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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Amazon review of "Who Speaks for Islam"

I finally received the book "Who Speaks for Islam," and it is exactly what I was hoping it would not be: an apologetic essay for Muslims that selectively uses numbers to prove a point.

Here is my Amazon review:
I purchased this book well aware of the articles the authors had already written about their findings. The articles would not give details of the poll results, and I had hoped to see the raw data in an appendix of the book. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

This is not a book of scientific fact; it is an opinion piece masquerading as science. When the authors say that only 7% of Muslims worldwide consider the 9/11 attacks "completely" justified they do not say how many consider the attacks "somewhat" or "mostly" justified. Then, the authors go on to label the 93% who may or may not consider the 9/11 attacks somewhat or mostly justified to be "moderates". This is absurd, and it appears that the reason that the authors do not release the raw data is because they realize that the detailed poll findings would not conform to the spin that they decided to clothe their results in.

An apparent example of question bias: the pollsters asked Muslims their opinion of democracy, and found that the "radicals" were more in favor of democracy than the "moderates." However, they do not illuminate these findings by asking questions about Western values like freedom of the press or freedom of religion, things that Westerners would associate with democracy but that Muslims may not. Could it be that the radicals are pro-"democracy" because they want to use democratic methods to establish a sharia state? The authors do not go down that path.

Most polls will show how the questions are phrased, the order of the questions, and the demographic breakdown of the respondents. This book does no such thing. As such, it is worthless propaganda, and raises far more questions than it answers. My opinion of the Gallup organization has gone down considerably to promote such propaganda as if the authors' opinions are proven by a scientific poll.
So far, mine is the only negative review the book has gotten - all the others gave it 4 or 5 stars, showing how shallow people are when a book fulfills their preconceived notions.

I also emailed the Gallup organization asking them to release the raw polling numbers that the book was based on; I received no response.

Polls are tricky enough when the pollsters try to be unbiased; they are downright dangerous when the pollsters withhold their own data in order to make the numbers represent something that they do not.