“The picture that the evidence paints is a disturbing one. It suggests a network of hard-right islamophobes engaged in an organized propaganda campaign to raise fears about Islam. It’s a network that is able to reach the public easily through connections with mainstream media outlets like The Telegraph and The Daily Mail, who seem more than happy to amplify the noise the network generates. Far from promoting social cohesion, these people appear to be promoting the breakdown of British society.”
Martin Robbins takes on the Centre for Social Cohesion.
The disgusting misrepresentation of British Muslims
By Martin Robbins
A headline in the Daily Mail the other day caught my eye: “One third of British Muslim students say it’s acceptable to kill for Islam.” The report breathlessly recounts the usual Islamophobic rhetoric, that Muslims think murder is great and want Sharia law across the world, attitudes I rarely see among my Muslim friends. The results were based on a YouGov poll that didn’t appear in any of the other news sources I regularly scan, nor even on YouGov’s website. Intrigued, I did a bit of digging, and what I found was quite disturbing.
So what are these alleged statistics, and where do they come from? According to the Mail, “the findings were described by researchers at the Centre for Social Cohesion think tank, which commissioned the poll, as ‘deeply alarming'”, and they include the following claims about sentiment among British Muslim students:
32% say killing in the name of religion is justified.
40% support the introduction of sharia into British law for Muslims.
33% back the notion of a worldwide Islamic caliphate (state) based on sharia law.
40% feel it is unacceptable for Muslim men and women to mix freely.
24% do not think men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah.
25% have little or no respect for homosexuals.
Now, I’m going to tackle those figures in a bit, but first I want to talk about the group who commissioned the poll. Who exactly are the Centre for Social Cohesion?
Well, they’re very unpopular with British Muslims, who practically accuse them of running smear campaigns, and claim that the group demonstrates a clear anti-Islam bias. You don’t just have to take their word for it though, just look at their own website. You would expect a group interested in social cohesion to have a site full of information about positive initiatives and results across various combinations of ethnic groups, but instead the entire page seems to be a concerted attack on Islam.
So who are these people? Osama Saeed did some research into the group’s members, and I’ll use his eloquent assessment here (links to primary sources added by myself):
“Let me finish by briefly furnishing you with my own research on CSC. They have a neocon agenda, and their director Douglas Murray indeed wrote a book entitled Neoconservatism: Why We Need It. He told the Pim Fortuyn Memorial Conference in 2006: ‘Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board’. Fortuyn was famous for saying Islam was ‘a backward culture‘ and that he was ‘in favour of a cold war with Islam’. Social cohesion indeed.
The CSC shares a building with Policy Exchange, another rightwing ‘stinktank. Last year, PE were subject of aNewsnight investigation which claimed to have uncovered damning evidence that they had forged receipts of extremist literature they said they purchased from Britains mosques. Its head Dean Godson said he would sue the BBC. We are all still waiting. The dodgy reports author, Denis McEoin, sits on the CSCs board.”
The picture that the evidence paints is a disturbing one. It suggests a network of hard-right islamophobes engaged in an organized propaganda campaign to raise fears about Islam. It’s a network that is able to reach the public easily through connections with mainstream media outlets like The Telegraph and The Daily Mail, who seem more than happy to amplify the noise the network generates. Far from promoting social cohesion, these people appear to be promoting the breakdown of British society.
So that’s the source, what about the actual numbers? The report containing the poll results is available online, and when you find the actual questions, buried at the back of the 120 page document, it becomes very clear how the results have been manipulated. As far as a fair and balanced poll goes, this one sucks.
Let’s take the two big assertions made in the opening paragraphs of the Daily Mail article. The headline reads:“One third of British Muslim students say it’s acceptable to kill for Islam,” while the second paragraph states that,“40 per cent want to see the introduction of Islamic sharia law in Britain.” Now let’s see what the two questions actually asked were:
How supportive, if at all, would you be of the official introduction of Shariah Law into British law for Muslims in Britain?
Very supportive 21%
Fairly supportive 19%
Not only do The Mail conveniently drop the modifier “for Muslims” in the opening paragraph, but they’re not even reporting the question that was actually asked, and the question that was asked is very open-ended. To me, that question asks “if officials wanted to introduce some or all aspects of Shari’ah law into the UK for Muslims only, would you support their move?” That’s a fundamentally different question from “do you think Shari’ah law should be introduced into the UK. It may seem like wordplay, but wordplay is critically important in understanding results from polls like this, and how they can be misinterpreted.
Is it ever justifiable to kill in the name of religion?
Yes, in order to preserve and promote that religion 4%
Yes, but only if that religion is under attack 28%
While the Mail’s headline is technically not a lie, it is clearly a substantial manipulation of the truth. Of the 32% that said it was acceptable to kill in the name of religion, 87.5% said “only in self-defense”, while the tiny remainder said yes to an answer that includes the confusing conflation “preserve and promote”. I’m curious to know what percentage of Christians would give similar answers, and what proportion of human beings in general if we substitute “religion” for “philosophy” or “way of life”. Would you be willing to fight an opponent to the death to protect your family’s way of life from attack?
Another two results reported were that 24% of Muslim students “do not think men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah,” and that 25% “have little or no respect for homosexuals”.
Both of these results appear to be accurate, but are stripped of all context. In fact, the report conveniently excludes many other questions asked. For example, while 24% suggested men and women were not equal in the eyes of Allah, in fact 89% of those surveyed said women should be treated equally, with only 5% disagreeing – suggesting a prrogressive trend that I suspect you’d struggle to match in a national poll. Given recent reports about the prevalence of homophobic attitudes in society, I would again be surprised if a national survey improved on the 25% figure obtained in this poll. Results like this, taken out of context, are simply meaningless.
In fact, many more questions – pages of them – were asked in the survey which the media outlets who picked up the press release chose not to mention. A lot of them were very positive too. For example, nearly 80% said it was possibly to be equally Muslim and British, 92% had a range of friends across cultural boundaries, nearly 80% had respect for Jews (with only 7% expressing disrespect), and a similar number respected Atheists. More than 70% said they were more liberal than their parents.
In other words, it would have been possible to use the same poll to paint a much brighter picture, portraying a generation of liberal young British Muslims who are tolerant, who are willing to engage with a diverse range of ethnic groups, who have respect for the beliefs of others, who overwhelmingly condemn violence in the name of religion unless that religion is under specific attack, and who are strongly supportive of women’s rights.
Instead, we have a horrendously biased assessment, and one which feeds directly into society like the dripping of some kind of poison. The article in the Daily Mail stinks of vile hatred, and I find it utterly repulsive for the calculated, insidious way that it attempts to infect its readers with hatred for others, yet I am more repulsed still by the attitudes of its readers, who lap up this material by the page only to spew it at others within range, as evidence by this little selection of comments.
“an article the other day saying we should be kinder to Muslims, and this is what they want to do to us..”
“Yet it’s only us who can be acused of being racist! Our country is going to erupt one of these days!”
“I’m sure 100% of Britons, if you asked them, would prefer these people to be deported.”
“Such students when firmly identified, must be immediately expelled and sent back to their home countries.”
“This tells us what we already know; Islam is not compatible with democracy. Yet the government allows this hate to be spread. There should be no Muslim unions at university or any other institution.”
“the evidence is all around us that Islam is in conflict with everything that can regarded as civilised.”
“Goody at last they start to show their true colours, wake up the vipers are in the nursery.”
“what are you going to do about this to make indigenous population safe from Muslim extremists?”
“Why can’t we do as Idi Amin did and deport all who think that way. “
Yes, obviously when cultures mingle there will be clashes and conflicts, but modern civilization has been built on the intermingling of cultures trading resources, information and philosophies. The problems start when conflict arises, and conflict is surely the aim of these right-wing agitators.
Young British Muslims are not an issue to me, but hateful idiots like the Daily Mail readers I’ve quoted above are. These ignorant people do not represent the principles and values that productive, modern, civilized society should stand for. If anybody should be expelled from my nation, it’s the sort of mindless idiot who thinks that the persecution of a minority by Idi Amin is a suitable role model for 21st century British policy (and perhaps he’d like to know where the pursuit of that particular bit of racism took the Ugandan economy). People like him a far bigger threat to British society today than any number of Muslim immigrants