‘A third of Muslim students back killings’

Almost a third of British Muslim students believe killing in the name of Islam can be justified, according to a poll. The study also found that two in five Muslims at university support the incorporation of Islamic sharia codes into British law.

The YouGov poll for the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) will raise concerns about the extent of campus radicalism. “Significant numbers appear to hold beliefs which contravene democratic values,” said Hannah Stuart, one of the report’s authors. “These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said there is no extremism in British universities.”

The report was criticised by the country’s largest Muslim student body, Fosis, but Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: “The finding that a large number of students think it is okay to kill in the name of religion is alarming. There is a wide cultural divide between Muslim and non-Muslim students. The solution is to stop talking about celebrating diversity and focus on integration and assimilation.”

Sunday Times, 27 July 2008

See the FOSIS press release which quotes Faisal Hanjra, President of FOSIS, as stating: “This is yet another damning attack on the Muslim community by elements within the academic arena whose only purpose seems to be the undermining of sincere efforts by mainstream Muslim organisations to tackle the threat of terror which wider society faces. The report is methodologically weak, it is unrepresentative and above all serves only to undermine the positive work carried out by Islamic Societies across the country.”

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, is also quoted as condemning the study: “This report is a reflection of the biases and prejudices of a right wing think tank – not the views of Muslim students across Britain. Only 632 Muslim students were asked vague and misleading questions, and their answers were then wilfully misinterpreted in order to fit this organisation’s own tawdry obsession with Islam.”

See also the Sunday Herald, which reports that Muslim students’ leaders in Scotland have dismissed the CSC’s research as flawed. Adel Daas, president of Strathclyde University Muslim Students’ Association, said: “What scares me is how this report is going to be used. It will be used to divide Muslims from non-Muslims. This is not working to bring communities together, it is trying to highlight the things that separate us from others, which is wrong. This study is going to cause more pressure, more separation, more issues and more problems.”

The Scottish Islamic Foundation also expressed reservations about the findings. Noman Tahir, a Glasgow University student who is also from the foundation, said of the Centre for Social Cohesion: “Despite the pleasant name, it has become increasingly apparent over the last few years that this organisation is less concerned about social cohesion and instead more apt at spreading vicious lies and hatred towards Muslims.”

Usman Anwar, a member of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies’ student affairs committee, said: “You can tell by the language the report uses throughout that it has a specific agenda to paint a bleak picture. We meet many students on a regular basis and our findings do not correlate with the findings of this survey. This report serves only to vilify Islamic societies and undermine the sincere efforts by mainstream Muslim organisations to tackle the threat of terror which wider society faces.”

See also the Sunday Times where Minette Marrin asks: “how can young Muslims fit into a liberal western democracy if they believe things that are intolerant, illegal and, in plain English, unBritish?”

Marrin offers a solution: “There must be no public recognition of religious associations as representatives of anything or anybody: not on campuses, not in student unions, not in government consultations or in parliament. So-called religious community leaders, or umbrella groups of religious bodies, must of course be free to associate as they like in private, in a free country, but publicly they must be ignored.”

The CSC report is available (pdf) here.

Update:  The YouGov poll asked Muslim students: “Is it ever justifiable to kill in the name of religion?” Only 4% agreed that it was justifiable “in order to preserve and promote that religion”, while 28% agreed with the view that it was justifiable “only if that religion is under attack”. This is where the “third of Muslim students back killings” headline comes from. In fact 53% agreed that killing in the name of religion is “never justifiable”.

Imagine a polling organisation asking students whether they think killing is ever justifiable in the name of their country. 4% say yes, in order to preserve and promote that country, 28% say yes, but only if that country is under attack, and 53% say never under any circumstances. Would the right-wing press report this as “one third of students back killings”? No, they’d report it as “half of students would refuse to fight to defend their country” and denounce the iniquitous influence of pacifism on university campuses!

In fact, it looks to me as though the YouGov poll revealed that the British Muslim student population holds much more moderate views than the Islamophobes of the Centre for Social Cohesion had anticipated, which is why they have to spin the results so dishonestly.