An Indian Civilizational Perspective

What do a Billion Muslims think?

Since Muslims behave or tend to associate with each other (and expand) with a Pan-religious mindset, it probably makes sense to have a global poll that could understand the thoughts and aspirations of many amongst them. Most of the Muslims point to the several “hurts and insults” to their religious brethren that sometimes makes some members act in an extremist mould.

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A Gallup Poll of the Muslim World surveyed a representative sample of 90 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, the most comprehensive study ever done. The findings are explored in the new book “Who Speaks for Islam?” by John Esposito, Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University; and Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington.

This was an ambitious six-year project that involved hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents in nearly 40 nations, Gallup has looked the perspectives of Muslim men and women – urban and rural, educated and illiterate, young and old.

Below are some interesting findings listed under major categories.

On Islam & Democracy

• Large majorities cite the equal importance of democracy and Islam to the quality of life and progress of the Muslim world. They see no contradiction between democratic values and religious principles.

• Political freedoms are among the things they admire most about the West.

• Substantial majorities in nearly all nations say that if drafting a new constitution, they would guarantee freedom of speech.

• Most want neither theocracy nor secular democracy but a third model in which religious principles and democratic values coexist. They want their own democratic model that draws on Islamic law as a source.

• Significant majorities say religious leaders should play no direct role in drafting a constitution, writing legislation, determining foreign policy, or deciding how women dress in public.

Islam & Women’s Rights

• Majorities in most countries believe that women should have the same legal rights as men: They should have the right to vote, to hold any job outside the home that they qualify for, and to hold leadership positions at the cabinet and national council levels

• Majorities of men in virtually every country (including 62 percent in Saudi Arabia, 73 percent in Iran, and 81 percent in Indonesia) agree that women should be able to work at any job they qualify for.

• In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot vote, 58 percent of men say women should be able to vote.

• While Muslim women favor gender parity, they do not endorse wholesale adoption of Western values.

Radicalism & Islam

• Among the Muslims surveyed, 7 percent condoned the 9/11 attacks. The study terms these the “politically radicalized.”

• When asked why they supported the attacks, the radicals gave political rather than religious reasons. They have a sense of political frustration and feel humiliated and threatened by the West. Those who opposed the attacks often gave religious reasons for doing so.

• The radicals, on average, are not the down-and-out people in society. They are more educated than moderates, and two-thirds of radicals have average or above-average income. Forty-seven percent supervise others at work. They are more optimistic about their own lives than are moderates (52 percent to 45 percent).

• Radicals are no more religious than the general population and do not attend mosque more frequently.

• What distinguishes them is not their perception of Western culture or freedoms, but their perception of US policies. Even radicals say they support democracy. But 63 percent of radicals do not believe that the United States will allow people in the region to fashion their own political future without direct US influence.

Islam & the West

• When asked what they most admire about the West, Muslims pointed to (1) technology, (2) a value system of hard work, self-responsibility, rule of law, and cooperation, and (3) fair political systems, with respect for human rights, democracy, and gender equality.

• What they dislike the most about the West includes: denigration of Islam and Muslims, promiscuity, and ethical and moral corruption.

• What they admire least about their own Muslim societies includes: lack of unity, economic and political corruption, and extremism.

• Most Muslims agree on what the West should do first to improve relations: demonstrate more respect, show more understanding of Islam as a religion, and not denigrate what it stands for. The issues that drive radicals are also important to mainstream Muslims, but they differ in their priorities and the degree of politicization and alienation. Moderate Muslims next hope for Western policies that support economic development. Radicals are more focused on the West discriminating less against Muslims and refraining from interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries.

• As for the actions that Muslims themselves could take to improve relations, those surveyed recommended: respect the West’s optimism and values of freedom of speech and religion, reduce and control extremism and terrorism, and “modernize.”

Source for the story: Christian Science Monitor

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