File:Dalia Mogahed.JPG

Bio & News

Dalia Mogahed is Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, a nonpartisan research center dedicated to providing data-driven analysis on the views of Muslim populations around the world. With John L. Esposito, Ph.D., she is coauthor of the book Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Her analysis has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, the Harvard International Review, the Middle East Policy journal, and many other academic and popular journals.[3]

In April 2009, the Egyptian-born Muslimah was appointed to American President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Her job is to advise the president on the perceptions and problems facing Muslims in America.[4] According to an article from Al Arabiya News, Mogahed will brief Obama on what Muslims want from the U.S. in a bid to create channels of communication and correct the erroneous image of Muslim Americans.[5] In a May 2009 interview with Altmuslimah, she said, "There’s evidence that the media over-represents violence in all communities, but more specifically in regards to the Muslim community."[6]

According to World Net Daily, Mogahed was a scheduled keynote speaker at the 15th annual CAIR banquet to be held on October 24, 2009 along with the controversial Imam Siraj Wahhaj who in 1995 was named as an "unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators" in the attempt to blow up New York City monuments.[7] Days after the release of the book Muslim Mafia, her name was replaced on the list of speakers with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson; however, Mogahed's assistant said he had not been informed of any change.[8] Other sources, however, state that originally she had been scheduled alongside Jesse Jackson, and it was Imam Siraj Wahhaj who replaced Mogahed.[9][10]

Giving legitimacy to Islamic terrorism?

Mogahed gave an exclusive interview with IslamOnline correspondent Muhammad Qasim on April 28, 2009. According to Arab Media & Society, the body behind IslamOnline (IOL) is the Al-Balagh Cultural Society in Qatar, which was established in 1997 on the initiative of Qatari IT specialist Maryam Hasan al-Hajari and Dr. Hamid al-Ansari, a scholar at the Sharica Faculty of the University of Qatar. In its early stages the project was supported by the University of Qatar, especially by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the 1926-born, Azhar-educated Egyptian scholar and theorist of the Islamic Awakening movement who still chairs the Al-Balagh Society as of winter 2008[11] and has defended the legitimate use of suicide bombings against enemy combatants.[12]

When asked: What kind of advise[sic] would you be giving Obama to improve relations with US Muslims and the Muslim world? Dalia answered:

Dalia Mogahed
I would advise him to listen first and foremost. Many have claimed that terrorists have 'hijacked Islam'. I disagree. I think Islam is safe and thriving in the lives of Muslims around the world. What the terrorists have been allowed to take over are Muslim grievances. Muslim concerns over injustice have been largely dismissed by the previous administration leaving a vacuum exploited by extremists. This is a dangerous reality for all of us. Instead, the US must hear mainstream Muslim concerns even if America does not agree with their perceptions. These issues can no longer be ignored or left and the extremists to monopolize.[13]

Advocate of Shari'a?

In October 2009, she appeared on Islam Channel's Muslimah Dilemma, a London-based TV discussion program hosted by Ibtihal Bsis, a member of the extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir party. Nazreen Nawaz, the group's national women's officer, appeared alongside Mogahed. Hizb ut Tahrir is also known as the Islamic Liberation party, and it calls for a global Islamic regime (the "caliphate") under shari'a law, and the destruction of the West.[14] Islam Channel's CEO Mohamed Ali Harrath has been the subject of the Interpol red notice since 1992 because of his alleged activities in Tunisia, where he co-founded the Tunisian Islamic Front (FIT).[15]

When the two members of Hizb ut-Tahrir demanded that Shari'a should be "the source of legislation" and that women should not be "permitted to hold a position of leadership in the government," Mogahed failed to challenge their views and instead defended shari'a as being misunderstood: [16]

Dalia Mogahed
I think the reason so many women support Sharia 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. The portrayal of Sharia has been oversimplified in many cases.

In her first media interview following her appearance on Muslimah Dilemma, Mogahed explained that had she known the program's host or other guest were affiliated with Hitz ut-Tahir, she never would have gone on the show. She also explained that she reports, and not endorses, the views of Muslims around the world according to scientific survey research:[17]

Dalia Mogahed
When I said that the majority of Muslim women want sharia law as a source of legislation, that's because that's what the data show. When I say that sharia is misunderstood and oversimplified by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the reason is that according to our research, the majority of Americans say they know little or nothing about Islam.

When I say that Muslim women around the world associate sharia with gender justice, that says nothing about my point of view. I'm stating a fact. It's not to trivialize the very real abuses around the world in the name of sharia. It points to the possibility of many women disagreeing with that interpretation of sharia.

In regards to her statements she made on the show, she said she had no regrets. She claimed that she is being falsely portrayed as endorsing sharia for women and that this has been "a case of shooting the messenger."[18]

The Spittoon blog venue posted a letter it claims was written by Mogahed to The Sunday Telegraph who originally published the article "Barack Obama adviser says Sharia Law is misunderstood." Since the letter was never published in the newspaper and the blogger's source remains anonymous, there is no way of verifying the authenticity of this letter:

Spittoon Exclusive: Dalia Mogahed’s letter to the Sunday Telegraph
Al-Qanaas Al-Masri - The Spittoon, October 13, 2009
Dear Sirs;

I am writing in response to the 8 October article “Barack Obama adviser says Sharia Law is misunderstood” by Mr. Gilligan and Mr. Spillius.

I was on the Muslimah Dilemma program as a pollster, not a pundit. I did not take issue with the objectionable remarks of the host or the guest because as a Gallup analyst my job is to explain the opinions of others, in this case Muslims around the world, and not to present my personal opinions. I do not in any way endorse Hizb ul Tahrir. My participation in the program does not serve as endorsement of any group or cause.

My staff and I did not find out the affiliation of the host or other guest until she was introduced on air during the program, and would not have agreed to the interview had we known ahead of time. I suspect the host knew this and therefore deliberately mislead us to score propaganda points for an ideological movement. Unfortunately the Telegraph’s publicity and misrepresentation of my appearance may have delivered to the group exactly this victory.



Director and Senior Analyst

Center for Muslim Studies


901 F Street, NW.

Washington, DC. 20004



Supporting the Muslim Brotherhood?

Dalia Mogahed is a leadership group member[19] of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, which called for engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood.[20] The Muslim Brotherhood is dedicated, in its own words, to “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ’sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” [2] Mogahed was a scheduled speaker at the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society's National Convention in May 2009.[21][22] The Muslim American Society (MAS) also has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune:[23]

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In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews. One of the nation's major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.

Jihad Watch quoted Joseph Abram's January 8, 2009 Fox News article titled "Group That Funded Rep. Ellison's Pilgrimage to Mecca Called a Front for Extremism":

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"[MAS] is the de facto arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.," said Steven Emerson, director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "The agenda of the MAS is to ... impose Islamic law in the U.S., to undermine U.S. counterterrorism policy."

The MAS was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist movement created in Egypt in 1928. Radical members of the Brotherhood founded the terror group Hamas and were among the first members of Al Qaeda.

The Muslim American Society's former secretary general has acknowledged that the group was founded by the Brotherhood, and in 2004 he estimated that about half of MAS members were in the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Ikhwan [Brotherhood] members founded MAS, but MAS went way beyond that point of conception," Shaker Elsayed told the Chicago Tribune, explaining that the group had expanded to include a wider viewpoint.[1]


Stephen Schwartz, a prominent American convert to Islam and ardent critic of Muslim fundamentalism is critical of Dalia Mogahed's views:

Stephen Schwartz
[Muslims'] attitudes toward Islamic law are divided, in her terms, only between supposedly wanting Shariah to be the sole source of governance and seeing it as one source of legislation among various canons. But for her, even this distinction is less important than proclaiming the satisfaction of Muslim women with Shariah...

[Mogahed shares the] outlook of Islamists in Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and other countries threatened by fundamentalist tyranny, in which religious governance is posed as the sole alternative to secular dictatorship...

While Muslims around the world are increasingly turning toward civil society, Dalia Mogahed offers the retrograde fantasy of Shariah as liberating, even as comparable with the principles of the Declaration of Independence...

[Sharia] is most often employed to oppress women, not to free them from the blandishments of the sinful West. The Mogahed approach discounts the widespread, moderate Muslim view that Shariah, like other canons of religious law, should apply only to standards for diet, forms of prayer, and other strictly individual or personal options...

Such an individual is inappropriate as an adviser to the president and can do great harm by providing an American seal of approval to extreme Shariah ideology.[24]

Dr. Elham Mane'a, a reformist Yemeni journalist, reported anxiety over Mogahed's appointment to Obama's Advisory Council because she has likely been influenced by a religious ideology more conservative than the one prevailing in Arab countries, and also because of the enthusiasm shown by Saudi-funded media outlets and the message of congratulations from a particular Muslim-American organization known for its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. After giving some time to observe Mogahed's orientation and views, he discovered that her perception of Islam is an extremist one.[25]

Regarding the book she co-authored with John Esposito, he said:

Dr. Elham Mane'a
I looked for the book that made Mogahed famous - an English-language book titled Who Speaks for Islam? (New York, 2007). The book presents a field study by [Dalia Mogahed] and her colleague John Esposito, conducted in the framework of the Gallup Organization, which claimed to reflect the opinions of more than one billion Muslims from numerous countries...

I do not know what you think, sisters, but I work in the field of scientific research, and I do not think it possible for a survey to reflect the opinions of more than one billion people. Whoever makes such a claim is not only exaggerating, but is disregarding the very [principles] of research.

I searched the book for [a definition of] the term 'Shari'a'... I found that [the authors] defend the Shari'a by explaining that there is confusion between this concept and the concept of Islamic law. The Shari'a, they say, is 'a [moral] compass reflecting principles valid in any era, which cannot be changed,' while Islamic law, [or] jurisprudence, is 'a map that must conform to this compass.'

Considering this distinction between Shari'a and Islamic law, I was surprised to find that the section on women's rights included no discussion of the personal status laws in Arab [countries]. According to the Arab Human Development Report for 2005, [these laws] must be amended in order to improve the [status] of Arab women, who are currently in a state of backwardness. These laws are based on Koranic texts, so, according to [Mogahed's] own approach, they are part of the Shar'ia. [However, these laws] perpetuate the discrimination against women within the family.[26]

Hillel Fradkin, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute where he directs its Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World, wrote a devastating review of Mogahed's book. The following is an excerpt from his article:

Hillel Fradkin, Middle East Strategy at Harvard
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.[27]

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mahdi Bray: Muslim American Society didn't pay for Ellison's hajj; Ellison's office: Yes, they did - Marisol - Jihad Watch, January 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America
  3. Gallup: Dalia Mogahed
  4. Muslim woman's appointment as Obama adviser draws cautious optimism - Noha El-Hennaway - The Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2009
  5. Egyptian-born US Muslim to advise White House - Al Arabiya News, April 21, 2009
  6. "We're all working for a more well-informed citizenry" - Interview with Dalia Mogahed - Abbas Jaffer - Altmuslimah, May 8, 2009
  7. CAIR: 'Moderate' friends of terror - by Daniel Pipes
  8. Meet White House adviser who supports Islamic law - Art Moore - World Net Daily, October 21, 2009
  9. Siraj Wahaj, Jesse Jackson To Speak At CAIR Banquet - The Iconoclast - New English Review, October 22, 2009
  10. Exclusive: CAIR 15th Annual Banquet Replaces Obama Faith Advisor with Controversial Imam - The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report - Family Security Matters, October 23, 2009
  11. Independent, interactive, popular - Bettina Gräf - Arab Media & Society, Issue 4, Winter 2008
  12. Abdelhadi, Magdi (July 7, 2004). "Controversial preacher with 'star status'". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  13. Obama's Muslim Advisor (Exclusive) - Muhammad Qasim -, April 28, 2009
  14. What do Muslims Want? A White House adviser defends sharia. - Stephen Schwartz - Weekly Standard, October 20, 2009
  15. Terrorism adviser to Met is on wanted list - Richard Kerbaj & Dominic Kennedy - Times Online, December 14, 2008
  16. Barack Obama adviser says Sharia Law is misunderstood - Andrew Gilligan & Alex Spillius - The Telegraph, October 8, 2009
  17. Exclusive: White House Faith Adviser Defends Sharia Remarks - Dan Gilgoff, God & Country - U.S. News and World Report, October 22, 2009
  18. Exclusive: White House Faith Adviser Defends Sharia Remarks - Dan Gilgoff, God & Country - U.S. News and World Report, October 22, 2009
  19. Leadership Group Members - member of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement project
  20. Changing Course - A New Direction for US Relations with the Muslim World - (US Muslim Engagement Project)
  21. The Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society's National Convention, Image 1 caption - Tia Ann Chapman - Hartford Courant, May 23, 2009
  22. 34th ICNA-MAS Convention, Speakers 2009
  23. A rare look at secretive Brotherhood in America
    Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Sam Roe and Laurie Cohen - Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2004
  24. Meet White House adviser who supports Islamic law - Art Moore - World Net Daily, October 21, 2009
  25. Yemeni Liberal Criticizes Appointment of Dalia Mogahed as Obama's Advisor on Islam - MEMRI: Special Dispatch - No. 2518, September 4, 2009
  26. Yemeni Liberal Criticizes Appointment of Dalia Mogahed as Obama's Advisor on Islam - MEMRI: Special Dispatch - No. 2518, September 4, 2009
  27. Who does speak for Islam? - Hillel Fradkin – Middle East Strategy at Harvard, April 10, 2008

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