This is part of the DR Book Collection.
Some of the most interesting and infuriating things to witness on Facebook are the threads on Daniel Peterson’s wall. Peterson teaches Arabic and Islamic studies at BYU (he’s even authored a biography of Muhammad) and has been a big name in Mormon apologetics for some time. Because of the latter, he tends to be favored among conservative Mormons, both religiously and politically. However, his educated, sympathetic, and often favorable views of Islam tend to bring Islamophobic Church members out of the woodwork. I’ve seen ignorant Internet warriors attempt to lecture him on the “threats” of Sharia law, provide decontextualized readings of the Quran,1 explain how Islam is an inherently violent religion, and justify Trump’s Muslim ban. In the midst of one of these exchanges, Peterson suggested John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed’s Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think based on the Gallup Poll of the Islamic world.
The book was eye-opening. For example, the authors summarize some of their findings as follows:
- Who speaks for the West?: Muslims around the world do not see the West as monolithic. They criticize or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion.
- Dream jobs: When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job.
- Radical rejection: Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified.
- Religious moderates: Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population.
- Admiration of the West: What Muslims around the world say they most admire about the West is its technology and its democracy — the same two top responses given by Americans when asked the same question.
- Critique of the West: What Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same responses given by Americans when posed the same question.
- Gender justice: Muslim women want equal rights and religion in their societies.
- R.E.S.P.E.C.T.: Muslims around the world say that the one thing the West can do to improve relations with their societies is to moderate their views toward Muslims and respect Islam.
- Clerics and constitutions: The majority of those surveyed want religious leaders to have no direct role in crafting a constitution, yet favor religious law as a source of legislation (pg. xii-xiii).
This is just a taste. The hard numbers paint a very different picture than what we typically see in the media. You can see an interview with Mogahed about her research below.