"In this five-part series, carried every Friday during Ramadan, Gulf News publishes excerpts from the fascinating conclusions of the largest ever opinion survey of the world's Muslims, carried out by Gallup.'Who speaks for Islam?' by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed was published by Gallup Press. What do the world's one billion Muslims really think? What does the silent majority of Muslims want for their lives, and in their politics? Why are the aspirations of the vast majority of Muslims in direct contrast to most of the world's impressions of Muslims?
1. "The religion of Islam and the mainstream Muslim majority have been conflated with the beliefs and actions of an extremist minority. The vital missing piece among the many voices weighing in on this question is the actual views of everyday Muslims. With all that is at stake for the West and Muslim societies - indeed for the world's future - it is time to democratise the debate."
2. "- 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 moderates: Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population. - R.E.S.P.E.C.T.: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 favour religious law as a source of legislation."
3. "While Sharia is widely depicted as a rigid and oppressive legal system, Muslim women tend to have a more nuanced view of Sharia, viewing it as compatible with their aspirations for empowerment. For example, Jenan Al Ubaedy, one of 90 women who sat on Iraq's National Assembly in early 2005, told the Christian Science Monitor that she supported the implementation of Sharia. However, she said that as an assembly member, she would fight for women's right for equal pay, paid maternity leave, and reduced hours for pregnant women. She said she would also encourage women to wear hijab and focus on strengthening their families. To Ubaedy, female empowerment is consistent with Islamic values."
4. "A growing number of Muslim women are choosing to cover their heads, while others do not."
5. "Though no society is free from racial prejudice, Muslims take great pride in what they regard as Islam's egalitarian ideals. For example, a Moroccan World Poll respondent says what he admires most about the Muslim world is Islam's message of racial equality. "I have a high regard for Islam's values and teachings and the non-racial attitudes of Muslim people." The Quran emphasises the unity of believers around a shared faith, regardless of ethnicity or tribe."
6. "- Faith and family are core values in Muslims' lives, and Muslims regard them as their societies' greatest assets. - Jihad has many meanings. It is a "struggle for God", which includes a struggle of the soul as well as the sword. The Islamic war ethic prohibits attacking civilians."
Sabbah Haji is Director of Haji Public School in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. She spends most of her time on the Twitters as @imsabbah, writes occasionally, and is understood to support ADOPT-A-STRAY and Muddy Pawz. Like everyone else, she likes food, animals, books, movies, music and whatnot. Lots of whatnot.