Dinesh D’Souza and I both spoke at FreedomFest in Las Vegas in July, although unfortunately we didn’t debate each other. At one point we had a brief and friendly chat, during which I noticed that he was carrying a well-thumbed copy of Who Speaks for Islam by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. And now he has written another column about the book, showing that clearly he takes it very, very seriously — demonstrating once again that when he speaks about Islam, Dinesh D’Souza has no true grasp of the subject, and is completely out of his depth.
“Who Speaks For Islam,” by Dinesh D’Souza, September 15:
Who Speaks for Islam, written by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, is one of the most important books on the War on Terror. In the seven years since 9/11, we have been subjected to all kinds of ignorant pontification–much of it from the left, but some also from the right–on “why they hate us.” This book, written by a leading scholar of Islam and the head of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, brings a wealth of real data to bear on this important subject.
Esposito a “leading scholar of Islam”: Esposito has taken $20 million from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and renamed his Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Prince Alwaleed tried to give $10 million to New York City after 9/11, but Rudolph Giuliani returned the check after Alwaleed suggested that 9/11 was a consequence of U.S. foreign policy.
That alone, of course, doesn’t indicate what John Esposito is all about. But there is more about whom he has praised and whom he has damned that reveals a great deal about where he really stands. Esposito has called Bernard Lewis, whom D’Souza has repeatedly cited and praised, “one of the Darth Vaders of the world.”
Esposito has praised Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who advocates suicide bombings, as a champion of a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism and human rights.”
Esposito has spoken at a Council on American-Islamic Relations fundraiser in order to “show solidarity not only with the Holy Land Fund [that is, the Holy Land Foundation], but also with CAIR.” The Holy Land Foundation is accused of funneling money to the jihad terror group Hamas, and CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. CAIR is a spinoff of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which is listed in the 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum on strategy in the U.S. as part of its “grand jihad” aimed at “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.”
Esposito has said of a man who pleaded guilty to aiding the jihad terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad that “Sami Al-Arian’s a very good friend of mine.”
Esposito has co-edited a book with Azzam Tamimi. Palestinian political scientist Muhammad Muslih calls Tamimi “a Hamas member.” Tamimi has said: “I admire the Taliban; they are courageous.” He has said: “I support Hamas.”
D’Souza goes on:
The book is full of fascinating data on Islamic radicalism, on Muslim support for democracy, on the role of women, and on the values of Western popular culture. At first glance the results seem confusing: An overwhelming majority of Muslims rejects 9/11 style terrorism but a significant number of Muslims support the Palestine suicide bombers. Huge majorities of Muslims support democracy but reject the Western understanding of rights and liberty. In fact, a substantial majority of Muslims–including Muslim women–support some form of sharia or Islamic holy law. Most Muslim women want equal rights but even champions of those rights emphatically reject Western-style feminism.
D’Souza takes Esposito’s findings at face value, but there is ample reason to treat them with reserve. In The Weekly Standard, Robert Satloff exposes yet more that is wrong with the Saudi-funded Islamic apologist John Esposito’s soothing “No Extremists Here” survey of the Islamic world:
Mogahed publicly admitted they knew certain people weren’t moderates but they still termed them so. She and Esposito cooked the books and dumbed down the text. Apparently, by the authors’ own test, there are not 91 million radicals in Muslim societies but almost twice that number. They must have shrieked in horror to find their original estimate on the high side of assessments made by scholars, such as Daniel Pipes, whom Esposito routinely denounces as Islamophobes. To paraphrase Mogahed, maybe it wasn’t the most technically accurate way of doing this, but their neat solution seems to have been to redefine 78 million people off the rolls of radicals.
The cover-up is even worse. The full data from the 9/11 question show that, in addition to the 13.5 percent, there is another 23.1 percent of respondents–300 million Muslims–who told pollsters the attacks were in some way justified. Esposito and Mogahed don’t utter a word about the vast sea of intolerance in which the radicals operate.
And then there is the more fundamental fraud of using the 9/11 question as the measure of “who is a radical.” Amazing as it sounds, according to Esposito and Mogahed, the proper term for a Muslim who hates America, wants to impose Sharia law, supports suicide bombing, and opposes equal rights for women but does not “completely” justify 9/11 is . . . “moderate.”
Martin Kramer adds: “So Esposito and Mogahed believe that a Muslim who thinks that 9/11 was three-quarters justified or half-justified (perhaps that’s bringing down just one of the Twin Towers?) is still a ‘moderate.’ This allows them to leap to the conclusion that terrorism in the name of Islam is just… well, an aberration, like violent crime in America.”
And Hillel Fradkin, reviewing the book, notes a curious feature for what is supposed to be a study of survey data:
So who does speak for Islam? Apparently, Esposito and Mogahed do. For the book does not actually present the poll. It provides a very small and partial account of the responses to some questions, but fails to include even one table or chart of data. It does not even provide a clear list of the questions that were asked. The appendix, where one might expect to find questionnaires, charts, and tables, provides only a short narrative discussion of Gallup’s sampling techniques and general mode of operation.
To a certain degree, the authors admit the bias of their presentation: “The study revealed far more than what we could possibly cover in one book, so we chose the most significant, and at times, surprising conclusions to share with you. Here are just some of those counterintuitive discoveries.” But this admission is ridiculously inadequate. After all, this is a book, not an article. In the end, the authors betray their own standard that “data should lead the discourse,” because there is no data. A reader without deep pockets cannot easily remedy this deficiency: the Gallup Organization charges $28,500 to access the data.
If not data, then what fills the pages of this book? In effect, we are given an opinion piece by Esposito and Mogahed””one not unlike the op-eds they decry, only much longer. Like op-eds, it is buttressed by anecdotal evidence, much of which is not even drawn from the survey. Indeed, given the partiality of the material they do draw from the survey, it too must be counted as anecdotal, notwithstanding the percentage signs which are scattered here and there. Moreover, the conclusions that Esposito and Mogahed draw, as well as their policy prescriptions, are indistinguishable from Esposito’s opinions, as expressed and disseminated in his books and articles long before Gallup polled its first Muslim. As in almost every Esposito product, the book even includes a chapter devoted to a description of the religion of Islam.
But to accept this book as an extended op-ed is not quite adequate. After all, Esposito claimed to apply a higher standard””that of “a man [who] should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be.” Seen in this light, the book is a confidence game or fraud, of which Esposito should be ashamed. So too should the Gallup Organization, its publisher.
But D’Souza, no doubt oblivious to all this, charges on:
What’s going on here? Esposito and Mogahed argue that traditional Muslims, who make up the bulk of Muslims in every Muslim country, strongly identify with the Western principles of rule of law, self-government, and religious toleration.
How do they define these terms? D’Souza doesn’t say. He probably doesn’t know that “rule of law” and “religious toleration,” in particular, can have vastly different meanings to Muslims from the meanings that most Americans take for granted.
D’Souza then goes on to try to portray the vast majority of Muslims as traditional conservatives:
[…] Esposito and Mogahed shrewdly note that the values of traditional Muslims worldwide are very similar to the values of traditional Jews and Christians in the West. For instance, only around 15 percent of Muslims in Europe consider homosexuality “morally acceptable.” That’s way below the figures for the general public in Britain, France and Germany. But when conservative and religious Europeans and Americans are polled, it turns out that the percentage of people who are fine with homosexuality is about the same as that of the traditional Muslims.
Can we get percentages on Muslim approval of polygamy? Wife-beating? Honor killing? Jihad violence? Islamic supremacism? I didn’t think so.
Yes, I could say that I predicted all this in my book The Enemy at Home. But the great contribution of Esposito and Mogahed is to put a mountain of data behind these conclusions. Over six years their group has conducted tens of thousands of face-to-face surveys of Muslims in more than 35 countries making what they rightly call “the largest, most comprehensive study of contemporary Muslims ever done.”
This book is a huge embarrassment to some conservatives who, based on no data and very little familiarity with the Muslim world, have been portraying Muslims as violent theocrats who reject modern science, modern democracy and modern capitalism and spend most of their day performing honor killings and genital mutilations. This portrait of the Muslim world is about as accurate as that of a Muslim who believes that typical Americans live their daily lives according to the values of “Natural Born Killers” and “Brokeback Mountain.”
I don’t know of anyone, conservative or not, who portrays Muslims as “violent theocrats who reject modern science, modern democracy and modern capitalism and spend most of their day performing honor killings and genital mutilations,” so I haven’t the vaguest idea of who Dinesh D’Souza is talking about, but given the way Esposito and Mogahed cooked their data, the “huge embarrassment” is all D’Souza’s.
At FreedomFest when we talked briefly, I invited D’Souza to debate again, in a longer format than the rushed CPAC affair. He agreed, although he hastened to say that, well, we would have to find the proper venue, etc. I hereby repeat the invitation.