Is there a clash of civilizations?

Dalia Mogahed is a Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, a nonpartisan research center dedicated to providing data-driven analysis on the views of Muslim populations around the world. With John L. Esposito, Ph.D., she is coauthor of the book Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Her analysis has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, the Harvard International Review, the Middle East Policy journal, and many other academic and popular journals.  She travels the globe engaging diverse groups on what Muslims around the world really think.

Mogahed leads the analysis of Gallup's unprecedented survey representing the opinions of more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide, including Muslims in the West. She also directs the Muslim-West Facts Initiative, through which Gallup, in collaboration with the Coexist Foundation, is disseminating the findings of the Gallup World Poll to key opinion leaders in the Muslim World and the West.  She is a member of Women in International Security, serves on the leadership group of the Project on U.S. Engagement with the Global Muslim Community, and is a member of the Crisis in the Middle East Task Force of the Brookings Institution.

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TRANSCRIPT

Dalia Mogahed: I also think one of the biggest issues is a misdiagnosis of the problem we’re facing in the war on terror. What I read in the paper is that this war on terror, this whole campaign to fight terrorism, is really characterized as Cold War II – a battle of ideologies. And our President [George W. Bush] says that all the time: “This is the defining battle in our century of two ideologies.”

And I think framing it in those terms is very counterproductive, because what Muslims hear is it’s between the west and Islam.

What are the two ideologies?

Because this might seem strange, but terrorism is not seen as driven by an ideology; it is a tactic that, for a Muslim viewing it, they don’t see it as being driven by a specific and very unique ideology. It’s just these people are essentially criminals committing a criminal act. And it’s a tactic.

So to then frame the issue as a clash between ideologies, there’s no ideology really left except Islam itself. And so then it becomes very obvious why a recent poll showed that eight out of 10 in some of the most populous Muslim countries in the world say that the war on terror is a war on Islam. And it comes from this characterization of the war on terror as a Cold War II.

Whereas if it can instead be framed as a war against a criminal act, and where terrorists are more thought of as criminals than framed as almost evil heroes, it would help counter terrorism and our ability to have more traction in the Muslim world, since Muslims and Americans actually agree in their rejection of terrorism.

But yet this common ground lacks traction because of this misframing of the struggle.

 

Recorded on: July 3, 2007. 

 


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