Muslim true/false

Posted on April 2, 2008


What you think you know about them is likely wrong — and that’s dangerous.
By John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed
April 2, 2008

Winning hearts and minds — the Bush administration, foreign policy wonks, even the U.S. military agree that this is the key to any victory over global terrorism. Yet our public diplomacy program has made little progress on improving America’s image. Few seem to recognize that American ignorance of Islam and Muslims has been the fatal flaw.How much do Americans know about the views and beliefs of Muslims around the world?

According to polls, not much. Perhaps not surprising, the majority of Americans (66%) admit to having at least some prejudice against Muslims; one in five say they have “a great deal” of prejudice. Almost half do not believe American Muslims are “loyal” to this country, and one in four do not want a Muslim as a neighbor.Why should such anti-Muslim bias concern us? First, it undermines the war on terrorism: Situations are misdiagnosed, root causes are misidentified and bad prescriptions do more harm than good. Second, it makes our public diplomacy sound like double-talk. U.S. diplomats are trying to convince Muslims around the world that the United States respects them and that the war on terrorism is not out to destroy Islam. Their task is made infinitely more difficult by the frequent airing of anti-Muslim sentiment on right-wing call-in radio, which is then heard around the world on the Internet. Finally, public ignorance weakens our democracy at election time. Instead of a well-informed citizenry choosing our representatives, we are rendered vulnerable to manipulative fear tactics. We need look no further than the political attacks on Barack Obama. Any implied connection to Islam — attending a Muslim school in Indonesia, the middle name Hussein — is wielded to suggest that he is unfit for the presidency and used as fuel for baseless rumors.

Anti-Muslim sentiment fuels misinformation, and is fueled by it — misinformation that is squarely contradicted by evidence.

Starting in 2001, the research firm Gallup embarked on the largest, most comprehensive survey of its kind, spending more than six years polling a population that represented more than 90% of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. The results showed plainly that much of the conventional wisdom about Muslims — views touted by U.S. policymakers and pundits and accepted by voters — is simply false. [more]

Please click here to read the whole article from the Los Angeles Times.

John L. Esposito is an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University. Dalia Mogahed is executive director of the Center for Muslim Studies at Gallup. They co-wrote “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.”


Please click here to order a copy of the global Gallup poll of Muslims by Esposito and Mogahed.