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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 15:54 GMT
Most Muslims 'desire democracy'
Muslims praying in London (archive)
Some 93% of those polled called themselves "moderate" Muslims
The largest survey to date of Muslims worldwide suggests the vast majority want Western democracy and freedoms, but do not want them to be imposed.

The poll by Gallup of more than 50,000 Muslims in 35 nations found most wanted the West to instead focus on changing its negative view of Muslims and Islam.

The huge survey began following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

The overwhelming majority of those asked condemned them and subsequent attacks, citing religious reasons.

The poll, which claims to represent the views of 90% the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, is to be published next month as part of a book entitled Who Speaks For Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think.

New policies

According to the book, the survey of the world's Muslim community was commissioned by Gallup's chairman, Jim Clifton, shortly after US President George W Bush asked in a 2001 speech: "Why do they hate us?"

The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims - but they're more cynical about whether they'll ever get it
John Esposito
Author, Who Speaks For Islam?

Mr Bush wondered why radical Islamist militant groups such as al-Qaeda hated democratically elected governments, as well as "our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assembly and disagree with each other".

But one of the book's authors, John Esposito, says the survey's results suggest Muslims - ironically even many of the 7% classing themselves as "radical" - in fact admire the West for its democracy and freedoms. However, they do not want such things imposed on them.

"Muslims want self-determination, but not an American-imposed and defined democracy. They don't want secularism or theocracy," said the professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington.

"What the majority wants is democracy with religious values."

George Bush addresses Congress (20 September 2001)
The poll sought to answer a question asked by George Bush

Mr Esposito said "radical" Muslims believed in democracy even more than many of the moderate Muslims questioned.

"The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims," he added.

"But they're more cynical about whether they'll ever get it."

The research also indicates most Muslims want guarantees of freedom of speech and would not want religious leaders to have a role in drafting constitutions.

Those polled also said the most important thing the West could do to improve relations with Muslim societies was to change its negative views towards Muslims and respect Islam.

The authors said the conflict between Islam and the West was not inevitable, but needed decision makers to listen and consider new policies if the extremists on both sides were not to gain ground.

Islam and the West: Bridging the divide
30 Sep 03 |  Have Your Say Special
Text: Bush address to Congress
21 Sep 01 |  Americas


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