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Lecture offers insight into Muslim viewpoints

Who Speaks for Islam?

CHICAGO, IL (November 20, 2008) – Results from the most extensive worldwide polling of what Muslims think might surprise many people and should lead to a reconsideration of political policies.

Ahmed Younis, a senior analyst with the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, shared the findings during a presentation at North Park University on November 13. Younis was speaking for Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center, who was initially scheduled to speak.

The poll surveyed tens of thousands of Muslims in more than 35 countries and took six years. The findings are contained in the book Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.

Muslims around the world want freedom, rights, and democracy as much as Americans do, Younis reported. They even admire the freedom espoused in the United States, but believe the United States and the West operate with a double standard by not wanting Muslims to determine their own future.

The findings also revealed that Muslims across the world want neither theocratic nor secular government. Instead they believe society should be rooted in Islamic values and that the Shari’a (Islamic law) should inform a country’s legislation. Shari’a is viewed as something that limits the role of rulers and promotes individual rights, including those of women. According to statistics, an equal number of men and women believe it doesn’t constrict the rights of women.

Opinions were divided in other portions of the poll. Roughly an equal number of Americans as Iranians believe religious leaders should have no part in crafting a constitution. In contrast, about 57 percent of non-Muslim Americans think the Bible should have some role in guiding a constitution, while nine percent believe it should be the sole source.

The study also showed that Muslims are just as likely as Americans to reject attacks on civilians as morally justifiable. Most are angered by the violence carried out by relatively few Muslims, Younis said. This violence is most often politically—not religiously—based.

The data, he noted, should cause political leaders to consider policies that are not built on the assumption that Muslims are opposed to Western values.