What Do Muslims Say?

When Gallup Polls asked Americans in 2005 what they most admire about Muslim societies, the most frequent response was “nothing.” The second most frequent response was, “I don’t know.” Combined, these two answers represented 57% of Americans.

Many of us tend to conflate the mainstream Muslim majority with the beliefs and actions of extremist minorities who tend to get most of the media attention. Nevertheless, we are curious about many things:

  • Why is the Muslim world so anti-American?
  • Who are the extremists?
  • Is democracy something Muslims really want?
  • What do Muslim women say?
  • What do Muslims think about the West, or about democracy, or about extremism?

Over the course of six years, 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.

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think is a book based on those interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims – more than 90% of the world's Muslim community, making this poll the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind.

What the data reveal and the authors illuminate may surprise you:

  • Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
  • Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution and they say religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting that constitution.
  • Muslims around the world say that what they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values – the same answers that Americans themselves give when asked this question.

Vine Street Christian Church invites members, friends, and neighbors to a five-week study group based on the book, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.

We will meet on Wednesday evenings, 7pm – 8pm, starting on September 29 (October 6, 13, 20, and 27). We will read about 30 pages per week and get together to talk about what we discovered and what questions remain for us.

If this is something you would like to do, get a copy of the book from your favorite book merchant and complete the form below to let usknow you are coming. I will serve as convener of the group, and I will be glad to answer any additional questions you might have about this study opportunity.

In 2008, Charlie Rose did an interview with the authors of the study, John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed; watching it may help you decide if you want to read their book with us. Esposito is Professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University and a prolific scholar and author. Mogahed is the Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.