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.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Taner correctly points out that such earnest attempts to cure our biases are usually administered as a dose of disguised apologetics which we are supposed to swallow with a big glass of cultural relativism. Having spent my adult life in academe, either as a grad student or as a member of assorted faculties, I have seen this many times. Whenever we see that the beliefs, customs, or practices of a society have deleterious consequences, then, particularly if it is a non-Western society, academics scramble to find alternative explanations that do not blame the cultures themselves but point to extraneous factors. We are told, for instance, that poverty, oppression, the continuing consequences of colonialism, etc., are to blame for rabid anti-Western hostility, not religion per se. To me this always sounded like saying that laying the dynamite charge did not cause the explosion; lighting the fuse did. I take it for granted that human group behavior is complexly caused. Radical religious indoctrination will only be one of several contributing and underlying causes of terrorism, militancy, and hatred, but it will be one of the causes. Consider the situation in Pakistan. The public schools in Pakistan are virtually nonfunctional. Parents who want their children to get at least some education, but lack the tuition money for a pricey private school, have little choice but to send their kids to local sectarian schools where they are taught the three R’s: R’s–readin’, writin’, and religion (of a particularly truculent and intolerant variety). To deny that the consequent radicalization of the students is largely due to the religious indoctrination would be bizarre. I guess the reply would be that the radical religion taught in the sectarian Pakistani schools is not TRUE Islam. The implication seems to be that it cannot be TRUE Islam (or Christianity, or Judaism, or Hinduism, etc.) unless it has good consequences. If it has bad consequences, then, ipso facto, it cannot be the true form. Interestingly, I used to run into this same tactic when arguing with Marxist apologists. When I would point to the disaster of Soviet or Maoist or Cambodian Communism, they would tell me that these were not TRUE forms of Marxism!


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