By Muneeb Nasir
(October 27, 2009) – What do the world’s 1 billion Muslims really think?
A new documentary film based on a Gallup Poll report that seeks to answer this question, and carrying the title — Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think — will have its Toronto premiere on Friday, October 30 at the CNE Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The documentary reports on the survey’s surprising findings and implications, and brings it to life, interviewing researchers and others who conducted the public opinion polling.
As part of this groundbreaking six-year project, Gallup conducted fifty thousand interviews with residents in 35 predominantly Muslim nations, as well as smaller populations in Europe and the USA.
The broad extent of the polling has delivered findings for the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims with a plus or minus accuracy of 3%.
“The most important finding that we uncovered was that the clash or the conflict that does exist right now between the United States and Muslim majority countries is based on policies and not on a clash of principles,” Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies said at a special premiere of the film held at the ISNA continental convention in Washington earlier this year (July 3 – 6, 2009).
Mogahed, who appears in the documentary, is a member of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership.
The film focuses on issues of gender justice, terrorism and democracy, and it challenges the notion that Muslims and the West are on a collision course.
Like the research, the film highlights a shared relationship that is based on facts, not fear.
Mogahed described several surprising findings in the study.
“We found Muslim admires much of the same things that Americans admire about ourselves,” she said.
On extremism, Mogahed said, Americans and Muslims are equally likely to find attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable. On democracy, Mogahed pointed out that a large majority of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it was up to them to write a new constitution.
“When we asked Muslims what do you admire most about the West, the two most frequent responses were Western technology and democracy and liberty” Mogahed said.
“Even more remarkable is that when we asked a representative group of the American public, what is it that you admire most about western civilization, they said western democracy and western technology- amazing that the same responses were given by such a diverse group of people to an open ended question.”
Those polled also said that religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting such a constitution. On gender equity, a majority of Muslim men in most countries agreed, for instance, that women should be able to hold jobs.
In addition to Dalia Mogahed the film features John Esposito, University Professor, Georgetown University, Rami Khoury, Editor of the Daily Star (Beirut) and Kenneth Pollack, Director of Research, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute.
The Toronto premiere will be followed by a panel discussion with Alex Kronemer of Unity Productions Foundation, producers of the film and Imam Hamid Slimi, The President & Founder of Faith of Life Network, one of the sponsors along with Sheikh-IT Entertainment.
For more information on the premiere please visit: www.insideislam.ca