Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Speaks for Islam?

Forget the Daily Mail or President Ahmedinajad, Gallup has actually done some legwork to get a real picture of what the 'Muslim world' actually thinks.

The survey: 'Who Speaks for Islam?' covers 50,000 people from 35 nations, and is published in a week or so. It has a website, and here's an excerpt:

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 authors refute the 'clash of civilisations' thesis, which itself maybe serves a media instinct to seek out areas of conflict, rather than agreement, in any story. Matt Wardman, where I found the link, notes that very few people are reporting on the survey, and also has a clip from the weekend radio where one of the reports authors is interviewed. There is more coverage from the Muslim world - for example this article from Islamica Magazine, which is worth a read if you want a slightly more detailed summary of the report.

As part of the survey, over 1000 UK Muslims were interviewed, and Gallup released their results last year - this article on the BBC website summarises the findings, which paint a positive picture of the integration and sense of belonging felt by the Muslim community. I was going to say 'surprisingly positive', but didn't, because it shouldn't be surprising, should it?

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