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

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Cross-posted on Dailykos & StreetProphets

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