“Muslims” versus “Americans”?

I just ran across a book put out by the Gallup press last year, titled Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, by researchers John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. Gallup did tens of thousands of interviews with people in 35 predominantly or significantly Muslim countries, asking them an array of questions about their views of the West and Islam. Here is a bit of the Gallup summary of their findings:

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.

All their points in the Gallup summary are presented as “counterintuitive discoveries.” And rather uncritically too. The Western bias even in this “liberal” analysis is obvious. It does not take much familiarity with the non-Western media online to know this in advance. Mainly for Westerners would this “duh” conclusion be “counterintuitive.”

In addition, the U.S./Western bias leaps out at the reader in the major part of the summary that accents Western “concerns” about Islam:

When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job. . . . Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified. . . . Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population. . . .

Again, this is not really counterintuitive for people living in these countries, or indeed I suspect in most of the non-Western world. Featuring this Western obsession over “jihad” in a major survey tells us much more about Western stereotyping of non-Western Muslims than it does about the latter (billion) citizens of planet Earth.

The summary adds this:

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.. . . . 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.

The strong and ethnocentric dichotomy throughout the summary is very revealing. There is the odd phrasing the Gallup folks use a couple of times: “Muslims and Americans.” And they carry out this dichotomy in describing (unmodified) “Muslims” and “Americans” as having similar values and views, but again without making it clear that millions of Muslims are indeed Americans. Apparently it does not occur to them that one can be both Muslim and American, all across the U.S.

The ethnocentrism and ignorance about Muslims, including U.S. Muslims, in the U.S. is indeed staggering. Maybe the naïve survey does move in the direction of seeing Muslims everywhere as human beings? As the summary notes:

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.

Indeed. And do a little research and reading.


  1. marandaNJ

    Muslims are big into keeping women in a second class position, especially if you consider it so that you have to walk around dressed like a mummy for fear of offending a man. Well, you admire our “Democracy”? Then you say you don’t admire our “Breakdown of Traditional Values”? Well, you can’t have Both. You guys sure hang on tight to your traditions, but you ain’t got no damn democracy.
    There’s misconceptions on both sides. We don’t like photos of mangled Marines who have to be shipped home in pieces from Iraq either. We don’t even like that President Obama is sending 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan because we’re not sure when you misunderstood Muslims will bust another cap and do another suicide plane dive into the middle of Phoenix or Orlando during Mickey Mouse Week. Oh well, what we have here is a Failure to Communicate.

  2. Seattle in Texas

    ellen/marandaNJ—You’re not making valuable contributions to this site and it’s beyond old. You’re comments most generally are based on demented white supremacist stereotypes and are otherwise hateful/intolerant. It’s one thing to lack knowledge about a group and ask honest questions and perhaps stimulate a great enriching dialogue, and quite another to use this site as a venue to channel your bigoted thoughts and warped beliefs.

    Perhaps you should become familiar with the Muslim religion and ethnicity before you run your mouth—perhaps you might learn some lessons on tolerance and respect for all people and humanity. Also, you might wish to know Muslim women often find their attire quite liberating (for reasons you might not be able to comprehend); though it is equally stereotypical to assume that all Muslim women wear the full attire.

    And I would suggest you quit over-generalizing entire groups based on either outliers within the groups (what about the elite whites and the damage they’ve caused both nationally and internationally? You’ve got anything to say about them? Probably not) and take your libertarianism and capitalist ethic and beliefs elsewhere. And heh, take some Pepto-Bismol for that bad case of diarrhea of the mouth you’ve got while you’re at it—seriously. You’re both offending and annoying…but I suppose that is your primary goal as a troll….

    • distance88

      I co-sign this. It’s very hypocritical to ask others to not treat all whites as a racist monolith when when you are constantly treating other groups (Muslims, Blacks, Asians) in a similar, monolithic manner.
      As far as marandaNJ = ellen, I think her unusual Way of Capitalizing Certain Words is a Dead-Giveaway.


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