The first two in a national series of forums are being held tonight in Des Moines and tomorrow night and Omaha to discuss myths and facts about Muslims. The basis is the Gallup organization’s largest-ever study of Muslims worldwide that included interviews with 50,000 people over six years in 35 countries.

Leading the discussion will be Dalia Mogahed, executive director and senior analyst at the Washington D-C-based Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. Mogahed says: "What we focused on for the purposes of our study are countries where Muslims are a majority. We looked at residents of those countries and compared them to the general American public as well as publics in Europe. What we found is that certainly there are differences but there’s also a lot more commonalities than we might expect." She says Gallup wants to present people with the findings of the comprehensive study and hear feedback.

"What we want to do is simply offer people some information that we’ve been giving to people around the world," Mogahed says. "It’s very important that our decisions be made based on factual information instead of assumptions." She says the study found there’s a great deal of common ground between Americans and the residents of majority-Muslim nations.

"Things that we admire most about our own societies are, in fact, the things that Muslims around the world admire about us. They tell us the things they admire most are our technology and our democracy," Mogahed says. "These are also the two most frequent responses among Americans when asked the same question." She says the opposite is also true — what Americans say they admire least about our society is the breakdown of traditional values, a sentiment echoed by Muslims elsewhere. She points out, there are six-to-seven-million Americans who are Muslim.

The study’s findings are being published in a book, "Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think." For more information on the forums, visit the website of the sponsoring agency, the Des Moines-based U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy at "". Tonight’s forum is at 5:30 in the main Des Moines Public Library, with tomorrow night’s forum at 5 o’clock at the Creighton University Law School in Omaha.