Dalia Mogahed spoke at July's Common Word Conference at Yale University, where hundreds of moderate Muslims and evangelical Christian scholars met seeking better understanding. As senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, Mogahed travels widely, engaging audiences on what Muslims think. Her analysis has appeared in The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Mogahed, a Muslim, lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons. Also attending the conference was Warren Larson, director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University and author of Islamic Ideology and Fundamentalism in Pakistan: Climate for Conversion to Christianity?
Here, Larson interviews Mogahed about the book she coauthored with John Esposito, Who Speaks For Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (Gallup Press, 2008). The idea for the book was born shortly after 9/11, when Donald Rumsfeld was asked how Muslims felt about the attacks on the U.S. He replied, "I don't know; it's not like you can take a Gallup poll." The survey covered 90 percent of the global Muslim population on, among other things, Muslims' views of democracy, extremism, jihad, and women's rights, and Americans' views of Islam.
What surprised you most in your findings?
It was how much Americans and residents of majority-Muslim countries have in common. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that paints a picture of an inherently conflict-ridden relationship. Americans are as likely, for example, as Iranians to say religious leaders should have no part in crafting a constitution. We found that 57 percent of Americans think the Bible should have at least some role in legislation. (Nine percent ...