A huge survey of the world's Muslims released Tuesday suggests that Western perceptions of Islam are wrong, showing that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemn radicalism and cherish Western freedoms.
The survey, conducted by the Gallup polling agency over six years and three continents, seeks to dispel the belief held by some in the West that Islam itself is the driving force of radicalism.
It shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims -- about 93 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims -- condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington.
Only seven percent of the 50,000 Muslims surveyed -- the so-called "radicals" -- condoned the attacks, the poll showed.
The poll also showed Muslims admire the West for its democracy, freedoms and technological prowess, but do not want Western ways forced on them.
The study, which Gallup says surveyed a sample equivalent to 90 percent of the world's Muslims, has given voice to Islam's silent majority.
"A billion Muslims should be the ones that we look to, to understand what they believe, rather than a vocal minority," said Dalia Mogadeh, director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and co-author of the book "Who Speaks for Islam," which grew out of the study.
It showed that widespread religiosity "does not translate into widespread support for terrorism," she said.
Moderate Muslims condemned the 9/11 attacks because innocent lives were lost and civilians killed.
"Some actually cited religious justifications for why they were against 9/11, going as far as to quote from the Quran -- for example, the verse that says taking one innocent life is like killing all humanity," she said.
Meanwhile, radical Muslims gave political, not religious, reasons for condoning the attacks, the poll showed.
The survey shows radicals to be neither more religious than their moderate counterparts, nor products of abject poverty or refugee camps.
"The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims," said John Esposito, who co-authored "Who Speaks for Islam".
"Ironically, they believe in democracy even more than many of the mainstream moderates do, but they're more cynical about whether they'll ever get it," said Esposito, a professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University in Washington.
Gallup launched the study following 9/11, after which U.S. President George W. Bush asked in a speech, which is quoted in the book: "Why do they hate us?"
"They hate... a democratically elected government," Bush offered as a reason. "They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."
But the poll, which gives ordinary Muslims a voice in the global debate that they have been drawn into by 9/11, showed that most Muslims -- including radicals -- admire the West for its democracy, freedoms and technological prowess.
What they do not want is to have Western ways forced on them, it said.
"Muslims want self-determination, but not an American-imposed and -defined democracy. They don't want secularism or theocracy. What the majority wants is democracy with religious values," said Esposito.
Muslims in 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East were interviewed for the survey, which is part of Gallup's World Poll that aims to interview 95 percent of the world's population.