Posted by: Martin Fox | June 21, 2008

Survey challenges Western images of Islam

I chose this article to highlight the fact we can’t attribute the characteristics of a vocal minority to a larger group. In this case, the 7%  radical muslims’ views do not speak for the 93% of moderate muslims around the world. Food for thought.

Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership and The Higher Road Initiative.

by Karin Zeitvogel

A huge survey of the world’s Muslims released Tuesday challenges Western notions that equate Islam with radicalism and violence.

The survey, conducted by the Gallup polling agency over six years and three continents, seeks to dispel the belief held by some in the West that Islam itself is the driving force of radicalism.

It shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington.

“Samuel Harris said in the Washington Times (in 2004): ‘It is time we admitted that we are not at war with terrorism. We are at war with Islam’,” Dalia Mogadeh, co-author of the book “Who Speaks for Islam” which grew out of the study, told a news conference here.

“The argument Mr Harris makes is that religion in the primary driver” of radicalism and violence, she said.

“Religion is an important part of life for the overwhelming majority of Muslims, and if it were indeed the driver for radicalisation, this would be a serious issue.”

But 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 Mogadeh, 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.

In majority Muslim countries, overwhelming majorities said religion was a very important part of their lives — 99 percent in Indonesia, 98 percent in Egypt, 95 percent in Pakistan.

But only seven percent of the billion Muslims surveyed — the radicals — condoned the attacks on the United States in 2001, the poll showed.

Moderate Muslims interviewed for the poll condemned the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington because innocent lives were lost and civilians killed.

“Some actually cited religious justifications for why they were against 9/11, going as far as to quote from the Koran — for example, the verse that says taking one innocent life is like killing all humanity,” she said.

Meanwhile, radical Muslims gave political, not religious, reasons for condoning the attacks, the poll showed.

The survey shows radicals to be neither more religious than their moderate counterparts, nor products of abject poverty or refugee camps.

“The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims,” John Esposito, who co-authored “Who Speaks for Islam”, said.

“Ironically, they believe in democracy even more than many of the mainstream moderates do, but they’re more cynical about whether they’ll ever get it,” said Esposito, a professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University in Washington.

Gallup launched the study following 9/11, after which US President George W. Bush asked in a speech, which is quoted in the book: “Why do they hate us?”

“They hate… a democratically elected government,” Bush offered as a reason.

“They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

But the poll, which gives ordinary Muslims a voice in the global debate that they have been drawn into by 9/11, showed that most Muslims — including radicals — admire the West for its democracy, freedoms and technological prowess.

What they do not want is to have Western ways forced on them, it said.

“Muslims want self-determination, but not an American-imposed and -defined democracy. They don’t want secularism or theocracy. What the majority wants is democracy with religious values,” said Esposito.

The poll has given voice to Islam’s silent majority, said Mogahed.

“A billion Muslims should be the ones that we look to, to understand what they believe, rather than a vocal minority,” she told AFP.

Muslims in 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East were interviewed for the survey, which is part of Gallup’s World Poll that aims to interview 95 percent of the world’s population.

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Responses

  1. “Moderate Muslims interviewed for the poll condemned the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington because innocent lives were lost and civilians killed.”

    I would like to point out in this statement the word “Innocent” and comment that even Hitler condemned the killing of ordinary civilians (outside of the Jewish community).
    I don’t care what kind of sweetener you add to the mix, Islam is a violent, bigoted, hateful and vulgar religion. Their answer to ANYTHING they do not like is oppression and/or violence. It is a religion that treats women like cattle as well.

  2. Hello Croixian1,

    Thank you for your blog comment. Given the world events over the past 50+ years, your view would be shared by many people around the world. Every day, we are bombarded with news flashes of extremist killings, bombings, fatwas, etc…

    That written, my Muslim friends from Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Iran, Tanzania (the list goes on) are some of the nicest, compassionate, and reasonable people I have encountered around the world. Their version of Islam (peace, compassion, and tolerance) is much different than the type you see in the media (hate, violence & intolerance).

    For comparison purposes, it’s a bit like comparing Christians like Mother Teresa with Joseph Kony, head of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). A man who proclaims himself a devout Christian and the “spokesperson” of God, yet the LRA is known for murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate in armed hostilities (aka child soldiers). All in the name of a Christian God. Hmm, he and his LRA sure don’t speak for the version of Christianity my Christian friends and I were raised in (peace, compassion, and tolerance).

    In the end, The Center for Global Leadership believes in One Earth, One People, One Global Community. The human race has proven time after time how good we are at killing each other over disagreements and ruining the environment. Perhaps it is time we all figure out how to get along, respect our differences, and provide responsible stewardship for our planet.

    As a famous astronaut told me last year, “…When you are circling our beautiful earth, it is inconceivable that we can’t figure out how to live in peace on such a little planet…”

    Take care – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership and The Higher Road Initiative.


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