Dalia Mogahed, the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and a member of President Obama's faith-based partnerships advisory council, is in a bit of a pickle these days for speaking on a British television show hosted by a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an extremist Muslim group. Fox News, and others, have been after her for this appearance, in which she said, "I think the reason so many women support sharia (Islamic law) is because they have a very different understanding of sharia than the common perception in Western media... The majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with sharia compliance."
Mogahed was a phone-in guest on the show, and only after did she learn that it was affiliated with Hizb ut-Tahrir, which advocates for very ugly things. Instantly, it was assumed by some of the more reflexive critics of anything Muslim that Mogahed herself was an advocate for extremism. Well, I know Dalia Mogahed, and if she's a Muslim extremist, then I'm the King of Sweden. From everything I can see, Dalia went on the show in her role as a pollster, and, in the conversation, stuck to her polling data. I've heard her present the same findings she presented on British television on two separate occasions. I'm sure some people are freaked out by Dalia's appearance -- she covers her hair and dresses very traditionally, though she is not a "veiled woman" in the language of some of the more ridiculous posts on the subject -- but I know her as a devout, modest and sensible woman, someone who likes being American very much, and someone who even has -- shocking though it may seem -- Jews to her home at Ramadan (that would be moi, along with Mrs. Goldblog and several smaller Goldblogs). Do we agree on much? Nah, especially on Middle East politics. But so what? I don't agree with this guy on everything, and I don't think he's a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Dalia has given an informative interview about the controversy to Dan Gilgoff, which you can read here, and I asked her on Sunday to talk about her personal views on Hizb ut-Tahrir. She said, "As a Gallup analyst I cannot inject my personal opinions into the public square. If I could, I would have on the program. I can only report from our research. Our research shows that unlike Hizb ut-Tahrir, the majority of Muslims admire much of what the West holds dear, ESPECIALLY liberty and democracy. The majority of Muslims do not have a blind hatred of Western culture. They don't hate our freedom. They want our freedom."
One key difference between American Muslims and British Muslims -- and this is a massive over-generalization, of course -- is that American Muslims seem to like their country very much. Obviously, there are pockets of Muslim extremism in America and I'm all for watching the extremists, and arresting them if needed -- but Dalia doesn't live in one of those pockets. In fact, she is quite often criticized by Muslim radicals as a "sell-out." Most recently, she was attacked for speaking at an iftar (the Ramadan break-fast meal) at the Pentagon. She's stuck in the responsible middle, in other words. Right where many thinking people find themselves these days.