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02 January 2010

Gallup Coexist Study 2009 – The Headlines You Didn’t See!

• A quarter of British Muslims don’t have confidence in the country’s Judicial system and courts!

• British Muslims are the least integrated in Europe, only one in 10 is integrated

• Loyalty doesn't mean much

• British Muslims at greatest odds with their countrymen over what integration means – the veil is a serious issue

• British Muslims have less respect for other religions than other European Muslims do

• Huge gap between British Muslims and the British public regarding freedom of speech

• British Muslims most likely to support violence in a noble cause

• Survey may have deliberately avoided important and contentious issues

These are reasonable and accurate conclusions drawn from the 2009 Gallup Coexist study which involved 513, 506, and 504 interviews of French, German and British Muslims respectively and of 1006, 1011, and 1001 non-Muslims respectively.

(1) The headlines that the propagandists gave you

Extract from a press release issued by the Muslim Council of Britain.

“The Muslim Council of Britain today welcomed the findings …. showing that Muslims in the United Kingdom feel more loyalty towards the country in which they live than the general public believes they do.

…. The poll charts the attitudes of British Muslims and the wider public, showing that 82% of British Muslims are loyal to this country.

…. 76 % of British Muslims said they had confidence in our country’s Judicial system and courts, thus negating those doomsayers who say Muslims want some sort of undefined ‘Shariah state’.

…. strong religious identities do not prevent strong national identities, nor do they correlate with a rejection of national institutions.

Commending the study, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “…. British Muslims are very much part of this nation’s cultural, social and economic fabric. But naysayers will want to tell you otherwise, and will wish to drive a wedge between fellow Britons. We must all collectively challenge their received wisdom.”

…. many of our fellow Britons have an admirable ‘live-and-let-live’ attitude to those who are different, and many feel – unlike those on the continent – that religious symbols including the headscarf enrich our national culture.” ….

This MCB press release on the Gallup Coexist survey wants you to believe there aren’t any issues regarding the UK’s large minority of Muslims. Any concerns that the majority of the British population have are without foundation, in fact, it is the majority who need to consider their attitudes (even though we are a tolerant bunch).

These MCB conclusions are wishful thinking at best. They demonstrate a failure to objectively analyse the Gallup Coexist results and an ignorance of the surveys shortcomings.

(2) What didn’t get reported

(2.1) British Muslims are the least integrated in Europe, only one in 10 is integrated

The early part of the survey classifies respondents as isolated, tolerant or integrated, defined as follows.

Isolated: Isolated individuals tend not to be members of any particular faith group, but if they are, they tend to believe in the truth of their perspective above all others. They do not want to know about other religions. They also neither respect nor feel respected by those of other faiths.

Tolerant: Tolerant individuals have a “live-and-let-live” attitude toward people of other faiths, and they generally feel that they treat others of different faiths with respect. However, they are not likely to learn from or about other religions.

Integrated: Integrated individuals go beyond a “live-and-let-live” attitude and actively seek to know more about and learn from others of different religious traditions. They believe that most faiths make a positive contribution to society. Furthermore, integrated people not only feel they respect people from other faith traditions, but they also feel respected by them.

By asking a small battery of questions the survey comes up with this result.

[Source: p16 - Figure 8. Gallup Coexist Index]

Percentage of Muslims who are:

(2.2) Identification and Loyalty

The answers to the next two questions on identification and loyalty have been seized upon by Muslim propagandists like the MCB as proof that any worries that non-Muslims have of Muslims regarding their attitude towards their country are without foundation.

[Source: p19 - Figure 14. Identification With Country, Religion]

Q. How strongly do you identify with each of the following groups?

Percentage of Muslims who say "extremely strongly" or "very strongly"

It will ba a surprise to many non-Muslims, many of whom might be committed Catholics, or Hindus, or Buddhists, that it is thought notable or a surprise that many Muslims claiming strong religious identity also claim strong national identity.

The lower country indentification for French Muslims may be related to the fact that many are from North Africa and can easily visit relatives and their native country and for German Muslims to the fact that a significant proportion of Muslim Turks living in Germany do not have German citizenship .

[Source: p20 - Figure 15. Loyalty to Country]

Q. Now thinking specifically about Muslims, do you think each of the following applies or does not apply?

Percentage of Muslims who say Muslims living in THIS COUNTRY are loyal to this country
NationalityLoyalNot ApplicableDon't Know/Refused

As can be seen from the press release quoted above the MCB set great store by the result that 82% of British Muslims say they are loyal to Britain.

Loyalty is an emotional word and beyond its dictionary definition has various connotations. Gallup Coexist do not define what they mean by loyalty and the survey has only the one question concerning loyalty. What the questionnaire means by the word or what a respondent understands by it is not explored by further relevant questions.

All respondents had was the question given above. Are you loyal?

At one extreme it could mean (i) I support my country, right or wrong, (ii) it could mean I know the history of my country, which I am proud of, and even if I do disagree with what it is doing I try to see both sides of the matter, and (iii) it could mean, I have a passport, speak passable English, and obey the laws.

In the case of the MCB and its one-sided obsession with the Palestinian problem, the first two explanations are unlikely.

In fact, the range of meanings that could be given to loyalty in this context was so wide that the questionnaire designers didn’t bother to give respondents the option of saying “not loyal” the other options being only “does not apply” and “don’t know / refused”.

Also, apart from the odd eccentric or extremist that interviewers might come across it seems most unlikely that many Muslims or other persons would openly state to an unknown interviewer that they were not loyal to the country which gives them protection, and good quality free education and healthcare, which many of them would not have had in their country of origin.

So much for loyalty.

(2.3) British Muslims at greatest odds with their countrymen over what integration means – the veil is a serious issue

The survey had several questions addressing what respondents understood by integration.

[Source: p22 - Figure 18. Religious Actions Necessary for Integration]

Q. Many people are discussing the issue of "integration" of ethnic and religious minorities into society in this country. What does "integration" mean to you? To answer this, I will ask you a series of actions and you tell me if you think it is necessary or not necessary for minorities to do these things in order to integrate into society in this country.

Percentage of Muslims who say "it is necessary". Removing the:
NationalityHeadscarfFace veilYarmulkeTurbanLarge cross

Percentage of Non-Muslims who say "it is necessary". Removing the:
Nationality HeadscarfFace veilYarmulkeTurbanLarge cross

Percentage gap between Muslims and non-Muslims
Nationality HeadscarfFace veilYarmulkeTurbanLarge cross

The British compared with the French and Germans appear more relaxed but clearly there is a huge gap of 41 percentage points between what British Muslims and other British people feel about the veil.

The next integration question (p22 – Figure 19) asked about non-religious actions needed for integration.

Q. Many people are discussing the issue of “integration” of ethnic and religious minorities into society in this country. What does “integration” mean to you?

Respondents were asked to rate "Mastering the national language", "Finding a job", "Getting a better education", "Celebrating national holidays", "Volunteering in organizations serving the public", "Participating in politics".

The results are not worth analysing as they show nothing but the obvious. The question looks suspiciously like a make weight for political purposes. Can anybody seriously suggest that mastering the national language, or getting a job, or taking national holidays, is a sign of integration?

It would have been much more useful to have asked about the willingness of Muslims to adopt or adapt to the ways of the great majority whose families have been in the country for generations and who have contributed to making it what it is often through great hardship. Why do some Muslims expect the majority native population to adapt to them?

Why can’t British Muslims understand that hiding your face is considered the height of rudeness by the majority of Britons? Over two-thirds would be prepared to ban such face covering in public places. See this article at TimesOnline. And see the poll results here.

Do you think one day we will have a press release from the MCB saying "..... our fellow countryman don't like the veil. We recommend Muslim women do not wear a veil."? [Answers to Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, The MCB - PO Box 57330, London E1 2WJ,]

(2.4) British Muslims have less respect for other religions than their fellow Muslims do in the rest Europe.

[Source: p24 - Figure 22. Respect People of Other Faiths]

Q. Using a 5-point scale, where 5 means strongly agree and 1 means strongly disagree, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

I always treat people of other religious faiths with respect
NationalityPercentage of Muslims who strongly agree

British Muslims show less respect for other religions than Muslims in France and Germany. Almost 80% of German Muslims strongly agree that they respect other religions but only 50% of British Muslims feel the same.

(2.5) Huge gap between British Muslims and the British public regarding freedom of speech

[Source: p25 Figure 23. Integration – Accepting Offensive Comments]

Q. Many people are discussing the issue of "integration" of ethnic and religious minorities into society in this country. What does "integration" mean to you?

Accepting public comments they perceive as offensive about their faith or ethnicity
Percentage who say it is necessary
NationalityMuslimsPublicMuslims/Public Gap

There is a striking difference between British Muslims and the British public over freedom of speech.

(2.6) British Muslims most likely to support violence in a noble cause

[Source: p40 Figure 52. Morally Justified – Use of Violence in a Noble Cause]

Q. There are many acts some people may do in life. I will read out to you a number of these acts, and I would like you to indicate to what extent it can be morally justified.

Muslims' views on use of violence for a noble cause. Percentage who say:

Cannot be
justified at all

2 3 4 Completely

(3) The elephant in the room!

The Gallup organisation, founded by George Gallup, is a highly reputable polling and market research organisation with a record of pioneering and quality work going back over 60 years.

Thus it is a surprise to find that the Gallup Coexist survey, “A global Study of Interfaith Relations”, omits entirely one of this subjects most contentious issues; Muslims wanting to live under Sharia.

It certainly didn’t escape Dr Bari’s attention because he says in his gushing praise of the survey results “76 % of British Muslims said they had confidence in our country’s Judicial system and courts, thus negating those doomsayers who say Muslims want some sort of undefined ‘Shariah state’.”

This is a non-sequiter, of course; and the survey no where mentions Sharia. And, you have to wonder about the quarter of British Muslims who don’t have confidence in the country’s Judicial system and courts; that’s rather a lot of Muslims.

It would have been very interesting to know what the survey respondents, Muslim and non-Muslim, would have thought of the statements of such Muslim figures as Dr Suhaib Hasan, a leading judge of the UK Islamic Sharia Council, who says “Under the Islamic system, the man may end the marriage if he thinks it right. It is preferable he does this in front of two witnesses, then it is a simple exercise to say: ‘I divorce you.’ “

Or what they think of Faisal Siddiqi, the chairman of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal’s (MAT) governing council who criticised the British media for its obsession with beheadings and other extreme punishments. “They constitute only 10% of sharia.” he says. See here

And what would they think of the explanation given by the UK Islamic Sharia Council of why the evidence of a woman is worth less than that of a man. See here

The person responsible for the Gallup Coexist survey, Dalia Mogahed, Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies, has been in the news recently.

She was appointed a Muslim affairs advisor to President Obama and later provoked controversy by appearing on a British television show hosted by a member of the extremist Hizb ut Tahrir group (they believe in the non-violent destruction of Western democracy and the creation of an Islamic state under Sharia Law across the world) to talk about Sharia Law.

She said the Western view of Sharia was "oversimplified" and the majority of women around the world associate it with "gender justice".

Following the outcry created by her appearance and comments she explained that she had not been aware prior to the programme that it was to be hosted by a member of Hizb ut Tahrir and she was only reporting the results of Gallup’s surveys which suggest [emphasis added] that many Muslim women see Sharia differently from those who use it to deny women rights.

Obviously Gallup haven’t surveyed Canadian Muslim women who were instrumental in the State of Ontario banning the use of religious courts to settle family disputes.

It is fair to ask if the survey has been designed to avoid certain contentious issues such as Sharia!

Living Apart Together – British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism

Policy Exchange, an independent think tank, published “Living Apart Together – British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism” at the beginning of 2007. It is a 100 page report including the results of a survey of 1003 Muslims conducted by Populus. A summary of some of the survey results is given below.

They show that something like a quarter or a third of British Muslims hold beliefs that are completely at odds with western Christian and Enlightenment secular values and British culture in particular. These proportions are even higher amongst younger Muslims in the age range 16-34 years.

Q. "I feel more in common with Muslims in other countries than I do with non-Muslims in Britain"

% of Muslims who agree or disagree
Agree DisagreeDon't know

Q. "Younger people living in my area are more religious today than ten years ago"

% of Muslims who agree or disagree
Agree DisagreeDon't know

Q. "Wearing the veil"

Regarding wearing the veil - % of Muslims who say:
I prefer that Muslim women choose to wear the veilI prefer that Muslim women choose not to wear the veilDon't know

Q. "If I could choose, I would prefer to live in Britain under sharia law rather than British law"

Living under Sharia - % of Muslims who say:
Prefer sharia law Prefer British lawDon't Know

The preference for Sharia law goes up to 37% and 32% for the age groups 16-24 and 25-24 respectively

Q. "The following is a list of laws that are defined in most scholarly interpretations of sharia law. Please say if you personally agree or disagree with the law mentioned"

% of Muslims who agree or disagree with statement
Agree DisagreeDon't Know
A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim51435
A Muslim woman cannot marry without the consent of her guardian43515
A Muslim male have up to four wives46486
Muslim conversion is forbidden and punishable by death315712
Homosexuality is wrong and should be illegal61309

The view that Muslim conversion is forbidden and punishable by death goes up to 36% and 37% for the age groups 16-24 and 25-24 respectively

Q. "Some Islamic scholars have called for a major reinterpretation of sharia law to reflect modern ideas about human rights, equality for women and tolerance of religious conversion. Other Islamic scholars disagree with this view and say that sharia law is absolute and should not be interpreted to fit in with western values. Which of these is closest to your opinion?"

Intepret Sharia for Western values - % of Muslims who say:
Should be interpretedShould NOT be interpretedDon't Know

The view that Sharia NOT be interpreted goes up to 42% and 44% for the age groups 16-24 and 25-24 respectively

In the above tables "Don't know" includes those who refused to answer

The opening part of Policy Exchange’s Executive Summary says:

"This report explores the attitudes of Muslims in Britain today and the reasons why there has been a significant rise in Islamic fundamentalism amongst the younger generation. It argues that the growth of Islamism in the UK is not solely a foreign problem, but something that must be understood in relation to political and social trends that have emerged in British society over the past two decades.

It also examines the impact of public policy on the Muslim population and suggests that the way the Government is responding to Islamism is making things worse not better.

Our research into the attitudes of Muslims in Britain showed that there is a growing religiosity amongst the younger generation of Muslims. They feel that they have less in common with non-Muslims than do their parents and they show a stronger preference for Islamic schools and sharia law.

Religiosity amongst younger Muslims is not about following their parents’ cultural traditions, but rather, their interest in religion is more politicised. There is a greater stress on asserting one’s identity in the public space, for example, by wearing the hijab."

British Muslims most patriotic in Europe - Misleading Headlines and Unreliable Market Research!

A statistic from the Open Society Institute’s Report on 11 EU Cities recently hit the headlines. [The Institute is funded by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist.]

UK Muslims are Europe’s most patriotic said The Sunday Times on 13 December. “….. on average 78% of Muslims identified themselves as British, although this dropped by six points in east London.”

The Telegraph had something similar Muslims in Britain are the most patriotic in Europe according to a new study

It also allowed a least one commentator to conclude that multi-culturalism British style really works and we need more of it.

Pickled Politics told us New poll shows why multi-culturalism works “…. The study and report is a slap in the face for right-wing dogma …. it shows that Britain’s relaxed attitude to differences in religion and culture has made British Muslims more likely to identify with this country and be proud of the liberal traditions they live in ....

Nevermind the fact that the statistic is highly suspect and the claims based on it very dubious. Remarkably, even the authors of the report themselves say that the findings are not representative. And the report examines neither patriotism nor liberal attitudes as its purpose and coverage is something else altogether.

See below for a professional appraisal of the survey research behind this report.

The statistic was one very small item in a 327 page report that covers Cohesion, Belonging, Discrimination and Interactions, Education, Employment, Neighbourhood and Housing, Health Care, Policing and Security, Civic and Political Participation, Media.

The full report looks suspiciously like the fulfilment of a political agenda, picking and choosing from existing research and literature, and the market research with its many faults as a device to give the results and conclusions the appearance of objectivity.

The initiative of which the report is part states “The At Home in Europe Project …. works to advance and promote the integration of minority groups in Western Europe. ....” So far, so good. It goes on to say:

“.... there is .... increasing acknowledgment of the prejudice Muslims experience and the social and economic disadvantages they suffer. This complex situation presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges: how to effectively ensure equal rights and social cohesion in a climate of ….. rapidly expanding diversity.”

The assumption here is that Europe has to do something, that Europe has to change its ways.

The Open Society Institute should consider using some of Mr Soros’ generous funding to do a report telling Muslims how they should change.

That they might experience prejudice and feel victimised in Europe because Europeans find their behaviour and ideas objectionable. Face veils are not liked. You only cover your face in Europe if you are unwell, cold, or in mourning. Otherwise covering your face means you want to hide your true feelings and it is very rude.

Religious freedom is important to Europeans and the use or threat of violence to enforce religion on people or to protect religious beliefs went out of practice in Europe a long time ago. You have to put up with people saying things about your religion even ridiculing it which you find objectionable, and men and women really are equal, to name just a few of the topics that cause friction between Muslims and Europeans.

And, if you want to be respected it won’t be because of your religion but rather your behaviour and achievements as human beings.

The press headlines are careless journalism and smack of wholesale swallowing of press releases. Pickled Politics are seizing on something with little examination because it suits their view of how the world should be.

But in any case it is academic whether it is 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of Muslims in Britain who see themselves as British (whatever that means and which most definitely could exclude patriotism and pride in liberal traditions).

It is abundantly clear to anyone who has their eyes open, reads the press or watches TV, that there are a lot of Muslims, a very large number, one in five, or one in four, or one in three, who live in Britain who do not wish to be British, except to the extent that it provides a safe place to live and has a good public health service, and who are doing all they can to recreate the societies of their forebears or homelands and propagate beliefs and practices alien to Britain.

A much more useful report would be one on the Muslim publicists and representatives that we hear all the time promoting, demanding, and excusing, all those things that make Muslims aliens to Britain even though they live here. A sad fact is there are very few Muslim publicists working in the opposite sense.

What do the 200 British Muslims people in this survey (that is the number of British interviews, 100 in Leicester and 100 in Waltham Forest, in this European project) think of the views of Dr Suhaib Hasan, the Secretary of the Islamic Sharia Council of Britain and a member of the senior panel of imams at Regent's Park Mosque in London, who says:

“…. sharia says authority must be with the man to maintain the house. The woman's duties ….. lie with the cleaning and childcare.” “…. In matters of divorce, the right of ending a marriage lies with the man because 'women have emotions, whereas a man thinks first before he speaks". See here

It would be interesting to know what they think of Sarfraz Sarwar, leader of the Basildon Islamic Centre in Essex. “Mr Sarwar's …. suggestion is to adapt the 'three strikes' policy on crime. Instead of being jailed on the third conviction, a criminal could face having a hand chopped off."

"That would fit in with the way of life here. I'm not being extreme. This has to be used in moderation, for serious crimes, not petty robbery. …."

What do they think of Faisal Siddiqi, founder of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal a British Muslim parallel justice system whereby men inherit twice what women inherit, it’s more difficult for a woman to get a divorce than a man, and a Muslim man who assaults his wife can go on an anger management course, who says the British media are obsessed with beheadings and other extreme punishments? “They constitute only 10% of sharia” he says! See here

Another leading light of British Muslim opinion is Inayat Bunglawala, the assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, who says that stoning to death for adultery is acceptable in a country where people choose that as the law. See here

Mr Bunglawala’s erstwhile boss, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, is famous for saying death was too easy for Salman Rushdie. His present boss thinks arranged marriages are a good idea and we should have them in Britain.

And how many of those Muslims in Leicester and Waltham Forest agree with the explanation of why a woman’s evidence is worth less than that of a man given on the UK based Islamic Sharia Council website? See here

And what would they say about the stories behind these (accurate) headlines:

Christians face trial for criticising IslamCan a Muslim say happy Christmas to his friends?Teachers upset at Muslim woman who doesn't shake handsBurkini swimmers want men to leave poolDentist ordered two women to wear head scarves before he would see themMuslim student, 18, banned from college because she refuses to remove her burkhaReport denounces 'destructive' polygamy

The Open Society Institute carried out not only a sub-standard survey but the wrong survey.

Research Appraisal - How Reliable are the Survey Results?

The quoted UK press headlines and articles are based on a survey organised by the Open Society Institute. How much credence can we give to these claims and this survey?

The full Open Society Institute Report on 11 EU Cities, including the survey methodology and questionnaire, can be downloaded from here

(1) Extremely small sample sizes

These UK claims are based on 100 “in-depth” interviews with Muslims in Leicester and 100 in Waltham Forest, east London.

This is an extremely small sample for any kind of statistical claim. We see all the time how surveys considerably larger than this (1000+) can produce a false picture. The polls predicting a Swiss vote against a ban on minarets is a recent case in point. The result was significantly in the other direction.

And any bias or misrepresentation in the sample can dramatically mislead.

(2) Biased sample

It is not clear what the sample represents. The questionnaire raises numerous issues over how it worked in practice and a complex and difficult questionnaire is likely to have biased the sampling.

The questionnaire contains seven sections(Note A) over 24 closely printed pages and asks altogether 98 questions. This is an enormous questionnaire. Many of the questions demand prodigious feats of memory recall and mental concentration.

It is usual in market research when recruiting respondents to tell them before they agree to be interviewed how long a questionnaire is going to last, after all they are giving up their time at no benefit to themselves. And, the interviewer doesn’t want them walking out half way through. This questionnaire probably took at least 1 hour and may have stretched to 2 hours. It would be extremely difficult to recruit even a very small sample of 200 (100 Muslims and 100 non-Muslims in each city).

It is not what you would expect the common man (or woman) to cope with or put up with. It also seems designed for well informed and educated people though they are equally put off by long questionnaires and irritated by impractical, vague or demanding questions. See the example questions below.(Note B)

You also sometimes get bored or lonely people with time on their hands who are happy to chat with an interviewer, but this doesn’t help sample representativeness either.

It is also possible that interviewers when faced with an enormous, badly designed and onerous questionnaire recruit people who are friends or acquaintances or people they know to be interested in the subject or have a stake in it. They are not typical and are biased in some way. Sample representativeness takes another bashing.

(3) The meaning of the relevant questions and the quality of the answers

Only two of the questions out of the total 98 in the questionnaire directly addressed the Britishness issue. In huge multi-topic questionnaires like this any one topic is likely to get only the most cursory attention.

There is clearly little time for the interviewer to explain what is meant by the question, even if he or she does that, and little time for the respondent to give a considered answer in line with what the question really meant.

The first question [D6] simply asked “How strongly do you feel you belong to this country?”

Very strongly
Fairly strongly
Not very strongly
Not at all strongly
Don’t know

This was third in a section of three questions the other two asking “How strongly do you feel you belong to your local area?” and “How strongly do you feel you belong to this city?”

The other and more relevant question [D9] asked “Do you see yourself as [British, French, etc.]?" [This question is asking for cultural identification with society rather than legal status]


The respondent could answer only yes or no.

It is not clear if the phrase in brackets was consistently read out or made clear. The fact that it is brackets implies that it is a note to the interviewer rather than something automatically read out or explained to the respondent.

Given the need to complete a very long questionnaire with very difficult and demanding questions the interviewer was probably under considerable pressure to do get through questions as quickly as possible.

The write up on this section in the report (p73-75) uses two distinct terms interchangeably, "see themselves as nationals" and "cultural identification" implying uncertainty as to what the answers meant.

There is no mention of ideas such as "patriotism" or "liberal traditions".

(4) The Open Society Institute’s own description of the survey methodology

The Open Society Institute themselves admit that all is not well with the research fieldwork. They say:

“The fieldwork consisted of 200 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with local residents in each city (100 Muslim and 100 non-Muslim). These questionnaires were then elaborated upon in six focus groups held in each city of local Muslim residents. ....”

“….The questionnaires and focus groups were facilitated by local researchers and research coordinators. The latter were responsible for identifying respondents for the questionnaires and participants for the focus groups, together with a team of interviewers composed of people from different ethnic groups and with varied language proficiency.”

There are limitations to the research, including:

• recognition that questions answered may be affected by differing understandings of the question (efforts were made to ensure that this was kept at a minimum by translating the questionnaire verbally and ensuring that the interviewer spoke the first language of the respondent);

• an awareness that the sampling method means that respondents are not wholly representative of the population.

The findings contained in this report are not intended to be taken as a comprehensive reflection of the Muslim population and their concerns in these 11 cities. They should be viewed as a snapshot of the diversity and opinions of ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims through their concerns and experiences as residents of urban neighbourhoods in the EU. [Emphasis added]

This last paragraph is really nonsense. It looks like an attempt to salvage something from a bad job.

(5) Experience and objectivity of the survey fieldwork organisations

The fieldwork and reporting were carried out by “city teams” of local researchers and co-ordinators from local organisations. They are listed on p5 in the acknowledgements section of the report.

No professional research or survey organisations with the experience and resources for recruiting representative samples and designing practical questionnaires were involved.

The organisations doing the work in the UK were (a) the Policy Research Centre, based at the Islamic Foundation, Leicester, whose slogan is “Shaping policy through critical thinking and analysis”, (b) the ippr (Institute for Public Policy Research), whose slogan is “Challenging Ideas, Changing Policy” and (c) the Faith Regen Foundation, an Islamic charitable organisation concerned with social issues.

It is hard to believe that these organisations were neutral and didn’t interview people who they had contacts with and who would be biased.

(6) Other factors

The survey mainly ignores the differences in attitudes to nationality, belonging, and cultural identification, that might be caused by demographic, historical, geographic and constitutional factors.

For example, a large proportion of German Muslim “guest workers” do not have German citizenship, many French Muslims are from Algeria a neighbouring country to France, and Marseilles to Algiers is a relatively short journey for people to keep in touch with relatives. British Muslims in Leicester are also close to being a majority in that city and this might have some influence on them feeling that they belong there.

(7) Result does not agree with research from other organisations

Pew Research, a US organisation that regularly carries out international surveys of Muslims, asked in its 2007 Global Study "Do you think of yourself as Muslim first not American / British / French/ German / Spanish ...." 81 percent of British Muslims thought of themselves as Muslim first. The results are summarised in the following table.

Muslims in Country% who think of themself as Muslim first
United States47

Pew Research explain in detail the steps they take to ensure their samples are representative.

It would be interesting to know the Open Society Institute's explanation of this stark difference with their result.


(A) Subjects covered by survey

The survey questionnaire was divided into sections covering Neighbourhood Characteristics (10 questions), Identity and Belonging (13), Social Interactions (7), Participation and Citizenship (11), Experience of Local Services (24), Discrimination and Prejudice (13), and Demographics (20).

(B) Demanding and difficult questions

Most of us will be familiar with the type of question that presents a short list of usually no more than five items which we have to choose from or rate in some way. In some cases the respondent might be given a card listing the items rather than have them read out. Taking in five items can be difficult especially if they are sprung on the respondent who might not think in those terms or need time to reflect.

Question D1 asks respondents to select and put in order the five items that they consider the most important from a list of 13 items. [emphasis added]

“Suppose you were describing yourself, which of the following would say something important about you? Please identify five options in order of importance, where number one is the most important”

Your family
The kind of work you do
Your age and life stage
Your interests
Your level of education
Your nationality
Your gender
your level of income
Your religion
Your social class
Your ethnic group or cultural background
The colour of your skin
Any disability you may have

Get someone to read out that list to you (or to give you a card with that list and you to study it), see how long it takes, and how able you are to select 5 items and put them in order of importance.

Good questionnaire design would require that the order of the list is varied as items at the top of a list might get more attention than those at the bottom.

Another question apart form requiring enormous patience on the part of the respondent to try giving an answer, requires that they have computer-like mental abilities to remember and analyse what they do.

Question E1 asks “In the last year, how often, if at all, have you met and talked with people from a different ethnic group to yourself, in the following places?”

At your home/their home
At school, work or college
Sport leisure activity
Socially outside work/school
Child’s crèche, school, nursery
Street markets
Place of worship or other religious centre
Community centre
Health clinic, hospital
On public transport
Park, out door space
Neighbourhood group
Youth group
Educational evening class
Other [specify]

And for each of those places the respondent was asked to say whether the communication was:

At least weekly
At least monthly
At least once a year
Not at all
Don’t know

This question would seem designed for people with remarkable memories and powers of observation, a few per cent of the population if that!

Common Ground or Not

(1) Introduction
(2) The Meaning of a Typical Week
(3) True and False Stories
(4) The Muslim Explanation of Why the British are Anxious About Islam
(5) What Common Ground?

(1) Introduction

The Greater London Authority (while Ken Livingstone was mayor) published a study entitled, The search for common ground: Muslims, non-Muslims and the UK media.

Ken Livingstone set the scene for undertaking this study in his Foreword. See Box 1

Box 1 - Foreword

…. The rise of Islamophobia in Europe and the negative portrayal of Muslims and Islam in the media harm community relations in London. I commissioned this study to examine the role of the media in promoting or harming good community relations with London’s Muslim communities.

One of the most startling findings of this report is that in one typical week over 90 per cent of the media articles that referred to Islam and Muslims were negative. The overall picture presented by the media was that Islam is profoundly different from and a threat to the west.

The study states the specific questions it seeks to investigate as:

Box 2 - The underlying questions for investigation

• Do the media promote informed debate about the building and maintenance of Britain as a multicultural society? Or do they oversimplify, giving insufficient information about the background to the news and pandering to readers’ and viewers’ anxieties and prejudices?

• How community-sensitive is media reporting about multiculturalism and British Muslim identities? Is it likely to foster anxiety, fear or hostility within particular communities – for example, in the views that non-Muslims have of Muslims, or that Muslims have of non-Muslims?

• Does media coverage hinder or promote mutual understanding? Does it increase or decrease a sense of common ground, shared belonging and civic responsibility?

and summarises the findings and conclusions as follows. See Box 3

Box 3 - Findings and conclusions

…. in most though not all of the UK print media, and for most, though not all of the time, the project found that:

1 The dominant view is that there is no common ground between the West and Islam, and that conflict between them is accordingly inevitable.

2 Muslims in Britain are depicted as a threat to traditional British customs, values and ways of life.

3 Alternative world views, understandings and opinions are not mentioned or are not given a fair hearing.

4 Facts are frequently distorted, exaggerated or oversimplified.

5 The tone of language is frequently emotive, immoderate, alarmist or abusive.

6 The coverage is likely to provoke and increase feelings of insecurity, suspicion and anxiety amongst non-Muslims.

7 The coverage is at the same time likely to provoke feelings of insecurity, vulnerability and alienation amongst Muslims, and in this way to weaken the Government’s measures to reduce and prevent extremism.

8 The coverage is unlikely to help diminish levels of hate crime and acts of unlawful discrimination by non-Muslims against Muslims.

9 The coverage is likely to be a major barrier preventing the success of the Government’s community cohesion policies and programmes.

10 The coverage is unlikely to contribute to informed discussion and debate amongst Muslims and non-Muslims about ways of working together to maintain and develop Britain as a multicultural, multifaith democracy.

The reader will note that the study assumes that a muliticultural Britain is a good thing and that is what everyone wants!

These findings and conclusions are based on:

• a review of recent opinion polls • study of recent books and articles • a survey of the news in one week • consideration of stories about political correctness • interviews with Muslim journalists • analysis of a TV documentary.

The project was co-ordinated by the Insted consultancy.

(2) The Meaning of a Typical Week

The study gives pride of place to the finding that in a typical week 91 percent of the news articles in the UK press mentioning Muslims or Islam were negative.

Most people with a modicum of common sense would on hearing this finding, ask themselves, what were these articles about?

And this is when the finding starts to fall apart.

A large proportion of the stories are about terrorism in Britain, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Given the events that are actually happening in those places it is difficult to see how the reporting could put anything in a positive light. The last two days of the week covered also saw the publication of reports on the London bombings. What can you say about the London bombings?

Tables 1: Positive, Neutral or Negative Associations by Paper

TitleAssociation of Articles
% Negative % Neutral % Positive No. of Articles
Financial Times896537

This pattern of negative stories, the ones about violent events and everyday ones, is the same across all newspapers.

Even the Guardian and the Independent give the same picture. One might expect the Guardian, which was also the only newspaper with journalists on the study team, to report stories that show Islam and Muslims in a good light if possible.

What does it prove?

Should newspapers carry a Government Health Warning, “Whatever you think of this story, your Muslim neighbour is really a nice guy”?

Have the good stories been missed (even by the Guardian)? Perhaps the UK Press has failed to report "news" like the following that never made it to their pages.

• Saudi authorities welcome plans to build large church in Riyadh.

• International conference of respected Muslim scholars says the time has come to interpret Islam in light of the 21st century. Widespread support from Muslims worldwide.

• Girls now surpass boys in numbers in school and exam results in Afghanistan.

• Muhammad Bari, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), says arranged marriages are not a good idea in the UK. He expects his daughters to go to University and that may be in another part of the country like their first jobs, and they will make social circles of their own. Though he and his wife look forward to being introduced to the first serious boyfriends.

• The birth rate amongst Muslim women is now at a level comparable with the rest of the population. The rate was double the national rate but has come down as Muslim women have gained equal status with men and stopped believing large families are a cultural-economic necessity. [N.B. The UK is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.]

• Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), says there are limits to multiculturalism. Welcomes Channel 4 programme exposing extremist mosques.

• Pakistan repeals law that requires a female rape victim to have four male witnesses.

• Dr Al-Qaradawi says Muslim women in the UK should not wear a veil. You only cover your face in the West if you are unwell, cold, or in mourning. Otherwise covering your face means you want to hide your true feelings and it is very rude.

(3) True and False Stories

The study claims that a theme has developed in the British media that British society and the British way of life are under threat, and this is often blamed on the pernicious influence of ‘political correctness’. It examines four newspaper stories expressing such views in relation to relatively trivial incidents.

Box 4

• the alleged banning of piggy banks by a building society in a Lancashire town

• the alleged banning of Christmas by a local council in London

• the use of BP (Before Present) instead of BC (Before Christ) at a museum in the West country

• the Crown Prosecution Service taking a 10-year-old boy to court for playground insults in Salford.

The study rebuts all these stories. They were either completely false or based on embellishment and twisting of facts.

There is no excuse for bad journalism or for twisting facts to suit a preconceived idea. Though, at least in a free society there are multiple news channels, and the truth has a good chance of getting out, and those affected are often not without their own means of propaganda and news distribution.

But the study then makes the most remarkable assertion.

…. even though real fears exist. These arise not from so-called political correctness, nor from the presence of Muslims in modern Britain, [emphasis added] but from social and economic change, globalisation, and new international relationships.

So it is nothing to do with the presence of Muslims in the UK!

The report might have obtained sorely lacking balance if it had mentioned the many true stories, ranging from the ridiculous to the sinister, that the British public have good cause to see as threats to the British way of life posed by the behaviour of some Muslims and politically correct thinking.

• Marks & Spencer shop assistant refuses to sell book of Bible stories.

• Imam’s daughter threatened with death because she converted to Christianity. She was forced to live under police protection because her family threatened to kill her. Her brother told her that he could not be responsible for his actions if she did not return to Islam.

• British government recognises polygamy. The Department for Work and Pensions recognises polygamous marriages that are conducted overseas: ‘In a guide to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, the department states that claimants in polygamous unions are entitled to "additional allowances for each additional partner".’ This is an exception solely for Muslims.

• Muslim staff in supermarket refuse to serve alcohol.

• PC forced to resign because he gave Muslim colleague bottle of wine and pack of bacon for a Christmas present. The PC gave the gift as part of a “Secret Santa” game at Luton police station during a Christmas day party. The Muslim policeman recipient of the present didn't complain, though it was easy to find another imam to say what a crime this was, insulting Islam, and another Muslim commentator wondered what the Muslim policeman was doing at a Christmas party.

• Female Muslim students refuse to shake hands with university Chancellor at degree awards ceremony.

• Girl murdered because she refused arranged marriage.

• Muslim medical students refuse to treat illness caused by alcohol.

• Three pigs story ruled offensive to Muslims. A remake of the children’s classic was criticised by BECTA, the education technology agency, because “the use of pigs raises cultural issues”.

There is not enough space to do justice to all these stories but they are all true. New ones occur almost daily.

(4) The Muslim Explanation of Why the British are Anxious About Islam

Drawing on a report The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain published in 2000 by a political philosopher, Bhikhu Parekh, the study offers an explanation for British anxiety over Islam. The causes of this anxiety are shown in Box 5

Box 5 - Causes of British Anxiety over Islam


One effect has been to weaken aspects of national sovereignty, the nation-state as an exclusive political focus, national economies, and the idea of nation as the guarantor of citizenship.

The long-term decline in Britain’s position as a world power

Overall, Britain has slipped to a position of a middle-ranking power. This has undermined her longstanding sense of the inevitability of British ‘greatness’.

Britain in Europe

… the idea of an island people with an island destiny has been central to British national identity. Indeed, Britishness has been described negatively, in terms of what it is not – especially not ‘European’.


… as the new parliaments and assemblies flex their muscles, significant divergences on how things are done are developing. These inevitably weaken the centralised idea of a united kingdom. What symbolic glue can hold these increasingly autonomous entities together?

The end of empire

… expunging the traces of an imperial mentality from the national culture, particularly those which involved seeing the white British as a superior race, is a difficult task. This mentality penetrated everyday life, popular culture and consciousness. It remains active in projected fantasies and fears about difference, and in racialised stereotypes of otherness.

The rapid advance of social pluralism

The shift to a post-industrial and service economy has been accompanied by the breakdown in older class hierarchies, diminished respect for traditional sources of authority, shifting gender and sexual norms, erosion of the established cultural canon, more emphasis on individualism, and a greater sense of diverse religious and non-religious world views.

Postwar migration

.. countries have needed influxes of labour from outside. Migration to Britain from the Caribbean, the South Asian subcontinent and more recently Eastern Europe, has raised many questions about British identity and British institutions.

The decline of British power and Empire belong firmly in the past and have zero relevance today. Just talk to anyone in Britain under 65.

The other topics have nothing to do with why many Britons are deeply concerned and worried about Islam today, especially Islam in the UK.

How Devolution, Britain in Europe, social pluralism, could have a bearing on, say, the revulsion Britons feel at the murder of teachers in Afghanistan, hate preaching in British mosques, blowing up tube trains, death for insults, is a mystery.

This is just bonkers.

Proposing that any of these points have any bearing, even vaguely, on British attitudes to Islam and to British Muslims, shows complete ignorance of the real causes of anxiety or a pathological inability to discuss them.

The truth is very simple.

Certain Islamic beliefs and practices are totally at odds with the Liberal and free society that we have in the UK. Not all Muslims, perhaps only a minority, especially in the UK, hold these beliefs but they cast a dark shadow wherever Muslims live.

Causes of concern are the beliefs that:

• Islam trumps all other religions.

• Death is a just punishment for apostasy.

• A woman is considered a male possession even if she does have specific rights. She needs her guardian's permission to marry. A woman's evidence is worth only half that of a man.

• Muslims have a duty to impose Islam, by force or deception if necessary.

• Whenever they can Muslims should live under Sharia law or work to that end.

• There is no or little distinction between religion and politics. Islam is as much a political movement as a religion.

The list could be longer but these are some of the worst. For a poll of what British Muslims believe on these issues see here. For the introduction of Sharia in the UK and the issues it is creating see here.

All these sources of potential conflict continually manifest themselves, and what we should or should not do about them, is debated with very little progress.

The Diversity Diversion

Muslims make the point ad nauseum that there is great diversity of views and practices amongst Muslims, not all Muslims think or act alike.

This point is repeated in this study. It is said as if it absolves the authors from addressing what other UK citizens don’t like about Muslim beliefs and practices.

If you object to a particular Muslim belief, then you shouldn’t be worried because there are Muslims who don’t hold that belief. So everything is alright. Your objection is unfounded.

Yes, there are many Muslim views and they cover great extremes. That is pretty obvious. At one end of the scale there are some Muslims integrated in the West who despair at the situation created by extremists.

But the fact is that as long as these beliefs are held by significant numbers, and that is very much the case, thay have to be challenged.

(5) What Common Ground?

The title of the study The search for common ground: Muslims, non-Muslims and the UK media is misleading.

The reference to common ground is spin to show the study in a good light or that it had positive objectives. There are only a handful of sentences that touch on “common ground” in the whole study.

The Mayor in his Foreword explains what it is really about and that is to answer the following (biased) questions:

Do the media promote informed debate about the building and maintenance of Britain as a multicultural society? Or do they oversimplify, giving insufficient information about the background to the news and pandering to readers’ and viewers’ anxieties and prejudices?

Common ground is important but it is not the answer. It is possible that both my Muslim fellow citizen and I are not happy with binge drinking, underage sex, immodesty, break up of families, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but there comes a point where all the common ground in the world will not compensate for differences. This is what the study fails to address. It is the differences that matter, that need to be resolved.

Britain had common ground with Germany, the origin of our royal family, the Reformation and the Enlightenment in common, close business ties, a common religion, but we did not acquiesce in Nazism. We fought it.

The concluding part of the study presents a summary of how the authors believe the West views the problems concerning Muslims in Europe and as a response to that how the West should view those problems.

Box 6 - As The West sees Muslims in Europe

1 Failure to integrate

Muslims do not wish to integrate into European societies, but prefer to live in separate, self-segregated communities and neighbourhoods.

2 Unreasonable demands

Muslims make unreasonable demands on European societies, expecting the Judeo-Christian traditions of these societies to be modified, changed or jettisoned in order that they can avoid being offended or inconvenienced.

3 Mixed loyalties

Muslims in Europe owe their principal loyalty to the worldwide Ummah, not to the country where they live. They therefore cannot be depended on to support their country’s foreign policies, or even its sports teams. They are an enemy within.

4 Support for extremism

The sense of alienation and lack of loyalty mentioned above combine to make Muslim communities in Europe a breeding ground for extremism.

5 Obscurantism

Islamic theology has never gone through the kinds of critical review and reformation that were the hallmarks of the Enlightenment in Europe.

6 Incompatibility of values and interests

Islam and the West are incompatible in terms of moral values and are locked in a zero-sum struggle for power and control.

7 Lack of Muslim leadership

Religious leaders such as imams, and secular leaders such as officeholders in Muslim organisations, are out of touch with the people they claim to guide and represent, particularly young people.

8 Corroborating evidence from overseas

The perceptions listed above are about Muslims within Europe. They gain additional persuasiveness and plausibility, however, from how Muslims outside Europe behave – their hatred of the West, abuse of human rights, use of barbaric punishments, intolerance of debate and disagreement, glorification of martyrdom, and anti-semitism.

9 Weak national government

The threats posed by Muslims, outlined above, are made even more serious by the failures of successive European governments, and by metropolitan intelligentsias. In the 1950s and 1960s governments did not foresee the dangers of permitting immigration on a large scale; more recently they have failed to police their borders and have irresponsibly promoted multiculturalism and political correctness.

Though it invites some challenges this is a remarkably good summary. Many people would not agree that there is a zero-sum struggle for power and control between Islam and the West. Power and control over what? It seems a very simplistic view and ignores economic realities and China and India, a growing third of mankind who don’t follow revealed religion.

But the counter arguments, if they can be called that, to these western views take the form of changing the subject. How the study gets to the views in the next box is not explained.

Box 7 - As The West should see them

1 Barriers to integration

The vast majority of Muslims in western Europe would like to be fully integrated – though not culturally assimilated – in the economic and political affairs of west European societies but are prevented from doing so by the factors summarised in points 2 to 5 below.

2 Material disadvantage

Most Muslims in western Europe are people who came, or are the children or grandchildren of people who came, to meet labour shortages. The jobs they were recruited to fill were poorly-paid, often dirty and in labour intensive heavy industries. Material disadvantage continues, as do discrimination and racist violence.

3 Negativity in the media and the general climate of opinion

Media coverage of Muslims, particularly but not only in the press, is almost entirely negative and hostile – when, that is, there is any coverage at all.

4 Foreign policy

Much of European foreign policy works to the disadvantage of Muslims overseas.

5 Policing

Since 9/11, and even more so since terrorist attacks within Europe, many Muslims have had experiences, either directly themselves or indirectly through their friends, families and acquaintances, of heavy-handed and insensitive policing, often in the glare of media publicity.

6 Establishing a presence

Despite the substantial barriers to integration mentioned in points 2 to 5 above, Muslims have established a strong presence throughout western Europe – mainly through self-help, but also with support from sympathetic non-Muslims and finance from overseas.

7 Commonalities and interdependence

Western and Islamic cultures are not incompatible. They have much in common and there has been much borrowing and interchange between them over the centuries.

8 Self-criticism

Muslims accept that some of the criticisms made of them by others are legitimate – the criticisms are not necessarily instances of Islamophobia. Muslims are ready to debate these, both with others and internally amongst themselves. Appropriate self-criticism is difficult or impossible, however, within the wider context of hostility and suspicion listed in points 2 to 5 above.

It is incredible that points 2-5 are given as reasons why Muslims in Europe are not integrating. If they can be considered barriers to integration they can even better be considered as reasons for integration.

For the integrated individual there are many ways to improve his lot and make his voice heard, even influence foreign policy! Muslims can join the police, they can take part in government, the media, and they can join political parties. The government, local government, and the political parties continually promote opportunities for minorities.

The study doesn’t say anything about the finance from overseas mentioned in point 6, whom it came from and how it was used, nor does it say anything about the roads, hospitals, schools, universities, social security, etc., that British Muslims enjoy, as do other Britons in similar economic circumstances, and how this compares with what they might have had in the country of their ancestry. In the same point 6 you wonder what is meant by “presence”. It sounds something distinct and different.

To put forward reasons like these, more like excuses, can only be seen as another attempt to shift the debate about Muslims on to ground which is more comfortable. It is saying we are not going to discuss “your” issues. We don’t recognise them. They are ill-founded.

In the last paragraph the authors have realised to slam the door shut looks bad, so as an afterthought, it says “… some of the criticisms made of them [Muslims] by others are legitimate”, but even this is qualified as difficult or impossible because of points 2-5.

It is amazing that the authors admit there are criticisms of Islam and Muslims that are not Islamophobic. It is a shame the study didn’t say what they are.

However, it is point 1 that is most significant.

In an unguarded moment the report gets to the heart of the matter, which no amount of common ground will cure. It reveals the true nature of the Muslim position as seen by the authors of this report.

Muslims want Political and Economic integration but not Cultural integration.

This is nonsense.

Culture is at the heart of society it is the foundation of politics and economics.

You simply can not, not join in. It concerns attitudes on crime and punishment, law and order, how business is done, freedom of individuals, the status of men and women, acceptable humour, freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It permeates pretty much everything.

Muslims, according to the authors of this report, want all the benefits of an advanced economy and Liberal society, they want the better life, they want political power and influence, but they reject what created it and what keeps it working. They don’t want to be assimilated.

This is separatism. There is no separatist committee, no separatist master plan, no separatist party, though there are groupings of the like-minded, like the MCB, who step by step are pushing us in that direction. Multiculturalism is the code word. The whole basis of this study is that Multiculturalism is a good thing.

Culture isn’t static of course and over time internal and external influences bring about changes. We give and take and that is a good thing.

Now we have a new phenomenon. Newcomers have always concentrated in particular areas, but mostly these had the effect of helping newcomers to merge with the host society in easy stages and they eventually moved into the wider community or were influenced by the culture around them.

Now you see the foundation of permanent communities based on a different culture, and fiercely so. The operation of Sharia law is one of the forces creating separate Muslim communities. These are the first steps in the balkanisation of Britain: sowing the seeds of conflict for future generations.

What Muslims Think

(1) Only a small minority of Muslims are radicalised
(2) The radicals are driven by politics not by religion
(3) Muslims are not against democracy
(4) Muslims want the West to respect Islam

Over the six years 2001 to 2007 Gallup conducted tens of thousands of face-to-face interviews with residents of more than 35 predominantly Muslim nations or nations with substantial Muslim populations.

This is a sample representing more than 90 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims and makes this the largest, most comprehensive study of contemporary Muslims ever done.

Gallup posed questions on the minds of millions of people: Is Islam to blame for terrorism? Why is there so much anti-Americanism in the Muslim world? Who are the extremists? Where are the moderates? What do Muslim women really want? And many,more.

The full results are not in the public domain as it costs $28,500 to purchase the full results of all the surveys.

But what has come out are selected highlights and conclusions presented in the form of a book Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed.

The authors draw four main conclusions.

(1) Only a small minority of Muslims are radicalised, and potential supporters of extremism, some 7%, the great majority are much like people in the West in what they want in life.

(2) The radicals are driven by politics not by religion. They don’t like the West’s policies towards Islamic countries and they don’t like the influence that the West has.

(3) Muslims are not against democracy. They want a model that politically integrates faith and democratic values.

(4) Muslims believe that the most important way to improve relations between the West and Islam is for the West to respect Islam and treat Muslims as equals.

Let us examine these conclusions and what they might mean.

(1) Only a small minority of Muslims are radicalised …. and potential supporters of extremism, some 7%, the great majority are much like people in the West in what they want in life.

For anyone who travels, keeps themselves informed, or has Muslim friends (which is very likely in countries like the UK) it seems reasonable the majority of Muslims are much like people in the West. You don’t need to do 50,000 interviews.

But Esposito and Mogahed set great store by the 7% figure, the very low proportion, in their opinion, of Muslims who might support extremism. This number was questioned as follows:

…. The core argument of the book is that only 7% of Muslims are "politically radicalized," and that "about 9 in 10 Muslims are moderate." The authors explain (pp. 69-70):

According to the Gallup Poll, 7% of respondents think that the 9/11 attacks were "completely" justified and view the United States unfavorably.... the 7%, whom we'll call "the politically radicalized" because of their radical political orientation... are a potential source for recruitment or support for terrorist groups.

So an essential precondition for being "politically radicalized" is to believe that 9/11 was "completely" justified. The pool of support is only 7%.

Yet a year and a half ago, Esposito and Mogahed used a different definition of "radical," …. namely:

Respondents who said 9/11 was justified (4 or 5 on a 5-point scale, where 1 is totally unjustified and 5 is completely justified) are classified as radicals.

Respondents who said 9/11 was unjustified (1 or 2) are classified as moderates.

Thus these same authors previously defined "radicals" not only as Muslims who thought 9/11 was "completely justified" (5 on their scale), but those who thought it was "largely justified" (4 on their scale).

So for their new book, they've drastically narrowed their own definition of radical, to get to that 7% figure. And they've also spread the impression in the media that the other 93% are moderates.

…. That's certainly how the press has interpreted it. Here, for example, is the Agence France-Presse report on Esposito's "findings": About 93 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are moderates and only seven percent are politically radical, according to the poll, based on more than 50,000 interviews.

Can there be a more distorted interpretation than that?

[An extract from “Dr Esposito and the seven-percent solution”. For full article see here. The article is prefaced with this "Bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are." Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit]

This questions severely the objectivity of Esposito and Mogahed's interpretation of the Gallup results.

In any event, whether its one in ten or one in five Muslims who believe targeting innocent civilians is justified, it’s a lot of Muslims.

(2) The radicals are driven by politics not by religion. They don’t like the West’s policies towards Islamic countries and they don’t like the influence that the West has.

Esposito and Mogahed also say:

A significantly greater proportion of politically radicalized than moderates cite Western cultural penetration, Western immorality and moral corruption as the top reasons for resentment. Politically radicalized were far more intense in their belief that Western political, military and cultural domination is a major threat.

When asked to define their greatest fears about the future of their country, the politically radicalized most frequently cite interference in their internal affairs by other countries, national security, colonization, occupation, and fear of U.S. dominance. In contrast, moderates rank economic problems as their top concern.

…. The politically radicalized also, in significantly higher percentages, emphasize preservation of their culture, traditions and principles as well as their holy places and Islamic values as admirable aspects of the Islamic world. Belief in the Islamic heritage, which is critical to their progress, is also perceived to be in danger of being weakened by the West’s denigration of Islam ….

A separation of politics and religion by radicals in the Islamic world doesn’t ring true. For radicals, of all people, Islam is a political, legal and religious system all rolled into one. It has no separation of powers. (See comments below section (3) regarding democracy).

This intepretation of Gallup’s results calls for a modern history lesson but this is not the place for that. Some points will have to suffice.

(1) The Islamic Middle East has been fully in charge of its own destiny for several generations. For example, the present regime in Egypt is the direct decendant of Nasser and his nationalist movement.

(2) Many would argue that has been the case for even much longer.

(3) You can see what results from an Islamic Middle East rejecting outside influences in the several hundred years history of the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate prior to its collapse following World War 1.

(4) These radicals object to the West simply because it exists!

Esposito and Mogahed also make the point that the politically radicalized are on average more educated and affluent than moderates.

…. The conventional wisdom and intuitive sense of many has been that extremism and terrorism are driven by profound psychological, economic, political or religious problems: deranged, social misfits, unemployed, poorly educated, reject democracy and modernization, religious fanatics or zealots.

Thus, there has often been a reluctance to see extremists as otherwise intelligent, rational people responding to perceived grievances. Within weeks after 9/11, the media reported the “stunning discovery” that the attackers were not from the poor, unemployed and dispossessed.

Why do Esposito and Mogahed say this?

Firstly, in will be news to many, if not the great majoity, that they made a “stunning discovery”. They always knew that educated and even wealthy Muslims were behind much of Islamic terrorism. That the educated and sometimes the wealthy produce troublemakers has been true throughout history and especially in modern times.

Secondly, are they suggesting that we do what these radicals want?

(3) Muslims are not against democracy. They want a model that politically integrates faith and democratic values

The contradictions in the view that one can combine real democracy and religious dogma to run a country are well illustrated in a review of Esposito and Mogahed’s book by Hillel Fradkin.

…. Muslims apparently want a different kind of “democracy,” one which avoids moral and other kinds of risks. For example, although they would like freedom of speech, they would not like it to be unlimited, such that it might permit speech offensive to religious sensibilities. In other words, blasphemy laws should limit it.

As for other “freedoms,” the authors provide no information. In particular, we do not know whether Muslims accept “freedom of religion.” This is a most peculiar omission since it is essential to a clear understanding of contemporary Muslim views of democracy.

But perhaps all of this is to be understood in light of the finding that Muslims want to ground their “democracy” partly or entirely in Sharia or Islamic law. The authors hasten to assure the readers that this does not mean that “Muslim democracy” would actually be a “theocracy,” since their respondents largely reject the prospective rule of Muslim jurists.

But this leaves the matter totally confused.

If Sharia is to be the partial or entire base of future “democratic” governments, who is constituted to decide what Sharia prescribes, other than the jurists to whom its interpretation has always been and is still entrusted?

We are also left in doubt about a whole set of issues, including whether or not “Muslim democracy” would permit religious freedom of the sort characteristic of American and other liberal democracies.

Would the status of non-Muslims—especially Christians—be governed by traditional Sharia prescriptions for non-Muslim minorities, which involve various legal disabilities and inequities? Or would they be fully equal? Would non-Muslims be permitted to run for and hold public office?

For full review see here

Perhaps Iran is an example of the “democracy” that these Muslims want.

The Sharia dimension of this muddled thinking is further emphasised in another point that Esposito and Mogahed make.

The heightened sense of the West’s threat to political freedom and to Islamic identity has reinforced the politically radicalized’s desire for Islamic law.

While both moderates (83 percent) and politically radicalized (91 percent) want Shari‘a as a source of law, a significantly higher percentage of politically radicalized (59 percent vs. 32 percent of moderates) want to see Shari‘a as the only source of law.

This may reflect their desire to limit the power of rulers and regimes that they regard as authoritarian, “un-Islamic” and corrupt.

That last paragraph is a gem. Just think of that non-authoritarian government in Tehran.

(4) Muslims believe that the most important way to improve relations between the West and Islam is for the West to respect Islam and treat Muslims as equals.

This is a disturbing result. Muslims want something that is impossible. It shows how indoctrinated Muslims are with the superiority of their religion. It shows the huge gap between Muslims and non-Muslims

I can respect people and treat them as equals because they are a human beings with strengths and weaknesses just like me. I can respect people for what they achieve. But I can’t respect them for believing something I don’t believe.

And, I cannot respect something, Islam, which I believe to be false.

To the extent that some people find it a source of moral guidance and comfort that’s fine. But much of Islam is nonsense which produces conflict within the Muslim world itself and with non-Muslims.

A solution to this “disrespect for Islam” described by Esposito and Mogahed just further emphasises the problem.

The importance of religious and cultural identity. Issues of religious identity are very important to both politically radicalized and moderates. The most frequent response to what they admire most about themselves was “faithfulness to their religious beliefs” and the top statement they associate with Arab/Muslim nations is “attachment to their spiritual and moral values is critical to their progress”.

…. For both groups, the West’s “Disrespect for Islam” ranks high on the list of what they most resent. Therefore, as one might expect, when asked what the Arab/Muslim world could do to improve relations with Western societies, the top response from both the politically radicalized and moderates who offered a response was “improve the presentation of Islam to the West, present Islamic values in a positive manner.” [Emphasis added]

How can you put in a positive light such beliefs as:

• A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man. See here

• Muslim conversion, apostasy, is punishable by death. See here and here

• A woman’s evidence is worth half that of a man’s. See here

• A Muslim man may easily divorce his wife but it is very difficult for a Muslim woman to divorce her husband. See here and here

• Stoning to death is a fit punishment for adultery. See here and here

• Islam has no separation of powers, being a political, legal and religious system rolled into one

• It is the duty of Muslims to spread Islam by whatever means possible until eveyone submits to the will of Allah.

And so on.


John L. Esposito is University Professor of Religion & International Affairs and Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.

Dalia Mogahed is a Gallup Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.

The book does not actually present the poll. It provides a small and partial account of the responses to some questions, but fails to include even one table or chart of data. It does not even provide a clear list of the questions that were asked. The appendix, where one might expect to find questionnaires, charts, and tables, provides only a short narrative discussion of Gallup’s sampling techniques and general mode of operation.

Workers' jihad at Islamic website

“Staff at IslamOnline have gone on strike. But is it about workers' rights, religious principles or national rivalries?”

Analysis of readers comments on the above Guardian Cif post by Jack Shenker 16 March 2010 - See full post here

Unlike most Cif articles that we analyse this one was not arguing for a particluar view, it was more like a news background report. Yet, Cif readers were again overwhelmingly against.

It is a good example of how badly wrong Cif editorial gets it on anything to do with Islam.

To most readers the significance of IslamOnline was what it stands for rather than any politics going on between the its writers, manages and owners.

Analysis of first 50 comments
Type of commentVotes%
Highly critical of Mr Shenker231485
Supportive of Mr Shenker1104

BeeStrikeMan - 265 votes
[Jack Shenker said]["where discussions over homosexuality sit side by side with the latest fatwas on vegetarianism, martyrdom and T-shirts"]

Are you joking?

Some of us actually read Islam Online. We know that it is the website of Qaradawi, who thinks that the Holocaust was a divine punishment, and that it is the voice of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The "discussions about homosexuality" take the form of death fatwas against gays, etc. Here are a few of them:

I mean, seriously. Does the Guardian take us for fools? Why do we have article after article whitewashing some of the most dangerous people in the Middle East, if not the world?

Would you give a white fascist website such positive coverage?

This is just crazy.

duckoftheday - 140
Well I'm consciously drawn to Guardian articles on Islam, mainly because they often wrong, usually partial, and almost always weird.

It's a strange article on that does not mention al Qawadari, a key spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who founded the site.

If you take his views, which are well documented, on sharia family law, jihad, homosexuality and apostasy and project them across the broader canvas of IslamOnline, you would have the politics and jurisprudential position of the site.

With al-Qaradawi at the helm, no organisation can be classed as 'moderate' unless the comparison is with the Taliban.

BeeStrikeMan - 157
Oh, and I'd add that Inayat Bunglawala writes for Islam Online as well.

You'll find that he tends not to say the sort of liberal-sounding things that he says on CiF when he writes on Islam Online.

Funny that!

MoveAnyMountain - 71
…. But for the strikers to try to pass this off as a moderate v. extremist issue is amazingly clever. Given they are the ugly voice of the Muslim Brotherhood.

BeeStrikeMan - 133
Islam Online is not an ordinary religious website.

Most religious websites don't contain rulings about killing gay people. They might say that homosexuality is a sin. But they don't say that you should throw gay people off the top of buildings.

I don't know what is more worrying - that such a website exists and is so popular, or that the Guardian can report on this hate site, while whitewashing the nature of its content.

peterNW1 – 79
I checked a couple of BeeStrikeMan's links, and IslamOnline's scholarly advice is indeed vile.

Which is not the impression we get from Jack Shenker ...

"So the question of who owns and controls the site is a vitally important one. And that's the question being wrestled over today, after hundreds of staff walked out in protest over what they say is an attempt by conservatives in the Gulf to hijack the site and force it to pursue a more traditional and hardline agenda."

This would suggest that IslamOnline had been pursuing a liberal agenda.


BarabbasFreed - 70
Here is an answer re people who leave Islam ("Apostates")

"… there are different opinions about dealing with the apostate. Most scholars are of the opinion that he should be informed and asked to recant. If after clarification he insists on his position then he should be executed.

Other scholars are of the opinion that since the Qur?an affirms freedom of religions, apostasy is left to the individual as real accountability will be in the Day of Judgment. Still other scholars, while considering apostasy as an infraction and a potential threat to the stability and integrity of an Islamic state, they do not find decisive and definitive evidence that the apostate should be executed.

At most he may be subject to a discretionary punishment depending on the harm to society caused by his apostasy."

jackshenker - 36
…. I've never defended IslamOnline as some kind of liberal, loving free-for-all - in fact I pointedly linked to a very critical analysis of it by Brian Whitaker to highlight the contentious nature of its claims to be a moderate voice within Islamic circles.

Nor have I ever tried to 'hide' the fact that it was founded by al-Qaradawi - that was one of the main points of the news piece that accompanied this Cif article and which mentioned his banning from the US and Britain.

The point of this Cif offering wasn't to repeat all the info that was already there in the news piece, but rather to give the story some broader context by exploring one interesting aspect of it, namely the way it falls into a wider tussle over the cultural and media landscape of the Arab World.

BeeStrikeMan - 103
…. You write for a liberal newspaper. The most remarkable thing, for a genuine liberal and progressive, about Islam Online is that it contains page after page after page inciting hatred against members of other religions, Muslims who have unorthodox views, and calling for the execution of gays. Not to mention supporting suicide bombings against civilians - which I know doesn't really count because those civilians include Israelis.

So, your news story is essentially this. Some employees of a website which encourages vicious hatred against minority groups have gone on strike because some even more nasty Salafis have sacked them.

"If all of that equates to me being a closet Yusuf al-Qaradawi acolyte then maybe I should just join the fan club now..."

Well, I don't know. I don't think you are.

But isn't something going really quite seriously wrong at a newspaper, when a journalist reviews a dispute at a website which specifically calls for gays to be killed, again and again, citing the immutable word of God, as mediated through the likes of Qaradawi ... and you make reference merely to "discussions over homosexuality".

This may seem like a story about zaniness in out-of-the-way Egypt to you. Therefore, perhaps, you think that there's no need to point out the fact that Islam Online encourages its readers to believe that it is their religious duty to establish an Islamic State, in which the fatwas contained on the site become the law of the land.

However, as you point out yourself, this is a website which is read from "Baghdad to Basildon". Globalisation means that this is a local story for us in the United Kingdom.

BarabbasFreed - 23

Actually I tend to agree with JackShenker that Islamonline is relatively more open than a lot of Islamic sites. All that you say is true, and I've pointed out its approach to apostacy. But it has a wider range of answers and is more dispassionate than a lot of others. This is a sad indictment of the state of Islamic websites out there. There are flakey and extreme websites of all religions, but that IslamOnline is rated as one of the more open ones shows just where the main range of Islamic websites falls in the extreme scale.

bananachips - 77
jackshenker utter nonsense if this was a BNP web site you would nothing to say , indeed BNP members are bared form writing articles on CIF , while the members of the extreme racist party Hamas are encouraged to. So it would seem when it come to messages of hate CIF does indeed have a twin track approach where all racist are equal vile but some are less equally vile .

Care to explain the difference jackshenker ?

BrianWhit - 19
As Jack Shenker rightly says, I have been very critical of IslamOnline, and I still am. However, it's important to consider where it stands on the spectrum of Muslim opinion. If you spent a few hours browsing through Saudi Wahhabi websites and then switched to IslamOnline it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air. Similarly, Qaradawi, in some ways, is a lot more "modern" in his views than the Wahhabis.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not praising IslamOnline or Qaradawi, but Muslims could do far worse in their choice of reading.

I have seen no evidence on the site that Qaradawi directly advocates the killing of gay people. He does state that many Islamic scholars think gay people should be killed - which is factually accurate but not quite the same as saying that he personally wants them to be killed. IslamOnline's usual advice to gay Muslims is that they should repent, pray, read the Qur'an, etc, and hope that God will help them. Muslims who are tempted to masturbate, look at pornography or have straight sex outside marriage are also given similar advice.

Most of what IslamOnline says about homosexuality is actually cribbed from Narth, an American religious-right organisation that believes it can be "cured".

Rather than "inciting hatred" against other monotheistic religions, IslamOnline tends to make common cause with them (or at least the more conservative elements within them, such as Mormons and the more extreme Catholics) because it views them as potential allies in fighting what it regards as social evils.

AbuYu - 11
As someone who has often made use of IslamonLine content, I think the article is a fair reflection of what I also observe taking place in the struggle for Arab culture.

As for the content of IslamonLine, I feel that most of the previous commentators are trying to impose a Western cultural world view just like everything else. It will will be immensely helpful for them to recognise that there are a few billion people on this planet who might have different views.

Bee StrikeMan. Give it a rest.

BarabbasFreed - 64

So what do you think about how to treat someone who leaves Islam? Should they be executed? Or is opposing this just a "western cultural world view"? If not, what is being done to bring about changes to the dominant understanding that they should be executed.

GarryG – 92
[BrianWhit said][If you spent a few hours browsing through Saudi Wahhabi websites and then switched to IslamOnline it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air.]

So why don't you spend a few hours on the StormFront website, and then come back and tell us how refreshing the BNP website is?

JimPress - 110
The default setting at The Guardian of defending Islam at all costs is resulting in an ever more bizarre series of twists to hold the team position. When even a thoughtful and decent man like Brian Whittaker finds himself saying things like this - "If you spent a few hours browsing through Saudi Wahhabi websites and then switched to IslamOnline it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air. Similarly, Qaradawi, in some ways, is a lot more "modern" in his views than the Wahhabis" - we're entering a strange twilight zone of relativity

Brian wouldn't dream of writing "if you spent a few hours browsing through the C18 website and then switched to the BNP it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air. Similarly, Griffin, in some ways, is a lot more 'modern' in his views than the Stormtroopers". And try replacing "Don't get me wrong, I'm not praising IslamOnline or Qaradawi, but Muslims could do far worse in their choice of reading" with "don't get me wrong, I'm not praising the BNP or Griffin, but fascists could do far worse in their choice of reading."

Unless this perverse defence of a deeply and increasingly unpleasant cult is simply a cynical way of generating hysterical web hits (and, I accept, it might be), then sooner or later the powers that be at The Guardian will have to address the unsustainability of their position.

farfetched - 32
Well done BeeStrikeMan for having the courage to challenge this article. Keep it up!

It puzzles me that the Guardian is so keen to publish piece after piece by apologists for Islam. Are we is the West so afraid of more attacks or being branded racist that we can't face the facts?

BeeStrikeMan – 29 votes
[Brian Whit said][I have seen no evidence on the site that Qaradawi directly advocates the killing of gay people. He does state that many Islamic scholars think gay people should be killed - which is factually accurate but not quite the same as saying that he personally wants them to be killed.]

Then you're not understanding what you're looking at.

Islam Online is a Muslim Brotherhood aligned website. Qaradawi is effectively the Muslim Brotherhood "Sheikh".

The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to establish a state that establishes religious law as the law of the land, and is guided by clerics (such as Qaradawi). It would be an Iranian style system.

Therefore, when Qaradawi describes the religious position, he is also expressing a view on what the law of Egypt should be, were his Muslim Brotherhood to take power.

BrianWhit – 5 votes

If you think IslamOnline directly advocates the killing of gay people, then you really ought to provide the link so that everyone can see it.

"Gay executions" (which were not abolished in Britain until 1861) are mainly a preoccupation of western activists. Iran does execute people for sodomy and there are vigilante killings in Iraq - which is bad - but if you talk to gay people in the Middle East that is not usually their biggest concern. What bothers them most is the way they are treated by their families and communities if their sexuality becomes known.

IslamOnline feeds this prejudice by promoting the idea that gay people are either bad (and therefore in need of punishment or repentance) or mad (and in need of a "cure"). From a practical point of view, this is what activists should concentrate on challenging.

BenjaminGeer - 24
Brian, BeeStrikeMan already provided that link:

That's a link to an IslamOnline fatwa where the mufti describes homosexuality as a crime "sufficient to warrant death penalty".

MiskatonicUniversity - 22
"From a practical point of view, this is what activists should concentrate on challenging"

And what should activists do about a professed liberal paper that speaks approvingly of a website (IslamOnline) that popularises these views, as Jack puts it, from Baghdad to Basildon?

When you say:

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not praising IslamOnline or Qaradawi, but Muslims could do far worse in their choice of reading."

Really? That is the racism of low expectations. Muslims have been and are capable of much more enlightened views - if you think fatwas on apostasy or Pokemon (a Masonic plot) are improving reading then the really would have lost its way.

Surely the tone of Jack's article should have been that of condeming much of the content of IslamOnline as vile and hateful and at odds with the natural human desire for equal rights?

The fact that IslamOnline may be brought more closely under the control of the Gulf Arabs may be of minor interest, but given that Qaradawi - an avowed admirer of the Holocaust - is already the site's leading Islamic scholar, it is difficult to see it becoming very much worse.

BeeStrikeMan - 42
[Brian Whit said]["Gay executions" (which were not abolished in Britain until 1861) are mainly a preoccupation of western activists. Iran does execute people for sodomy and there are vigilante killings in Iraq - which is bad - but if you talk to gay people in the Middle East that is not usually their biggest concern. What bothers them most is the way they are treated by their families and communities if their sexuality becomes known.]

Yes, and the last time that a man was executed in the United Kingdom for "sodomy" was (apparently) 1836.

The point that you're missing here is that Islam Online is the website of a political movement which (a) wants to enact as the law of Egypt, and the "Muslim world", the fatwas of clerics and (b) those clerics, whose fatwas it publishes, believe that death is the appropriate penalty for male homosexuality.

So, sure. At the moment, what worries gay people in the Middle East most is that their families and communities shun them.

However, if the Islam Online/Muslim Brotherhood crew took power, then their greater worry would be that they would be executed. This is, after all, what has happened in Iran, where a similar process of enacting religious law has taken place.

I'm not sure why you felt a need to point out that the United Kingdom also executed gay men 200 years ago. I think that it would be very bad if we were to do so again. However, there is NO political movement of consequence in the United Kingdom which is trying to reintroduce the death penalty for homosexuality.

By contrast, there is such a political movement in the Middle East, and Qaradawi and Islam Online play a major role in that politics.

BeeStrikeMan - 39
[AbuYu said][Where the controversy lies is in the differentiation between leaving Islam and 'high treason'. As you know the latter is punishable by the death penalty in many societies. Leaving Islam as far as I know is not high treason.]

And this is precisely the point. It is fair enough for a religious institution, or members of a religion, to take the position that a person who leaves their religion dooms themselves to damnation, or forfeits the life to come, or even deserves ostracism.

However, if you enact religion as the law of the land, then it is very easy to argue that a public renunciation of religion is in fact a form of high treason. That is, in fact, what a number of prominent Muslim Brotherhood theorists DO say.

It is notable that in Iran, revolting against God is a charge used to support the execution of those who call for full democracy. In other words, calling for political reform is seen as a form of apostasy.