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Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think Hardcover – February 25, 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, U.S. public officials seemed to have no idea whether or not many Muslims supported the bombings. This troubled Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton, who felt that "no one in Washington had any idea what 1.3 billion Muslims were thinking, and yet we were working on intricate strategies that were going to change the world for all time." Clifton commissioned his company to undertake the enormous job.

The result is Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations. Representing more than 90% of the world's Muslim community, it makes 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.
* When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.
* Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

The research suggests that conflict between Muslims and the West is NOT inevitable and, in fact, is more about policy than principles. "However," caution Esposito and Mogahed, "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."

Who Speaks for Islam? is an important book that challenges conventional wisdom and sheds greater light on what motivates Muslims worldwide. It is a must-read for anyone committed to creating peace and security in our lifetime.

From the Back Cover

"In these fraught days of heightened tension and increasing hostility, few books could be more timely."
--Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner

"As our world spirals out of control with greater violence and misunderstanding between the West and the Muslim world, Who Speaks for Islam? cuts through the conflicting rhetoric of politicians and pundits and presents the often-silenced voice of Muslims everywhere. I cannot imagine a more important or more badly needed intervention."
--Deepak Chopra, author of Peace is the Way

"The data presented in this book are not only arresting, but indispensable. Who Speaks for Islam? should be required reading for policy makers, journalists, broadcasters, teachers, students, and scholars."
--Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God

"At once incisive and provocative, this book is brimming with valuable insights into what Muslims think about religion, democracy, women's rights, extremism, and Muslims' relations with the West. This is a must-read for pundits and policy makers, specialists and non-specialists, American or Muslim."
--Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future

"Who Speaks for Islam? teaches us about one of the most important issues of our time. The book contains many surprises about how Westerners and Muslims view one another."
--Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God and Academic Director of the Program on Terrorism and the Law at Harvard Law School

"This is an important book. Years after 9/11, politics and quick judgments continue to stand in the way of a clear-eyed view of the Muslim world. Not so for Esposito and Mogahed. They provide powerful evidence and compelling logic that shows Muslims around the world have many of the same hopes and dreams, and face many of the same issues and concerns, as other people do."
--Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism and Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago

"Who Speaks for Islam? could not be more timely. It provides essential insights into the thinking and attitudes of a large part of the global Muslim population on critical issues such as democracy, theocracy, extremism, jihad, women's rights, and the prospects of cooperation or conflict between the West and the Muslim world."
--Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs; founding director, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Gallup Press; 1st edition (February 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595620176
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595620170
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


John L. Esposito is University Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is the editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islam and The Oxford History of Islam, and author of Unholy War, What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, and many other acclaimed works.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A good book, which is especially useful to people unfamiliar with the Muslim world. I would highly recommend it to non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Its positives are that it is especially revealing about Muslims societies and people, capturing their perspectives on a wide range of issues including feminism, terrorism and development; and then secondly in contrasting these perspectives with those of Europeans and Americans. The results are really quite surprising. The third good thing about this text is that it is highly read-able. At only 170 small-ish reading pages of large-ish font size, it takes about a half day to go through.

Its negatives are few. The one that struck me was that the book is based on reems of Gallup data - none of which is presented, even in the appendices. The reader is presented with isolated snippets of data, and I would have liked to see a more comprehensive and robust presentation of data from which to draw my own interpretations. Somebody might also raise the point that this is not really an academic or 'intellectual' book - but in fairness, I don't think either author intended for it to be so.
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Format: Hardcover
Book Review
Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think
by John L. Esposito & Dalia Mogahed

Authors:
Who Speaks for Islam? is a book co-authored by two prominent scholars within Muslim studies. Dr. John L. Esposito identifies himself as a Roman Catholic in his personal life, yet in the academic realm he is a leading expert on the Muslim world. Esposito is a prolific author of over 35 books including What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam and Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. His co-author Dalia Mogahed is a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. Mogahed has led the analysis of Gallup’s unprecedented study of more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide. In fact, the book under review is primarily based on this very Gallup’s World Poll, which took place between 2001 and 2007 with more than 35 nations that are predominately Muslim. They claim that their research represents more than 90% of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.

Audience & Purpose:
Their implied audience seems to be the American population. Their main purpose is to challenge American presuppositions about Muslims in a post-9/11 culture. In a word, they aim to dismantle the common Islamophobia in the West. . They hope to show that “the conflict between the Muslim and Western communities is far from inevitable” (p. xi). In many respects they are trying to present a palatable vision of Islam as a whole. Their stated means of accomplishing this persuasive end is, “Let the data lead the discourse” (xv). Hence the title that suggests this book presents the logical conclusions of the raw data from the Gallup’s World Poll.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book well aware of the articles the authors had already written about their findings. The articles would not give details of the poll results, and I had hoped to see the raw data in an appendix of the book. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

This is not a book of scientific fact; it is an opinion piece masquerading as science. When the authors say that only 7% of Muslims worldwide consider the 9/11 attacks "completely" justified they do not say how many consider the attacks "somewhat" or "mostly" justified. Then, the authors go on to label the 93% who may or may not consider the 9/11 attacks somewhat or mostly justified to be "moderates". This is absurd, and it appears that the reason that the authors do not release the raw data is because they realize that the detailed poll findings would not conform to the spin that they decided to clothe their results in.

An apparent example of question bias: the pollsters asked Muslims their opinion of democracy, and found that the "radicals" were more in favor of democracy than the "moderates." However, they do not illuminate these findings by asking questions about Western values like freedom of the press or freedom of religion, things that Westerners would associate with democracy but that Muslims may not. Could it be that the radicals are pro-"democracy" because they want to use democratic methods to establish a sharia state? The authors do not go down that path.

Most polls will show how the questions are phrased, the order of the questions, and the demographic breakdown of the respondents. This book does no such thing. As such, it is worthless propaganda, and raises far more questions than it answers. My opinion of the Gallup organization has gone down considerably to promote such propaganda as if the authors opinions are proven by a scientific poll.
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Format: Hardcover
Everybody may have a right to his or her own opinion, but this doesn't mean that all opinions are equally right. What separates mere opinion from reasoned judgment, at least when it comes to empirical claims, is a hard and judicious analysis of available data. The more heated the topic under discussion, the more important it is to have facts that back up positions. Otherwise, those who are most passionate, but not necessarily most informed, can carry the day.

Since at least 9/11, American pundits and people in the street (and a President) have made lots of claims about Islam. Everyone who reads the papers or watches television can recite them by heart: Muslims hate Americans because of our freedoms. Muslims despise democracy. Muslims are out to colonize Europe. The more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he or she is to become a terrorist. Muslims want theocratic governments. There's an inevitable and insoluble culture clash between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. And on and on it goes.

The extraordinary value of Who Speaks for Islam? is that the authors, John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed appeal to hard data from the Gallup World Poll (GWP) to examine these and other common U.S. opinions about Muslims. For six years, GWP interviewed tens of thousands of Muslims in over 35 nations, collecting a sample that represented 90% of the world's Muslim population (1.3 billion). The results--the hard data--are not just surprising. They're shocking. They suggest that almost every single thing that Americans think we know about Islam and Muslims are distortions. As such, Who Speaks for Islam? is a bracing reality check that, if read by enough of us, can change minds and policies.
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