Who Speaks for Islam [Book Review]

A friend of mine recommended that I read Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think a couple of weeks ago.  She sent me a message saying:

I just started reading a book called ‘Who speaks for Islam’, by Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito…
It seems great, giving statistics and REAL views of what Muslims really think, who we actually are etc…
It brings out what we are deprived of showing to the world, being the ‘silenced’ majority :(
I can’t put the book down, it’s amazing!

WhoSpeaksForIslam-CSo I went and got the book last week and read it and really do think it is very interesting, educating and enlightening.  The book is highly recommended for policy makers and non Muslims who deal with Muslims because it gives an insight which is backed by numbers not conventional wisdom.

From the Gallup Website:

Who Speaks for Islam? is about this silenced majority. This book is the product of the Gallup World Poll’s massive, multi year research study. As part of this groundbreaking project, Gallup conducted tens of thousands of interviews with residents of more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have significant Muslim populations.

Even as a Muslim living in a Muslim country and a native of another Muslim country I found the book very interesting.  Perhaps because I had never thought about the fact that Muslims come from very different countries and backgrounds.  The analysis is simple, thorough and straightforward and impressive.  The data is deep and can be viewed as a very credible source to an insight to Muslim thoughts.

With only five chapters tackling:

  • Who are Muslims?
  • Democracy or theocracy?
  • What makes a radical?
  • What do women want?
  • Clash or coexistence?

By begining by explaining who Muslims are, what they believe and how different they are, the book sets the pace for the rest of the book and introduces the non Muslim to reality.  Data which was gathered by the polls clear many misconceptions even tho they might seem intuitive or sensible.  The poll’s results prove that Muslims want democracies in their countries, political radicals make up only 7% of the population and  women want to be treated fairly not necessarily equally.  Interestingly there are also lots of common views shared by Western poll takers with the Muslims which is not surprising, at the end of the day we are all human and share common needs, dreams and wants.

From the book:

While admiring much about the West, the majority of Muslim women do not yearn to become more like their Western counterparts.  While they favor gender parity, they likely want it on their terms and withing their own cultural context. [from What do women want]

To clarify the distinction between Sharia and “Islamic law” think of Sharia as a compass (God’s revelation, timeless principles that can not change) and Islamic law (fiqh) as a map.  This map must conform to the compass, but it reflects different times, places and geography.  The compass is fixed but the map is subject to change.[from What makes a radical?]

I think this book is an interesting read.

5 Comments

  • At 2009.06.25 15:39, ibhog said:

    Interesting!

    • At 2009.06.25 18:23, asoom said:

      Hmmmm this book sounds a lot like Paul Findley’s Silent No More:Confronting America’s False Images of Islam. I read that book years and years ago after hearing him lecture at an Islamic conference. It addresses a lot of political and social contemporary issues but I think it deals more specifically with Muslims in America. Are you familiar with that one?

      • At 2009.07.02 15:58, jessyz said:

        I am not familiar with the book you mentioned but from what I’ve read on Amazon they seem to be similar but the main difference is that Who speaks for Islam is based on polls. I’ll try and pick up the book though and let you know what I think.

        • At 2009.06.26 10:39, KJ said:

          I will get it definitely. Thanks!

          • At 2009.06.27 16:38, Hicham said:

            I like the title of the book that’s definitely attractive to follow up with the book itself. Thanks so much for sharing this short review.