No, they're not all the same: Muslims might as well be praying for the stereotypes to end (Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images)
A few Years ago the Gallup World Poll surveyed opinion across the Islamic world and published its findings, many of them surprising only to those who tend to stereotype the Muslim world in line with their preconceptions, in a book called Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.
For example, Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable, and large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution and bar religious leaders from mucking up that constitution.
One of the most important points of the book, looked at whole, is that there is no such thing as a definable, single "Muslim world." There is no monolithic Islam. There is no single culture. And it's insulting to Muslims of all sorts--Sunnis, Shiites, Sufis, non-practicing--to be lumped in one big mass of "one billion Muslims," even as Gallup does. Blacks in America have often been treated the same way, perceived as a monolithic entity that thinks, acts and votes along the same lines. It's one of the many side-effects of stereotype. Harder evidence helps puncture the myths.
And now so does Link TV, by far the best American television station with eyes and ears tuned to the non-Western world, and the Arab-Muslim worlds in particular.
Link TV this Sunday launches a new series called "Who Speaks for Islam." (10 p.m. Eastern time on DirecTV Channel 375 and on Dish Network Channel 9410, and again on Oct. 27 at 11:30 p.m.) Host Ray Suarez will interview the always fascinating and charismatic Reza Aslan (author of No God but God, a quick study of Islam, and, this year, of How to Win a Cosmic War) and Dalia Mogahed, co-author of the Gallup book on opinion in the Islamic world. (Watch a clip here.)
Democracy, women's rights, civil rights, militancy, fundamentalism, terrorism: all the topics are covered, the myths punctured. Chances are that most viewers will be surprised to hear that most Arabs and Muslims are as concerned and serious about women's rights as their western counterparts, though they may define the concepts differently. Just as in the West, job security and education are near the top of most Muslim's priorities.
The following week, Link TV will air its second episode in the series, "Muslims on Screen," focusing on the many (and often dismal) ways Muslims are portrayed in film and television. The round-table discussion will feature Howard Gordon, Executive Producer of "24," the Fox TV series; Kamran Pasha, former writer of Showtime's series, "Sleeper Cell"; Maz Jobrani, an Iranian-American comedian and actor; and Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the Canadian TV series Little Mosque on the Prairie. (That episode airs on Nov. 1 at 10 p.m. Eastern and again on Nov. 3 at 11:30 p.m. Watch a clip here.)
Mark your calendar. As cross-cultural programming goes, no one does it better than Link TV.