Islam and American Christianity

In Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed interpret results from a Gallup World Poll to describe what a large and apparently representative sample of Muslims think. As with any popular work by Esposito, it has an overriding concern to counter the demonization of Islam. And again typically, this anti-demonization easily shades into a kind of apologetics and mush about cultural sensitivity.

Still, there is some interesting information here. I found it interesting that when Esposito and Mogahed try to place the overwhelming anti-secular sentiments among Muslims in context, they bring out parallels to the United States. For example, a majority of Muslims want the tradition of Islamic Law to be a main source of legislation in their countries; a smaller number would prefer sharia to be the only source of law.

Many regard religion as a primary marker of identity, a source of meaning and guidance, consolation and community, and essential to their progress. Majorities of both men and women in many predominantly Muslim countries want to see Islamic principles, Sharia, as a source of legislation. These respondents have much in common with the majority of Americans who wish to see the Bible as a source of legislation. Both groups emphasize the importance of family values and are deeply concerned about issues of social morality. In fact, what respondents in the Muslim world and a significant number of Americans say they admire least about Western civilization is an excessive libertinism in society.

The authors point out that according to a 2006 Gallup poll in the US, 46% of Americans want the Bible as a source of legislation, plus 9% want it as the only source.

In other words, religious conservatism is very strong in most Muslim environments and in the US. Whee.