Who Speaks for Islam–a New Book by the Gallup Poll

The Gallup Polling outfit has a new book out based on a massive (over 50,000 respondents) recent poll on attitudes amongst the world’s approximately 1.3 billion Muslims. Let us allow the publishers to describe the content themselves:

islamwld.jpgGallup’s largest study of Muslim populations worldwide challenges conventional wisdom and the inevitability of a global conflict as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. Despite widespread media coverage of global terrorism from America and Europe to the Middle East and Asia, little is known about what majorities of the world’s Muslims really think and feel. What do Muslims say about violence and terrorist attacks? What do they say about democracy, women, and relations with the West? What are their values, goals, and religious beliefs?

Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed (Gallup Press; March 2008; hardcover) sheds new light into the “increasing hostility” that Archbishop Tutu characterizes.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, U.S. public officials seemed to have no idea whether or not many Muslims supported the bombings. This troubled Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton, who felt that “no one in Washington had any idea what 1.3 billion Muslims were thinking, and yet we were working on intricate strategies that were going to change the world for all time.” Clifton commissioned his company to undertake the enormous job.

The result is Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have sizable Muslim populations.

Some of the more intriguing findins?

  • Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
  • Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution AND they say religious leaders should have no direct role in drafting that constitution.
  • Muslims around the world say that what they LEAST admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same answers that Americans themselves give when asked this question.
  • When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.
  • Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

Note: the map above is from Professor Juan Cole.  The colors refer to the percentage of inhabitants of each state who are Muslims.

State Capacity and the US Federal Budget

bush_budget.jpgWe’re currently discussing and analyzing the state, and its important role in comparative politics. One of the dimensions on which we can compare state power is “capacity.” What is capacity? According to O’Neil (p.38-39), “capacity is the ability of the state to wield power in order to carry out the basic tasks of providing security and reconciling freedom and equality. A state with high capacity is able to formulate and enact fundamental policies and ensure stability and security for both itself and its citizens.” We were presented with evidence today of a demonstration of the high capacity of the United States as President George W. Bush unveiled his new 3.1 trillion-dollar (I’m no mathematician, but that’s at least a couple of gazillion dollars, isn’t it?) budget. Any state that can make its citizens cough up that much money, more or less willingly, has to have high capacity.

The photograph is from Yahoo News, click here to see a video clip of the president submitting this year’s federal budget, the first one in American history to be submitted in electronic form. As the president correctly surmised, “this will save a lot of trees!”

The Important Role of the State

A country’s roads and road system can give outsiders a quick and readily available idea of how well that country is governed. Here are some examples:

A video of part of the drive from the Kenyan city of Mombasa (pop. 700,000) to the town of Kilifi (pop. 75,000). (Try to ignore the cackling of the passengers and driver.)

Here are some photographs of the main highway between Moscow and the Siberian city of Yakutsk. The road is a vital federal highway, believe it or not! See many more photographs here.



Also take a look at these incredible and frightening photographs from the world’s most dangerous highway. Find many more of these photographs here.


Kenyan Violence Menacing for Intertribal Marriages

Kenya’s political troubles have had a immediate impact on marriages composed of partners of different tribes. Individuals in inter-tribal or inter-ethnic marriages are often twice cursed in the event of inter-ethnic violence. On the one hand, each marriage partner is increasingly distrusted by members of the other ethnic/tribal group. But what makes matter even worse is that they are also ostracized and often the victims of violence on the part of members of their own group. Their sin is that, having married someone from the rival ethnic group/tribe, they are no longer seen as trustworthy. In noticed in Croatia that this led to counter-intuitive outcomes where individuals who had married spouses of the other ethnic group often become publicly intolerant toward members of the spouse’s group. This was not the result of true ethnic hostility but in order to prove the individual’s ethnic/nationalist bona fides to his (and it was mostly males in this case) own ethnic brethren.

Here is a report from the Associated Press about a woman in Kenya whose husband had to leave home, fearing for his life.

He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. His cell phone has been switched off for weeks. After 17 years, Naomi Kering’s husband is gone — one more intertribal marriage fallen victim to the violence that has followed Kenya‘s disastrous presidential election.

“The kids always ask me, ‘Where is he?’ And I always say he is going to come back,” Kering, a 34-year-old of the Kalenjin tribe, told The Associated Press as she stood in the rubble of her home, torched by a mob last month because her kenya_divided_love_abc5031.jpghusband is a Kikuyu. “But I hope he stays away, because I love him and I want him to be safe.”

Since the Dec. 27 vote, marriages that united different ethnic groups have felt the strain as communities shun the Kikuyu tribe of President Mwai Kibaki, whose disputed re-election unleashed a wave of bloodshed that has killed at least 685 people.

Until now, marriages like Kering’s were common enough to go largely unnoticed, representing hope for what Kenya could be as a nation. But now the fabric of Kenyan society is fraying, forcing families to confront tribal identities many had cast aside long ago.

“This election has changed the very essence of these marriages,” said the Rev. Charles Kirui, a Catholic priest whose church in the nearby town of Burnt Forest shelters hundreds of Kikuyus. “Marriages are breaking up because of a tribal conflict, which means we really have a problem in Kenya.”

There are no figures on how many families are affected, but the impact is particularly felt in the heart of opposition territory in western Kenya, where tribal tensions have been most inflamed by the election.

This country of 38 million was once seen as a stable democracy on a violent continent. But it depended on a delicate balance of intertribal power.

The “Genocide Olympics”?


(Image from the San Francisco Chronicle)

In a piece published today New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, addresses the link between China’s foreign policy goals and the continuing genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur. Hundreds of thousands have been killed or have died from starvation, disease and malnutrition, and millions have been displaced, whether internally or as refugees abroad, for which, Kristof argues, China bears some moral culpability. Kristof is not alone in this view and the NGO, Olympic Dream for Darfur, has decided to try to do something about it by establishing the “Genocide Olympics” campaign, which is meant to shame China into changing its policies toward Sudan.* Will this work? Is it good foreign policy? Is it morally acceptable to mix sport with politics? Remember, there is historical precedent for this type of thing as the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Quoting Kristof:

The Beijing Olympics this summer were supposed to be China’s coming-out party, celebrating the end of nearly two centuries of weakness, poverty and humiliation.

Instead, China’s leaders are tarnishing their own Olympiad by abetting genocide in Darfur and in effect undermining the U.N. military deployment there. The result is a growing international campaign to brand these “The Genocide Olympics.”

This is not a boycott of the Olympics. But expect Darfur-related protests at Chinese Embassies, as well as banners and armbands among both athletes and spectators. There’s a growing recognition that perhaps the best way of averting hundreds of thousands more deaths in Sudan is to use the leverage of the Olympics to shame China into more responsible behavior.

The central problem is that in exchange for access to Sudanese oil, Beijing is financing, diplomatically protecting and supplying the arms for the first genocide of the 21st century. China is the largest arms supplier to Sudan, officially selling $83 million in weapons, aircraft and spare parts to Sudan in 2005, according to Amnesty International USA. That is the latest year for which figures are available.

As the highlighted portion of the quote above implies, China is acting in a fundamentally realist manner, eschewing moral concerns in order to increase its power and security.

*Please do not refer to Sudan as the Sudan, or to Ukraine as the Ukraine, but Sudan and Ukraine, respectively, as they are no longer regions within colonial empires, but are independent states in their own right. Adding the in front of their country names is anachronistic.

Freedom House

Freedom House is an NGO that is prominent in the global movement to expand democracy and economic freedom worldwide. The organization also publishes the well-known (and well-regarded) Freedom in The World rankings annually. These rankings evaluate the countries of the world along various dimensions related to democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. A composite score for each country is then tabulated and each country is placed into one of three categories–free, partly free, not free–as a result. Which color corresponds to which category, do you suppose? Their website provides a vast array of data and resources–and strong analytical country descriptions–on phenomena broadly related to democracy.
(Click on link for large image)


Congo Civil War Kills 45,000 Persons Monthly

We’ll be covering war and strife later in the semester and we’ll note that the nature of warfare has changed over the years. Whereas most wars in the past were of the inter-state variety, contemporary wars are mostly intra-state (i.e, wars resulting from civil and ethnic conflict). A worrisome characteristic of these contemporary wars is that the vast majority of victims are civilians and they generally succumb to factors, such as disease and hunger, not related to direct conflict. In a new report by the International Red Cross, we learn that 45,000 persons have died (and continue to die) monthly from civil war in Congo.


The effects of one of the bloodiest wars in modern history continue to unfold in relative obscurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 5.4 million lives have been lost as a result of conflict since 1998, according to a nationwide mortality survey that will be released today.

While the conflict in the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan has begun to draw substantial international attention, the humanitarian crisis resulting from conflict in the Congo has received almost none. About 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur, and two million displaced.

“People aren’t dying dramatically in Congo,” said Richard Brennan, a lead researcher with the U.S.-based International Rescue Committee, which conducted the survey. “It’s not like a Rwandan genocide where people die in a very dramatic and acute manner. They are dying quietly and anonymously.”

In fact, very few of the recorded deaths were caused directly by violence, roughly 0.4 per cent nationwide, the report says. Instead, the principal causes of death across Congo, a largely undeveloped country the size of Western Europe, were malnutrition, preventable diseases and pregnancy-related conditions.
“Our experience in poorly developed countries over the last 20 years is that in most conflicts, the majority of deaths, frequently over 90 per cent, are due to the indirect consequences of that conflict,” Dr. Brennan said. “They are no less devastating, but they are very much below our radar screen in the West.”

Blog Assignment–PLSC 250-Introduction to International Relations

The function of your blog will be to select, research, analyze, and contribute knowledge and information on a topic of interest to you (the group will select one topic only) in international relations. As we address the theories and principles of international relations over the course of the semester, you will post to your blog analyzing how these theories, principles, and ideas apply to your chosen topic. The goal is for your group to learn more about that topic than we could ever hope to cover in class over the course of a single semester. You will have to post your topic of choice, and a brief description of the topic, by midnight, Sunday, January 27th.

There is a myriad of topics in international relations that may be of interest to you. To help you begin to narrow down your choice of topic, go to the index of Mingst’s Essentials, and browse the list of entries.

Continue reading “Blog Assignment–PLSC 250-Introduction to International Relations”

Percentage of the World’s Denizens who Live on Less than $2/day

Using data from the United Nations’ Human Development Index, I put together this table of the thirty states in the world with the highest percentage of residents living on less than two dollars per day. After we have covered (international) political economy later this semester, you’ll know to ask whether the two dollar a day statistic is PPP-adjusted or not. The HDI rank is the Human Development Index rank (out of 177 countries ranked in 2007).

Using Country Watch (you can find a link to it at the course’s page at the library’s website, or click here), we see that Nigeria’s 2006 estimated (ethnic tensions in Africa’s most populous state prevent it from ever completing a census that is acceptable for all interested parties) population is approximately 132 million, meaning that fully 122 million persons in Nigeria survive on less than two dollars per day.

[UPDATE: “A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just nor stable. Including all of the world’s poor in a expanding circle of development–and opportunity–is a moral imperative and one of the top priorities of U.S. international policy.

-President George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the U.S.A. 2002]


Below 2$/day (%)

HDI Rank




Tanzania (United Republic of)





















Central African Republic






























Sierra Leone



Lao P.D.R.















Burkina Faso