Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Religion of Peace? (26/02/15)


The BBC published an interesting opinion poll the other day on the attitude of British Muslims towards violence and Islamic extremism.

Now in some ways the results of the survey are good news since the great majority of Muslims in the UK oppose violence and support democratically decided, non-religious laws. 

But on some key issues there is a troubling level of support and empathy amongst British Muslims for extremist attitudes and behaviours, for example:   
  • 27% had some sympathy over the attacks in Paris
  • 11% feel sympathy for those who want to fight against western interests 
  • 20% thought western liberal society could never be compatible with Islam
  • 5% would not report to the police a fellow Muslim planning an act of violence
  • 8% know fellow Muslims who feel strongly sympathetic towards IS and al-Qaeda 
Now some of these figures are very significant indeed and there is clearly work to do in debating these issues and challenging attitudes within the Muslim community.

Because the reality is that substantial numbers of British Muslims appear to contradict the claim that Islam is a religion of peace.  


Most British Muslims 'oppose Muhammad cartoons reprisals' 

1,000 Muslims were surveyed across Britain from 26 January to 20 February

The majority of British Muslims oppose violence against people who publish images depicting the Prophet Muhammad, a poll for the BBC suggests. 

The survey also indicates most have no sympathy with those who want to fight against Western interests. 

But 27% of the 1,000 Muslims polled by ComRes said they had some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks. 

Almost 80% said they had found it deeply offensive when images depicting the Prophet were published. 

Click here to get the full survey results.

Poll of British Muslims

  • 95% feel a loyalty to Britain
  • 93% say they should obey British laws
  • 46% feel prejudice against Islam makes it difficult being Muslim in Britain 
  • 78% are offended when images of the Prophet Muhammad are published 
  • 11% feel sympathy for people who want to fight against western interests  
ComRes poll for BBC 

Asked if acts of violence against those who publish images of the Prophet Muhammad can "never be justified", 68% agreed that such violence was never justifiable.

But 24% disagreed with the statement, while the rest replied "don't know" or refused to answer.

The poll, carried out between 26 January and 20 February, suggests 32% of British Muslims were not surprised by January's attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, which published depictions of the Prophet, and a kosher supermarket in Paris.


The poll also suggests that almost half of British Muslims believe they face discrimination because of their faith and that Britain is becoming less tolerant, while the same percentage feel prejudice against Islam makes it difficult being a Muslim in the UK.

Some 35% said they felt most British people did not trust Muslims, and a fifth said they thought Western liberal society could never be compatible with Islam.

Of those polled, 95% felt a loyalty to Britain, while 93% believed that Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws.

Nearly 20% of Muslim women questioned said they felt unsafe in Britain, compared with 10% of men.

Analysis 

By Sima Kotecha, Today reporter

Islam is a religion of peace and love - not violence: sentiments that have been expressed numerous times here in Bradford.

Out of the dozens of people I've spoken to, an overwhelming majority have said they're angry that their interpretation of Islam has been eclipsed by an extreme ideology that is too often projected in the media.

They say it's this that is fuelling prejudice, and it's leading to some in the community feeling ostracised from British society.

As one young man said: "We're all being branded as extremists in this country. I am British but sometimes it feels as if Britain is rejecting me because of my faith and that hurts."

One thousand Muslims were polled as part of our survey - a number statistically representative of the population of close to three million Muslims in Britain. 
'Stop alienation'

A student at Bradford College, Samaia Aslal, told the BBC that politicians and the media perpetuated a dehumanised image of Muslims, which opens them up to all forms of attack.

She said: "It is up to the rest of British society to stop looking at us as some kind of threat, to accept us.

"To not always ask us how British we feel, that's as stupid as asking 'how do you feel about your red hair today?'.

"To ask this whilst alienating us, spying on us, making us feel like we don't fit in."

But another student Mohammed Al Hakaroon said integration was the responsibility of both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Brothers Cherif (L) and Said Kouachi attacked Charlie Hebdo

"There is no Islamic regulation or law that prevents integration. Everyone should be treated as equal: Muslim, white, black, Asian, as the Prophet himself has said."

Musmil Afik, who also studies at Bradford College, said he was angry and frustrated, so he could understand why this drove one in four people to support the attacks in Paris.

He said: " But this is not what Islam is about. Islam is about peace, love and harmony."

Former Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi said the poll highlighted her view that the government's terrorism policy was not based on enough evidence.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme she said: "What is the evidence that shows us how people are being radicalised?

"What is the evidence that shows us the route to someone becoming a terrorist. We just don't have this.

"We don't have definitive data that we work to and that is why I think we get much of our policy wrong."

Twelve people died when an attack was launched on the office of Charlie Hebdo on 7 January.

The following day a policewoman was murdered by Amedy Coulibaly, who also held up a Jewish supermarket the next day, killing four people.

Coulibaly and the two Charlie Hebdo gunmen, Said and Cherif Kouachi, were shot dead by police in two separate sieges.

Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain says further research is needed

Selection of ComsRes questions 
  • If someone I knew from the Muslim community was planning an act of violence I would report them to the police - 94% agree
  • I know Muslims who feel strongly sympathetic towards people fighting for IS and al-Qaeda - 8% agree
  • Muslim clerics who preach that violence against the West can be justified are out of touch with mainstream opinion - 49% agree
  • I would like my children to go a Muslim state school if I had the choice - 31% agree
  • I would rather socialise with Muslims than non-Muslims - 13% agree
  • If I could I would leave Britain and go and live in another country - 14% agree