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The group portrait of British Muslims painted by YouGov’s survey for The Daily Telegraph is at once reassuring and disturbing, in some ways even alarming.
The vast majority of British Muslims condemn the London bombings but a substantial minority are clearly alienated from modern British society and some are prepared to justify terrorist acts.
The divisions within the Muslim community go deep. Muslims are divided over the morality of the London bombings, over the extent of their loyalty to this country and over how Muslims should respond to recent events.
Most Muslims are evidently moderate and law-abiding but by no means all are.
YouGov sought to gauge the character of the Muslim community’s response to the events of July 7. As the figures in the chart show, 88 per cent of British Muslims clearly have no intention of trying to justify the bus and Tube murders.
However, six per cent insist that the bombings were, on the contrary, fully justified.
Six per cent may seem a small proportion but in absolute numbers it amounts to about 100,000 individuals who, if not prepared to carry out terrorist acts, are ready to support those who do.
Moreover, the proportion of YouGov’s respondents who, while not condoning the London attacks, have some sympathy with the feelings and motives of those who carried them out is considerably larger—24 per cent.
A substantial majority, 56 per cent, say that, whether or not they sympathise with the bombers, they can at least understand why some people might want to behave in this way.
YouGov also asked whether or not its Muslim respondents agreed or disagreed with Tony Blair’s description of the ideas and ideology of the London bombers as perverted and poisonous.
Again, while a large majority, 58 per cent, agree with him, a substantial minority, 26 per cent, are reluctant to be so dismissive.
The responses indicate that Muslim men are more likely than Muslim women to be alienated from the mainstream and that the young are more likely to be similarly alienated than the old.
However, there are few signs in YouGov’s findings that Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are any more disaffected than their co-religionists from elsewhere.
The sheer scale of Muslim alienation from British society that the survey reveals is remarkable. Although a large majority of British Muslims are more than content to make their home in this country, a significant minority are not.
For example, YouGov asked respondents how loyal they feel towards Britain. As the figures in the chart show, the great majority say they feel very loyal (46 per cent) or fairly loyal (33 per cent) but nearly one British Muslim in five, 18 per cent, feels little loyalty towards this country or none at all.
If these findings are accurate, and they probably are, well over 100,000 British Muslims feel no loyalty whatsoever towards this country.
The proportion of men who say they feel no loyalty to Britain is more than three times the proportion of women saying the same.
Equally remarkable are YouGov’s findings concerning many Muslims’ attitudes towards Western society and culture.
YouGov asked respondents how they feel about Western society and how, if at all, they feel Muslims should adapt to it. A majority, 56 per cent, believe Western society may not be perfect but Muslims should live with it and not seek to bring it to an end.
However, nearly a third of British Muslims, 32 per cent, are far more censorious, believing that Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end.
Among those who hold this view, almost all go on to say that Muslims should only seek to bring about change by non-violent means but one per cent, about 16,000 individuals, declare themselves willing, possibly even eager, to embrace violence.
Yet again, far more men than women and far more young people than their elders evince this kind of hostility towards the world around them. In addition, tens of thousands of Muslims view the whole of Britain’s political establishment with suspicion.
More than half of those interviewed, 52 per cent, believe British political leaders don’t mean it when they talk about equality. They regard the lives of white British people as more valuable than the lives of British Muslims.
Almost as many, 50 per cent, reckon the main party leaders are not being sincere when they say they respect Islam and want to co-operate with Britain’s Muslim communities.
Despite Tony Blair’s well-publicised efforts to reach out to Muslims, fewer than half of those interviewed, 42 per cent, approve of the way he has handled Britain’s response to the July 7 events.
Many British Muslims are probably reluctant to give Mr Blair credit for anything at all following his complicity with America, as they see it, in launching the invasion of Iraq. Just more than half, 52 per cent, are impressed by the performance since the bombings of Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. Some Muslims’ discontent with Britain clearly extends to discontent with the existing moderate and pro-British Muslim leadership.
A cloud of suspicion also hangs over Britain’s judicial system.
YouGov asked its Muslim respondents whether or not they thought anyone charged and taken to court in connection with the July 7 attacks would receive a fair trial. Only 37 per cent said yes. The rest reckon he or she would not or were doubtful that they would.
Despite these widespread doubts, a large majority of Britain’s Muslims clearly believe the time has come when Muslims must shoulder their share of the responsibility for preventing and punishing terrorist crimes such as those in London.
As the figures in the chart show, roughly a third of Muslims reckon they should assume a great deal of the responsibility and another third reckon they should assume at least some of it.
Even more impressive in some ways is the fact that large numbers now say they are prepared to put their mouth where their feelings are.
As the figures in the chart show, almost three quarters of British Mulsims, 73 per cent, say they would inform the police if they believed that someone they knew or knew of might be planning a terrorist attack.
Nearly half, 47 per cent, say they would also go to the police if they believed an imam or other religious person was trying to radicalise young Muslims by preaching hatred against the West.
Not only that but 70 per cent of Muslims reckon they have a duty to go to the police if they see something in the community that makes them feel suspicious.
Taken as a whole, the findings of YouGov’s survey suggest that, although large numbers of British Muslims dislike British society and in some cases may be tempted to attack it, the great majority are loyal and law-abiding and are unlikely to provide the radicals with moral support, let alone safe havens.
YouGov interviewed 526 Muslim adults across Great Britain online between July 15 and yesterday. The data were weighted to reflect the composition of Britain’s Muslim population by gender, age and country of birth.
YouGov abides by the rules of the British Polling Council.
(Posted on July 25, 2005)