Between 2001 and 2007, the Gallup Organization conducted more than 50,000 hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents of more than 40 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have substantial Muslim populations. That titanic undertaking is being billed as the largest, most comprehensive polling/study of Muslims ever done.
The results are being published this month in a book co-authored by John Esposito, the prominent professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University. In a post at the Social Science Research Council's Immanent Frame blog, Esposito provides an outline of the survey's most significant findings.
Esposito reports that 7 percent of respondents fall under the rubric of politically radicalized, meaning that they believe the 9/11 attacks were completely justified. Perhaps surprisingly, the politically radicalized are not more religious than moderates, and they are typically more educated and more affluent. The radicals are also, on average, "more optimistic about their personal future than moderates, more optimistic about their own lives."
Another key findings that Esposito touts is the fact that animosity towards the West is not spread evenly across individual Western countries. "Unfavorable opinions of the United States or Great Britain do not preclude a favorable attitude toward other Western countries such as France or Germany. Across all predominantly Muslim countries polled, an average of 75 percent associate 'ruthless' with the United States (in contrast to only 13 percent for France and 13 percent for Germany)," Esposito writes.
In a topic that has been the source of great debate in Europe recently, the Gallup study found that "majorities in most countries, with the exception of a handful of nations, want Shariah as at least 'a' source of legislation." In terms of political arrangements the desired Muslim model is, according to Esposito, neither a theocracy nor a secular democracy but some third way that integrates faith and democratic values. The post is rather flimsy on the details of what this might entail, though that might owe to the fact that definitions of Shariah can very widely.
And finally, on the issue of how the West can improve relations with the Muslim world, respondents consistently answered with a request for more respect as well as more assistance with technology, jobs and economic development.