) by highlighting some of the findings in the book along with some additional comments.

Introduction

This study is truly one of a kind. It brings to light the actual views of everyday Muslims (i.e. not the crazy people the media hunts down to talk to). The study was conducted between 2001 and 2007 with tens of thousands of hour-long face to face interviews from over 35 ‘Muslim’ nations. The survey sample represents over 90% of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world with a +/- margin of error of 3%. There is nothing else of its kind out there. So if you want to really find out what Muslims think, then you must read this book and look at its findings. Granted, many may not necessarily agree with some of the opinions given, but what is important to remember is that this represents what the vast majority of Muslims actually do think.

One of the points highlighted in the book is how current attitudes and perceptions about Muslims can actually fuel the fire to breeding extremism. Esposito and Mogahed note that “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.”

A couple of the conclusions of the survey may come as shocking to some, for example,

Dream Jobs: When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job.

And,

What Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values – the same responses given by Americans when posed the same question.

The Introduction to the book concludes with a vital foundation, “Let the data lead the discourse.”

See Also: BookTV Video

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at ibnabeeomar.com.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Amad

    April 15, 2008 at 5:17 PM

    This is, as Omar said, an AMAZING book. I also finished reading it recently and we are even discussing a project to send a copy of this book to all 535 congressmen and senators.

    If there is anyone who would like to financially partake in this, please email us using the “contact us” button on the left. If you have ideas and thoughts about such a project, please mention them here.

    This book has the POTENTIAL to change opinions like never before. Because it is no longer mere opinions and subjective discussions. BUT conclusions based on DATA. That makes for a powerful message.

  2. Sara

    April 15, 2008 at 6:38 PM

    I saw this book at Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t realize it would be worth reading. Thank you so much for the review and I look forward to the next parts of the article…

  3. Yasir Qadhi

    April 15, 2008 at 6:40 PM

    Wow… looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

    Realize that many of us don’t have time to read the book cover to cover (even though this is one of those books that I will have to read eventually) so please do a good job of summarizing it!!

    Yasir

  4. AbdelRahman Murphy

    April 15, 2008 at 7:14 PM

    I’m also pretty hyped insha Allah, I think I may scoop the book up from the library and give it a flip-through for myself as well, after finals of course :-O

  5. Amad

    April 15, 2008 at 7:34 PM

    As I mentioned, I think it is MORE important for this book to be read at all levels of influence… so I hope we can get some angles on how to disseminate this work far and wide.

    I would also URGE all bloggers to please link back to this series of articles. If not, then please read the book yourself and do a review. This is wherein we CAN make a difference inshallah!

  6. Tom

    April 15, 2008 at 7:56 PM

    One question for everyone…

    The book and the study define a “radical” Muslim as one who feels the 9/11 attacks were “completely justified.” Muslims who did not say the attacks were “completely justified” were considered “moderate.”

    (See p.1 here: http://media.gallup.com/WorldPoll/PDF/GALLUP+MUSLIM+STUDIES_Moderate+v+Extremist+Views_11.13.06_FINAL.pdf)

    For me, since I know true moderate Muslims don’t believe that the terrorism of 9/11 was justifiable in any way, it seems a better approach would have been to make clear what percentage Muslims felt the 9/11 attacks weren’t justified at all.

    What do you all think?

  7. AbuAbdAllah

    April 15, 2008 at 8:03 PM

    bismillah. congressmen and senators often get free copies of topical books. sometimes the copies are given out by publishers and sometimes by interested groups. you may want to find out if the cost could be shared by groups like MPAC, CAIR, ISNA, etc. i’m not sure if zogby-affiliated groups would relish distributing a gallup-led book, but even the arab anti-discrimination groups should be interested in the work.

    you may also want to get copies of the book into the hands of key staffpeople in key executive and legislative offices. since the staff often write the speeches — better to increase them in healthy, compelling content.

    and perhaps someone should think about sending this book to federal judges including the immigration benches, and the appeals courts. and then there are family court judges — can anyone forget the krasniqi case who has ever heard of it? — where the fates of Muslim children are decided often by judges whose default opinion of Islam equates Muslims with risk.

    in short, there is no shortage of misinformation out there. so from you have written, a good book would be like water washing away filth. it needs to be poured on!

    that said, every poll should be taken with a grain of salt. polling questions can lead to people to certain answers. so if i get to read the book, i would look closely at the questions asked (if they are included).

  8. ibnabeeomar

    April 15, 2008 at 8:17 PM

    abu abdallah – actually this is covered in the book, they were very meticulous with wording so as not to lead people. also many questions were often left open ended, such as the jihad one referenced in the post above. also, in case someone should bring up that people may have been scared to speak their mind, this was covered in the book as well :)

    Tom – i can’t remember if that statistic was covered or not, i’ll try to go back and check, hopefully it will be included in this series.

  9. Erum

    April 15, 2008 at 11:11 PM

    JazakAllahu khair for mentioning this book! As a bit of a data nerd, I find this is quite exciting.

    I work at a research organization and from what I’ve learned, it is more effective to disseminate research findings to policy-makers in the form of a Brief or Fact Sheet that includes the specific points you want to get across using catchy figures and accessible language rather than through research articles or books. It’s a nice gesture to give a copy of the book, but I would reccomend accompanying it with a short fact sheet to get the main points across.

  10. ibnabeeomar

    April 15, 2008 at 11:17 PM

    erum – that’s an excellent suggestion jazaki Allahu khayr..

    and shaykh yasir – jazakallahu khayr for the added pressure while trying to complete the review! :)

  11. Siraaj

    April 15, 2008 at 11:59 PM

    Talk to Harun Yahya’s people if you want to spend money on daw’ah to high level officials – they know how to get stuff out.

    Siraaj

  12. Asim

    April 16, 2008 at 2:13 AM

    Salam,

    also for those who dont have time to read the book..you can see al jazeera english’s interview with the authors: http://youtube.com/watch?v=JGghwUlt8Cc
    part 2: http://youtube.com/watch?v=vmvU1p6qZ_A

  13. Irum Sarfaraz

    April 16, 2008 at 10:20 AM

    Siraaj has put across a very good suggestion. Harun Yahya’s publishers, Global Publishing, would indeed be an excellent source for getting tips on how to disseminate information about the book to every you-know-who not only in the US but around the world. They are pros at this. His latest massive 700+ page 1st Vol. of the 7 Vol. ‘Atlas of Creation’ was distributed not only throughout Europe but to every major university in the US. I personally know people at Global as I translated the ‘Atlas of Creation’ and another book ‘Evolution Deciet’ in Urdu last year. They are a very helpful batch.

  14. Osman

    April 16, 2008 at 12:07 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    I’ve been quite interested in this book for a while. Would you guys recommend this book as a purchase or would borrowing from the library (and thus only a one-time read) suffice?

  15. Amad

    April 16, 2008 at 12:10 PM

    Osman, I would totally say that this is a KEEPER. It will come handy any time you want to talk about what Muslims think or believe or want to write something or just want to convince a friend.

  16. ibnabeeomar

    April 16, 2008 at 12:30 PM

    Shaykh Yaser Birjas told us that the scholars used to say, ‘a book does not shine until it is darkened’ (ie with your notes in the book). my book is defnitely shining :) i think i have noted something or highlighted something on almost every other page of this book.

  17. fais

    April 16, 2008 at 6:55 PM

    Tom, it is possible to have ulterior justifications for 9/11 that have nothing to do with religious zealously. Your question would implicate even non-muslims as “Radical” muslims altering the integrity of the survey. :)

  18. Siraaj Muhammad

    April 17, 2008 at 2:07 AM

    Salaam alaykum Irum,

    since you’re in contact with harun yahya’s group, why don’t you contact them and see what they would think about shelling the dough to purchase and mass distribute the book, insha’Allah? can’t hurt to ask, and they already have compiled a list of many academics (well, at least in the life sciences, but I bet they can do it right quick for politics as well).

    Siraaj

  19. ibnabeeomar

    April 17, 2008 at 2:19 AM

    The authors of the book – John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed – are insha’Allah already working on a project to send out the book to members of congress. jazakallahu khayr to everyone who emailed us saying they would support this type of project, but it looks like it is in place insha’Allah we will keep you posted.

  20. Fatima

    April 17, 2008 at 4:51 AM

    Salaam alaykum Siraaj,

    I know few people of Harun Yahya’s students as well. And you may be sure inchaAllah the Atlas was sent not only to the academics but to a lot of people with different titles (such as: politicians, lawyers, laboratories, libraries, doctors, writers, actors….) InchaAllah they effort to explain the Coran values to the world would realise that way…
    Salaam..
    Fatima

  21. Navaid Aziz

    April 17, 2008 at 9:19 PM

    As salaam ‘alaikum,

    Definitely does look like an interesting read, and am quite anxious to read summaries of the following chapters as well (Omar the pressure is really on now!).

    I’m glad to hear that the book is being sent to congressmen, as well as other political and intellectual authorities, lets hope they actually get around to reading it and doing something positive with what they’ve read. I also believe what Erum suggested is an excellent idea, cause even if they don’t get around to reading the book (I think it’s pretty safe to assume most will just graze through it), the fact/stat sheet can be read in matter of minutes (and this can in fact have a greater impact if the right facts are focused on).

    I was in transit in Washington in 2004 on my way to Houston for a conference, and I actually had the (not so) pleasure of meeting several congressmen and discussing issues about Islam with them. Sadly, not only are most of them clueless…but the even lack the passion of wanting to know or being enlightened. If there is a need to save money, sending the fact sheet alone may be the way to go.

    Looking forward to the following posts! Waffaqaka Allah.

  22. Pingback: Who Speaks for Islam? Part 1 | MuslimMatters.org

  23. Pingback: Who Speaks for Islam? Part 2 | MuslimMatters.org

  24. Pingback: Who Speaks for Islam? Part 3a- What Makes a Radical? | MuslimMatters.org

  25. Pingback: Who Speaks for Islam? Part 3b | MuslimMatters.org

  26. Pingback: Irshad Manji’s Shrill Responses Obilerated by a calm Dalia Mogahed | MuslimMatters.org

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