Counterintuitive Findings

On Thursday of last week I wrote a post titled “Victoria’s Ethnocentric Secret – The Blue Bra”  It was a strong response to an opinion piece in the On Faith section of the Washington Post. The post received a lot of attention. It was shared over 43 times on Facebook, received over 950 views the day it was posted (and far more since) and was emailed and tweeted multiple times. In other words, it struck a chord.
Based on some of the responses to the post, I thought it would be interesting to give a brief summary from the book I mentioned. The book is called “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think”  This book is the result of many years of research and interviews from “tens of thousands” of people in over 35 Muslim majority countries. It’s good information compiled by the researchers and important as we think about real dialogue. Moving past fear and stereotypes and into a better understanding helps to build bridges not walls.

Think about yourself for a minute. Is faith important to you? Do you feel like you are stereotyped as a Catholic or Evangelical Christian or (fill in the blank) and as you hear people talk you want to stand up and shout “No, it’s not like that! Let me explain! Let me tell you what I really think!” But you keep silent. This book allows us to hear those who have sat back silent from Muslim countries.

I want to point out that being willing to hear others and dialogue doesn’t mean we have to stop believing what we believe or downplay our values and beliefs – but it does mean that we will put our biases aside in order to understand another’s point of view, not assuming we know their beliefs and what drives those beliefs. One of my readers, Robynn, had this to say: “In the very insightful book, Cross Cultural Servanthood, Duane Elmer encourages us to “suspend judgement” –which essentially means the same thing as cultural humility. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assign meaning. Don’t guess. Don’t interpret. Instead suspend judgement. Ask questions. Be curious. Learn. Learn. Learn.

As you read through this post on counterintuitive findings what surprised you and why? What are the stereotypes that you feel are perpetuated about Islam or other faiths?  Would love to hear from you through the comment section. 

Counterintuitive Discoveries in “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think”

Who speaks for the West?
Muslims around the world do not see the West as monolithic. They criticize or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion.

Dream jobs
When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job.

Radical rejection
Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified.

Religious mainstream
Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population.

Admiration of the West
What Muslims around the world say they most admire about the West is its technology and its democracy — the same two top responses given by Americans when asked the same question.

Critique of the West
What Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same responses given by Americans when posed the same question.

Gender justice
Muslim women want equal rights and religion in their societies.

Muslims around the world say that the one thing the West can do to improve relations with their societies is to moderate their views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

Clerics and constitutions
The majority of those surveyed want religious leaders to have no direct role in crafting a constitution, yet favor religious law as a source of legislation.

Adapted from Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed.
Copyright © 2007 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.

As I said quoted in another post, our job is to be “Egalitarian about people, and elitist about ideas”.

5 thoughts on “Counterintuitive Findings

  1. Jay – thank you for reading. Really glad you came by and I appreciate the comment. As voices are more and more polarized it feel easy to get caught up in “sides” and as you say it can breed a fear of ‘other’. I recently heard a quote “Truth is not afraid of being questioned, propaganda is” – It made me pause and think about my tendency to want to defend before I listen…anyway lots more but I’ll keep it short for the comment! I just took a look at your blog – amazing pictures of Egypt and great writing on your time there. So, can I ask if you went with MESP? If so, my husband was the founding director. I’m looking forward to going back and reading more of your entries. We just came back from Egypt, my daughter is in graduate school finishing up a Master’s Degree. We had an amazing time (perhaps you’ve seen my post on graffiti in Tahrir Square). Thanks again for stopping by!


    1. Marilyn, the “small world” principle never ceases to amaze me! I DID go to Egypt with the MESP program in spring 2010, and enjoyed it intensely. I’m not positive, but I think you and your husband may have made a short visit to the villa that semester? In any case, it’s marvelous to make your acquaintance. I saw your post about your Christmas in Cairo and was envious.


  2. Thank you so much for this. We need more voices (especially in Christian circles) encouraging mutual understanding and a movement beyond fear of the “other”. I’ve recently discovered your blog, and greatly appreciate how you’re bringing experiences and thoughts to bear on cross-cultural issues of all kinds.


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