47 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2008
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.
98 of 135 people found the following review helpful
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.
Let me just mention two sets of data that go counter to two popular opinions about Islam. One has to do with sharia and the other with freedom of speech (and civil liberties in general).
The U.S. perception is that Muslims want to establish legal systems based exclusively on harsh sharia, or religious laws. But in fact, polled Muslims indicate something different. In most countries, only a minority of respondants want Sharia as the only source of law. In only 5 countries--Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh--do respondants want Sharia as the only source of law. Most respondants think that an ideal legal system is based in part but not exclusively on Sharia. Ironically, a 2006 survey revealed that a full 46% of Americans think the Bible should a "a source," and 9% think it should be the "only" source, of legislation. 42% of Americans think religious leaders should be directly involved in writing laws, and 55% think the idea is awful--almost exactly the same figures about Muslim religious leaders and the law that come out of Iran (pp. 48-49).
Another common assumption is that Muslims dislike free speech, and the worldwide protests against the now infamous Danish cartoons of Mohammed are frequently cited as evidence. But vast numbers of polled Muslims insist that they admire many Western civil liberties. Their resentment against the U.S. isn't its freedoms so much as what they perceive as "the West's hatred and denigration of Islam; the Western belief that Arabs and Muslims are inferior; and their fear of Western intervention, domination, or occupation" (p. 141). So what drove the protests against the Danish cartoons for most Muslims wasn't a hatred of freedom of speech, but shock at what was perceived as disrespect of a religious figure venerated by Muslims. Interestingly, many non-Muslims agree that freedom of speech should be limited when it comes to ridiculing religious figures or using racist slurs. 57% of (non-Muslim) British and 45% of (non-Muslim) French thought the Danish cartoons shouldn't be protected by freedom of speech. Similarly, more than 75% of both populations would forbid cartoons making light of the Holocaust, and 86% of both would disallow racist cartoons (pp. 142-145). Once again, things just aren't as simple as the one-liner "Muslims are against freedom of speech" makes them out to be.
Are there genuine differences between Muslims and non-Muslims? Of course there are. But understanding wherein real differences as opposed to imaginary ones lie is the first step toward genuine dialogue. Who Speaks for Islam? paves the way for that initial step. Highly, urgently, recommended.
33 of 47 people found the following review helpful
This book nose-dived to a three and even a two as I was confronted with what appeared to be a Saudi-USA sponsored propaganda piece that did not properly consider India (largest Muslim population after Indonesia) and that addressed what Muslims thought without being explicit about US misbehavior, what I think of as Dick "Not the Virgin" Cheney's "immaculate conception" of the most amoral, costly, and destructive global war in our history. Bless him--had he not taken the Republic over a cliff and into insolvency, the two thirds of the voters who have tuned out the two party spoils system ("you pay, we'll make it legal to steal") would not be coming back into 2008 steaming mad and with both feet.
However, I persisted, and ultimately this book settled at a four. What I found was a series of offerings that allow this book to be a very fine "Muslim 101 Lite" for the general public. I totally admire the reviewer that has listed more in-depth works for consideration and have urged him to edit the review to use the Amazon feature that allows links to the pages for each of those books.
I also detect a real disconnect in that the book lists all Muslim countries up front, but the fine print says the survey only covered the 10 predominantly Muslim countries, and that list specifically excludes India, which has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia, and in my mind that discredits the study by perhaps 20%.
Highlight provided early on by the authors:
+ Muslims do not see West as monolithic (and also see distinctions between Americans, America, US Government, US military, and the bellicose presence of US forces in their countries). I found this also in a Strategic Communication survey across the 27 countries in the US Central Command Area
+ Muslim majority, and especially women, want jobs, development, opportunity, not jihad and certainly not US occupation or corruption
+ Muslim silent majority rejects attacks on civilians (but I would say the book does not do as well as it could on showing that they also feel USA "deserved" 9-11--regardless of let it happen or made it happen allegations). Today the USS Cole belligerents got a free pass and we are reminded that it was Bill Clinton that took Madeline Albright's advice to ignore the attacks on Khobar Towers (Iran), two Embassies (al-Qaeda?) and the USS Cole (al-Qaeda?).
+ Religious moderates are in the majority, consider democracy a FOREIGN concept, and look to find ways to accommodate faith, family, and state without their being exclusive or compartmented. One could even say moderate Muslims are pre-disposed to be holistic!
+ The one thing the West could do to improve relations with Muslims is to show more respect and press for more understanding (in both directions).
+ Majority favor religious law as a source of legislation, but do not want clerics to have a direct role in drafting the constitution (I am reminded of how Israel went too far toward extremism when it yielded to its religious extremists--and of course Israel used the tactic of terrorism against the British to good effect, and ignored Gandhi's observation that "Palestine is to the Palestinians as France is to the French.")
+ My valuation of this book takes a definite leap upwards as I appreciate three facts that come together:
- Within the limits of prostitution toward those who pay their bills, the Gallup book does a good job--but I have BLAND in one section--of raising hard truths that those in power have no interest in, but could be helpful to voters.
- Each section has little gray boxes worth a look.
- Each section ends with key points summarized.
+ The book ultimately loses one star because it does not cite many books for context and when it does, tends to go with the discredited Fukiyama and the discredited Blair. This is an undergraduate reading that needs several more layers of study, and hence I recommend the other books suggested by an earlier reviewer.
+ I am totally absorbed by the book's account of how the Pope, with the best of intentions and relying on his top "experts," made many mistakes in his speech attempting to reconcile with Islam, and was so told by over 100 Muslim scholars. This drives home both the limits of experts embedded with any leadership figure, and the importance of multicultural appreciative inquiry. The three candidates for President of the USA today are out of touch with citizens and out of touch with reality because they are giving stump speeches instead of leading nation-wide conversations on the ten high level threats to humanity outlined in A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility--Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change and the twelve policies that must be recovered from the special interests that hijacked them to steal from the many for the benefit of the few. See also The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
+ The book does cite Professor Pape's Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism and adds primary research to the effect that the radicalized are not poor or illiterate, but rather educated and moderately well-off. This was my own finding in 1976 when I did my first Master's thesis on the prediction of revolution. The book astounds me in noting that while only 7% of the Muslim population is radicalized, this number is NINETY ONE MILLION. The book also documents the plain fact that the primary motivation for suicidal terrorism is almost invariably FOREIGN OCCUPATION.
+ Page 84 lists the Muslim perceptions surveyed has of the USA, we learn that they are:
- Ruthless (68%)
- Scientifically & technologically advanced (68%)
- Aggressive (66%)
- Conceited (65%)
- Morally decadent (64%)
The book does a very good job of addressing how the civil rights conflict is closer to the Muslim-Christian-Jewish conflict, calling this a clash of cultures (to which I would add, a clash of economic corruption and predatory looting versus commonwealth exploitation by, of, and for indigenous peoples) and specifically discounting the clash of civilizations as the model. Readers interested in the whole question of belief systems can find the Technical Preface by Robert Garigue free online or at Information Operations: All Information, All Languages, All the Time.
The book does well at portraying Muslims world-wide as feeling under siege from the USA, and concludes from its primary research that Muslim anger is based on US foreign policy and its effect on their own peace and development. This is not rocket science, but I assure you, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Madeline Albright, Condi Rice, even Strobe Talbott--they are NEVER going to come to grips with the fact that US foreign policy today is lunatic, out of control, costly, and totally out of touch with how to wage peace at one third of the cost of war. See for example Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
The book ends on a note that suggests that both Muslims and Christians deeply want and need more erespect and understanding at a public diplomacy level, but the book is also quite specific in noting how US public diplomacy (and I would add, Strategic Communication) is completely out of touch with reality. You can no longer manufacture consent or use propaganda to mislead the majority of the world. As Joe Trippi points out, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything--Trippi is a genius, but I would note that we have moved one step beyond--cell phones, not the Internet, are the primary intellectual, emotional, cultural, and asymmetric warfare tool of choice today, one reason why the National Security Agency is freaking out--they cannot build a computer that weights next to nothing, runs on almost no energy, and can do petaflop calculations per second--the human brain (these are the last three words in Jim Bamford's book, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. US intelligence is "inside out and upside down" as I explained in Forbes ASAP, and desperately needs a draconian redirection of funding from the %60B we spend on the 4% we can steal, to rebalancing the use of all national powers and especially education, rule of law, and infrastructure here at home, and public diplomacy as well as open source or public intelligence that can exploit all information in all languages all the time.
I liked the details on the survey that are included in the appendix.
On balance, the book does a good job within the constraints of funding, US management, and the need to pander moderately to an Administration that has no regard for reality at the White House level (our flag officers and top civil servants and some political appointees such as the Secretary of Defense have rediscovered their integrity and are fighting a holding action for all of us here at home).
I would like to see two new surveys: one of all the countries they missed, and one of India alone, ideally done in partnership with the government of India. I regard India, Malaysia, and Turkey as well as Indonesia as major success stories, and the US Government does not seem to be ready to recognize that these four countries can and should be major partners in offering peace and development instead of corruption, occupation, and exploitation, to all Muslims everywhere.
Three other books within my limit of ten:
Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage)
Web of Deceit: The History of Western complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush
123 of 185 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2008
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.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2011
Very insightful presentation of an important perspective in the development of the American Muslim community. It recognizes the diversity, ethnically, racially and socio-politcally, and socio-economically of the Muslims in the United States.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2011
This book gives what the Muslims really thinks about Democracy and Radicalism. How do they view America and the West, and what Muslims women thinks. This book is better than what is on CNN, MNBC or any other news agencies.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2010
The idea to use a Gallup poll to portray the views of most muslims, is a good one. I would have preferred a presentation of the main results with some critical discussion of the result, though. That is not what the book is.
The book has a clear message: There is no clash of sivilizations, it is all misconceptions, and mostly it is people in the west who do not understand Islam. Selective results from the poll are used to support this claim. The poll is a minor part of the arument though. Typically, Esposito argues for several (kindle-) pages, and then in the end present a few number to furhter support his argument.
As a presentation of the results from the poll, I'd give the book only two stars. But the author does a decent job in making his argument, so as a book arguing that the clash of sivilization is grossly exaggerated it would be a four or five star. Hence it got three.
25 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2009
Here readers have finally been given the unglamorous truth, and that is that the US and the West are not engaged in a life and death war of civilization with the East. Instead we are faced with a people that we don't understand, and instead of our media and political leaders providing us with accurate descriptions of the Muslim people we are provided caricatures. These caricatures sensationalize this conflict and ensures that viewers will tune in and voters will turn out, but what it hasn't provided us with is an intelligent, adult conversation in which we the consumers are treated as sophisticated human beings capable of complex thoughts beyond sloganeering. This study hasn't really offered anything revelatory other than to suggest that over a billion Muslims are in fact human beings and are not a monolith.
This study confirms what most level headed analysts and experts on the East and Muslims have been saying for years, and that is just like every social, religious or ethnic group a certain percentage is going to be radical and dangerous while the vast majority will then reside somewhere in the middle. This means that, while we still face a significant threat from radical Islam, we face a much more significant threat if we exacerbate this problem by focusing all our efforts on smashing this dangerous minority at the risk of alienating the greater majority. The main thing readers need to take away from this book is that we can win the war of ideas without having to fight real wars on the ground.
One of the most important points of this book was that it really verbalized one of the areas that has been a source of misunderstanding for us in the US, and that is, while Muslims may envy our representative governments, they do not want to emulate our society. In my own research I have come across this sentiment many times. What Muslims wish to accomplish is a hybridization of the East and the West. They wish to incorporate those aspects of Western civilization they admire with their own set of values, so what we have to remember in the West is that liberalization for these people will not look like our evolution, but instead will be something wholly new that represents a completely different culture. Our acceptance of this fact will help us win the war of ideas, and will evince some much needed humility from the West.
I think another telling aspect of this study is that it shows that education and knowledge of Muslims have in fact not seen a significant increase in the US since Sept. 11. The fact that a large portion of the US population remains quite ignorant of the Muslim faith and its adherents means that those people who wish to preach the war of civilizations find a large and receptive audience for that message. The problem with this is that for us to win the larger war of ideas we need to help Muslim moderates any way we can. This goal will be helped if we in the West moderate our tone, and express in categorical terms that we are not at war with Islam. If we can verbalize this and then transfer that to our real actions then we will have gone a long way in taking away the enormous propaganda boon for these very radicals we are fighting.
What this book shows us is that we are not as far off as we might think. It shows that there is a common ground where a dialogue and an exchange of ideas can take place. We now have to decide if we want to attempt to fight the war of ideas, or are we going to continue trying to win this battle militarily. If we choose the physical war a quick glance at the history of the military misadventures of the West in the Muslim world may be in order. With even a cursory glance at the wars the West has fought in these areas the picture does not bode well for our future success if we attempt this route. In the end the strongest weapon in the West's arsenal is our ideals, and it is this battlefield in which our greatest advantage lies. This is not simply a peacenik's naïve suggestion that we need to arm our military with flowers and the world will love us. There are a lot of bad people out there who we will never convert, and these people will have to be dealt with either on the criminal level or the military level. There are people who want to kill us and will not stop until they do, but we cannot defeat these few people by alienating more than a billion people who do not hate us. We have to win both wars, and if we exclude the war of ideas in our battle plan we are destined to lose both wars.
on August 26, 2015
"Who Speaks for Islam? What a billion Muslims really think" is an important read by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. Dalia Mogahed not only traveled the world wide to interview Muslims but she was chosen as a guest speaker for the highly acclaimed Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado in summer 2015 and her audience was very impressed with her knowledge, wisdom and ability to articulate thoughts. I highly recommend you read this book BEFORE you form any opinions about issues you're not familiar with! Don't be a sheep----BE INFORMED.
23 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2008
For once there is a book where the real Muslim point of view is published. I thought the book was honest and shows readers a general overview of how Muslims think and what they believe without getting into too much detail. The only reason it did not recieve 5 stars from me is because although it provided acurate and honest information I found myself skimming over the dry parts of the book.