I started reading through the ICM Unlimited survey for Channel 4 on British Muslim social attitudes just to nose around and then suddenly I’d gone through 600 pages of data tables and it seemed a shame to not post it here.
The context is that this poll is being made into a TV programme with Trevor Phillips and the trailed data has hit the newspapers with such flashy headlines as over half of British Muslim think that homosexuality should be illegal, British Muslims are antisemitic, blah blah. As is usually the trend, I think you’ll find it’s a little more complicated than that.
I refuse to spend five hours formatting and adding pictures when I have work to do today, but some interesting points that jumped out at me in chronological order:
* 77% of Muslims in the South West think that religious prejudice against them has risen in the last five years versus between 30 and 50% in the rest of Britain. It’s lowest in Scotland and the North East (29% and 25%).
* 20% of Muslims have been personally harassed because of their religion in the last 2 years, and it mostly happened in their local area. 13% of *those* have been physically attacked. Can we then be at all surprised that Muslims feel that British society is hostile towards them when 1 in 20 have literally been beaten up in the last two years?
* 81% of those who have been harrassed in the last two years believe that homosexuality should be illegal, and 66% believe that it shouldn’t – which may well be due to the greater likelihood that someone who believes homosexuality is illegal will wear recognisably Islamic clothing.
* People who feel their mosque ‘represents their views’ by position statement (percentage who hold opposite opinion)
Homosexuality should be illegal
Sympathy with terrorism
Support stoning for adultery
* 59% said they would like to fully integrate with non-Muslims in all aspects of life.
17% said they would like to integrate in some things but would prefer to lead a separate Islamic life as far as possible.
12 (out of 1000) would like to live under Sharia law in Britain.
* Of those who believe that homosexuality should be legal, 23% still believe that gay people shouldn’t be teachers in schools. (And 10% of those who believe homosexuality should be illegal believes they *should* be allowed to teach). People’s moral understanding of homosexuality in the abstract doesn’t necessarily correlate to how gay people should be treated in society.
* ‘Women should obey their husbands’ needs to be set in the context of other factors, like sexism. 45% of Muslims men think that women should always obey their husbands and only 33% of Muslim women do.
* 95% of Muslims who believe that homosexuality should be illegal also believe that they are able to practice their religion freely and 89% thought that Britain would a good place to live. Despite their moral views being out of sync with the way we construct our society, they’re not that bothered about it.
* Can I express my fascination with the fact that on average British Muslims think that 29% of the country is Muslim and 20% are Jewish (it’s 4.5% and 0.2% respectively)?
* 26% of British Muslims think antisemitism is a big problem in Britain (46% GB adults), 44% think it isn’t (46%), 29% have no idea (29%) – a general lack of correlation with one’s religious identity, I think.
Also, given over half the British Muslim community hails from an area of the world that has almost no Jews in it, I think one can forgive them for not knowing much about their position in British society. How many of you know anything about how British Sikhs are doing?
* The same goes for all the position statements on Jews – roughly a third of British Muslims (who also think that Jews make up 20% of the population, let us not forget) exercise undue influence on the government, media and are responsible for most of the world’s wars, a third don’t, and a third don’t know.
A survey conducted last year for YouGov found nearly identical numbers across the general British population.
The takeaway is that British Muslims are no more antisemitic than anyone else in Britain – it’s just that *a lot* more people than we would like are antisemitic.
At this point I’d scrolled through 300 pages of a 600 page document and I got tired, and the next 200 pages are various questions on terrorism and extremism in the Muslim community that weren’t that interesting. You’ll have to take my word for it that a strong majority of the Muslim community is horrified by Islamic terrorism, opposes ISIS, would get involved if they thought someone they knew was becoming an extremist or thinking of going to Syria, and thinks that British Muslim institutions need to do more to tackle the issue, their leaders need to get a grip, and the British government needs to stop scapegoating them all the time.
Other interesting stats buried in the final 100 pages –
* 5% of Muslim men ‘never’ go to a mosque compared to 41% of Muslim women.
* There is no such thing as cohabitation in the British Muslim community – 67% are married, 27% are single, 7 respondents out of 1000 were living with a partner.
* 55% of the British Muslim community is Pakistani and 17% is Bangladeshi. No Chinese Muslims responded to the survey.
* 25% of British adults don’t think gay people should be teachers in schools.
* 28% of Muslims and 33% of British adults think that Britain is a country of ‘bad moral behaviour’.
* 27% of British adults don’t think that homosexuality should be legal. 34% don’t think same sex marriage should be legal.
* Roughly 20% of British Muslims support violence to fight injustice by the police and government – and roughly 15% of British adults. We’ve got some consciousness raising to do.
My conclusion: Most British Muslims come from socially conservative, traditional families and know what their faith’s official stance is on certain issues but when it comes to real life, they’re not really that interested. About 15% of British Muslims are what one could practically call religious fundamentalists. Give their total population, that’s about 405,000 fundies dispersed among a British population of 67 million. I’ll worry about #creepingsharia when they outnumber the number of people who vote Conservative – a far more destructive ideology in real terms.
In my personal experience, having grown up in Stratford, spent my gap year in Bradford, my university years in Rusholme in Manchester, and now living in predominantly Turkish areas in North London, the worst homophobia I have experienced has come from African and Carribean Christians, whose communities use homosexuality as a symbol of colonialism. British Muslims just don’t care – it’s not a thing for them. They don’t dwell on it. Sure, some do, and it’s probably a different matter if someone in their family came out, and probably some of those 15% who are fundamentalist probably deal with it really badly, but as a whole, I don’t think the British Muslim community gives a damn whether homosexuality should be illegal or not, and that these sorts of questions are only something they give any thought to when asked by a pollster. Otherwise they just rub along with everyone else just like the rest of us who live here.
It’s interesting to me when I hear people say to me – and maybe about one person a year says it to me after looking around furtively – that they think that there are parts of London that ‘just don’t feel like you’re in Britain anymore’. I usually nail them down to specifically multi-ethnic, multicultural areas like Newham or Green Lanes. These people often seem to conceive of Britain as some sort of white Christian idyll with hedges, red postboxes and the occasional village murder. I find that interesting because, having grown up in and voluntarily chosen as an adult to specifically to continuing living in exactly the kinds of places they don’t view as British, it’s when I was living in 93% white Chelmsford, where my school took us to the local cathedral twice a year for services and I found out after I left their annual pride celebration consists of a barbecue out the back of the one gay bar, that I really felt that I was missing something. Looking out my window as I’m writing, there’s a bank, multiple curry and kebab places, a British lime tree, a 29 red bus, two Turkish food markets, a Papa John’s, and people of all colours and creed getting on with their lives. Nothing feels more like home.