Who Speaks for Islam, written by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, is one of the most important books on the War on Terror. In the seven years since 9/11, we have been subjected to all kinds of ignorant pontification--much of it from the left, but some also from the right--on "why they hate us." This book, written by a leading scholar of Islam and the head of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, brings a wealth of real data to bear on this important subject.
The book is full of fascinating data on Islamic radicalism, on Muslim support for democracy, on the role of women, and on the values of Western popular culture. At first glance the results seem confusing: An overwhelming majority of Muslims rejects 9/11 style terrorism but a significant number of Muslims support the Palestine suicide bombers. Huge majorities of Muslims support democracy but reject the Western understanding of rights and liberty. In fact, a substantial majority of Muslims--including Muslim women--support some form of sharia or Islamic holy law. Most Muslim women want equal rights but even champions of those rights emphatically reject Western-style feminism.
What's going on here? Esposito and Mogahed argue that traditional Muslims, who make up the bulk of Muslims in every Muslim country, strongly identify with the Western principles of rule of law, self-government, and religious toleration. In fact, their main critique of America is that, as they see it, America backs secular dictators in the Muslim world who deny to Muslims the rights that are taken for granted by Americans. Many Muslims who back Hamas do so because they see the group as fighting for Muslim self-rule.
On the other hand, Muslims reject what may be termed 1960s liberalism. They reject the shamelessness and frequent depravity of American popular culture. They reject the type of feminism that relinquishes the home in favor of careers. They are resolutely anti-abortion. They consider homosexual marriage to be an abomination. Rather than import these "alternative lifestyles" into their society, Muslims want to live according to their own traditional values and elect their own governments that will defend Muslim interests.
Esposito and Mogahed shrewdly note that the values of traditional Muslims worldwide are very similar to the values of traditional Jews and Christians in the West. For instance, only around 15 percent of Muslims in Europe consider homosexuality "morally acceptable." That's way below the figures for the general public in Britain, France and Germany. But when conservative and religious Europeans and Americans are polled, it turns out that the percentage of people who are fine with homosexuality is about the same as that of the traditional Muslims.
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