What A Billion Muslims Really Think

Following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush claimed that Muslims hate America for its freedoms. Since then, 50,000 Muslims in 35 countries were surveyed by Gallup, the largest poll of Muslims ever. The results represent over 6 years of study and are outlined in a new book by Dalia Mogahed and John L. Esposito entitled “Who Speaks For Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think”. The survey was based on face-to-face, hour-long interviews. I’m really looking forward to reading it, especially having read a great deal of Esposito’s literature, but here are some of the preliminary findings I found interesting, as outlined in an op-ed and a BBC article:

– It showed that Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.

– Those who do choose violence and extremism are driven by politics, not poverty or piety.

– Of the 7 percent of respondents who did believe that 9/11 was justified, none of them hated our freedom; they want our freedom. But they believe that America — and the western world in general — operate with a double standard and stand in the way of Muslims determining their own future.

– The vast majority of young Muslims aren’t dreaming of going to war; they are dreaming of finding work. When asked about their hopes for the future, Muslims of all ages said they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.

– 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.

– The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims. But they’re more cynical about whether they’ll ever get it.

– 9 out of 10 Muslims are moderates

– Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims, respect Islam and re-evaluate their foreign policies.


  • if only the West allows Muslims speak for themselves, instead of defining us, as usual! interesting book! I would have anticipated such findings though.

  • Secratea: there is a certain predictability to it, however the picture is quite different when all you know of Islam and Muslims is what Fox News tells you. So this kind of literature and these types of surveys might be beneficial to help lift the veil of ignorance in the western world.

  • John Esposito lectured on interfaith communication at my university last year. He spoke about how the reasons behind the misrepresentation of Islam and subsequently the ongoing attack on it. He went into many details that I can’t recall right now. But he closed with something I remember very well because it clicked right in my mind. He said something along the lines of, if you’re absolutely sure of your belief, then you should never have reason to fear any attack on it. Because it stands strong, untouched and invincible even with no one there to ‘defend’ it.

    One specific verse from the Quran comes to mind: Aya 256 from Surat AL-Baqarah

    “There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.”

    Allah a3lam but the way I understand this verse goes like this: the fact that God says there is no compulsion in religion and then proclaims that the right is hereby distinct from the wrong just indicates to me that those who seek truth will find it with no intervention on our behalf. That is not to say that we shouldn’t defend our religion against any accusations or even contribute to a worldwide understanding of it. What I mean to say, tying this with Esposito’s remark, is that we should never get into a frenzy doing so; this only reflects on us and therefore our religion negatively. You defend; you present your arguments; you take action, but you do it with a calm confidence that speaks volumes of your faith. That’s how I see it at least.

  • It’s not just about Fox News (one of the world’s true evils, together with MTV and shopping channels, if you ask me…) – grasping the root obstacles to freedom in any specific society can be sincerely challenging. What I’m hearing from the above articles is that Muslims around the world are much more deeply concerned with the possibility of a hedonistic – potentially Godless – environment than I ever imagined; an antipathy much more spiritual than merely behavioural. It appears as though Muslims make the choice to live in an undemocratic society until the day denominational sentiments learn to grow together with the democratisation process, while most Westerners take for granted the will to live in a democratic society at all costs during the struggle to imbue it with auxiliary values; the West has no answers, and the East barbarously refuses to stir without them. The irony seems to be that both sides are now beginning to question their system’s auspiciousness – what would you know, modern life is not perfect.
    If I understand the problem correctly, how could Muslims communicate to those they supposedly hate the religious solicitude that they share? I agree with Al on the importance of articulation, because God knows any ignorance in this field is not the result of idleness…

  • Interesting thoughts al., still I think its no need ever to defend a religion, its just a personal issue, I can never find a muslim who believes in things like I do, and I wonder if we can find two who believe in any religion the same way. so its better to put energy in making us learn how to live with the other (who belongs to another religion) than energy in explaining whats and whys in religion. the second option is a waste of time in my humble opinion.

  • Following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush claimed that Muslims hate America for its freedoms.

    I think he said ALQAEDA hated the US for its freedoms.

    Sounds like an interesting read. I’m curious how Muslims think a country on the other side of the planet is stopping them from getting a job in Jeddah, but it is impressive that the ruling classes in their countries have succeeded in convincing them this is the case. An amazing bit of misdirection.

    9 out of 10 Muslims are moderates

    1 out of 10 Muslims is a hell of a lot of extremists.

    What the majority wants is democracy with religious values.

    What degree of oppression are the majority willing to tolerate in order to ensure that their democracy is enshrines religious values.? This is potentially the fault line that can permanently separate Muslim-dominated countries from democracy. In the West, the ability to choose to share a society without holding religious values is considered synonymous with “Liberty”.

    the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims, respect Islam and re-evaluate their foreign policies.

    As a Christian, I recognize that it is up to Christians to change any negative views toward their beliefs through morality, compassion, and integrity. Relious TV con men give us a blackey that we must overcome.
    Maniacal worldwide protests that result in murder over cartoons published in a newspaper that 99.9% of Muslims will not and cannot read, in a country that 99.99% of Muslims will never visit is a serious blackeye that Muslims must over come. It took the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) five months after 9-11 to denounce Osama bin Laden. That is a blackeye that CAIR (and -unfairly- other American Muslims) must overcome.

  • CMARII said: “9 out of 10 Muslims are moderates

    1 out of 10 Muslims is a hell of a lot of extremists.”

    9 out of 10 being moderates doesn’t suggest that the leftover 1 falls into one exclusive category. they could be non-practicing, liberal, fanatic, extremist, et cetera. your logic is faulty.

  • Good one Black Iris.

    CMAR, I am curious as of your logic, why would u consider people who want work and security as necessary linking their inability to do so with the United States?

    It’s largely unrelated. If there are people who do so, I think their rationale would be that many of those regimes are US-supported ; secondly, do you think it is in Israel’s interest that a democratic Middle East unfolds around her? I hugely suspect otherwise.

  • Hello all
    In my opinion, the hate or resentment of muslims and western people is reciprocal. Theoretically, all of them know that the majority of the other “party” does not hate them. But there is a resentment caused by things like nine eleven or the American attack of Iraq etc that lead to fear.
    The fear is based in the human being and helped the human race to survive in the evolution. Even if they all know theoretically that the others also wish to live in peace, they take no consequences for their behaviour and they continue avoiding any contact to the other party. I can state this sort of behaviour around me, in Germany. The other problem is, that most of the people are not interested in the reality. They have their resentment and do nothing to find of the truth because that is more comfortable.
    Greetings from Germany

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