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Attitudes Towards British Muslims

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					Attitudes Towards British Muslims
A survey commissioned for Islam Awareness Week 2002 by the Islamic Society of Britain

4th November 2002

Survey conducted by YouGov

Summary Charts
How much do you feel you know about Britain’s Muslim community?

Not very much 64%

A fair amount 25% A great deal 2% Nothing 9%

Which of these is your biggest single source of information about Britain’s Muslim community?

TV and Newspapers 66%

Muslim friends 9%

Other 11%

Do not have any Reading books source of info 8% about the religion 6%

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Statement: “Britain’s non-Muslims have tended to be more suspicious of Britain’s Muslims since 11 September last year”
84% 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Agree Disagree Don't know 8% 8%

Which of these statements do you most agree with?

Don't know

7%

It is NOT possible for Britain's Muslims and people of other faiths to live peacefully together and they should keep apart as much as possible It IS possible for Britain's Muslims and people of other faiths to live peacefully together at close quarters
0 10

10%

84%

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

(If citing data from this survey, please quote as: “Attitudes Towards British Muslims: a survey commissioned by the Islamic Society of Britain and conducted by YouGov, November 2002”.)

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Results of the YouGov Survey
Relations between Britain’s Muslims and non-Muslims should be much better, and could be much better – and both sides are to blame for the fact that they are not. That is the over-riding message from a special YouGov survey for Islam Awareness Week, commissioned by the Islamic Society of Britain. The survey sought to delve behind the headlines and slogans and explore public attitudes to Britain’s one-and-a-half million Muslims. It provides a number of reasons for optimism among those who seek a truly diverse, multicultural society. • • More people (46%) think “in general, Muslims play a valuable role in British society” than disagree (32%) 68% think children in mainstream schools “should be taught about all the world’s major religious faiths”, while just 9% think children should be taught only about Christianity. (21% want children not to be taught religion at all at school.) A large majority reject the idea that people who settle in Britain should abandon their own culture completely. 79% think they should “keep some aspects of their own culture and adopt some aspects of traditional British culture” Fully 84% believe it is “possible for Britain’s Muslims and people of other faiths to peacefully together at close quarters” 69% agree that “Islam is mainly a peaceful religion; terrorists comprise only a tine minority” Far more people think Britain’s Muslims have responded in a reasonable manner (56%) than an unreasonable manner (21%) since 11 September last year.

•

• • •

However, there is plainly a widespread sense that things currently are not as they should be: • 56% agree that “members of Britain’s Muslim minority often suffer from unfair discrimination”. (A similar proportion, 61%, think the same of Britain’s black minority.) 73% agree that “Britain’s non-Muslims should do more to build good relations and mix with Britain’s Muslims”

•

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•

82% agree that “members of Britain’s Muslim minority often keep too much to themselves, when they should be trying to mix in more with non-Muslims”. 56% also think their values have “not very much” or “nothing” in common with the values of Britain’s Muslims 63% think Britain’s Muslim community does only “a little” or “nothing” to promote tolerance among people of different faiths Although 67% say they “would not mind” if a Muslim family moved in next door, one person in six (17%) say they would be “disappointed” or “angry”; just 11% would be “delighted” or “fairly pleased” 35% say their view of Britain’s Muslims has gone down since 11 September last year; only 5% say their opinion has gone up.

• • •

•

It is in the nature of opinion polls that, in taking a snapshot of public attitudes, they obtain a picture that is complex and varied. This YouGov survey is no exception. It is a warts-and-all study of British attitudes, some aspects of which may well alarm some people. But it also reveals a massive public appetite for tolerant, harmonious relations. Only by starting from the state of public opinion as it is, rather than as some might wish it to be, can those who set their sights on greater harmony reach their goal. Peter Kellner, Chairman of YouGov. * YouGov questioned a representative sample of 1,890 electors throughout Britain online on 31 October and 1 November.

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What Does the Survey Tell Us?
This survey of attitudes towards British Muslims, commissioned for Islam Awareness Week, shows that the positives and the pitfalls for Britain’s Muslim community are evenly balanced and everyone could and should do more to improve community relations. The overwhelming majority of British people believe it is possible to live in peace at close quarters with Britain’s Muslim community. But the same majority, 84%, say non-Muslims have been more suspicious of Britain’s Muslims since September 11 last year. Improving relations is everyone’s responsibility: 73% say non-Muslims should do more to build good relations and mix with Muslims; 82% say British Muslims should be trying to mix more with non Muslims. The survey conducted by YouGov is the most extensive test of public attitudes to be undertaken since the events of 9-11. It gives cause for optimism about the future of Britain as a multicultural society. But it clearly demonstrates there is much work to be done. This survey is a challenge to us all. We can only get the multicultural Britain we desire if we set a new agenda for working together. The results show the situation is more complex than people often acknowledge. It shows us where the problems lie: we have a major information and communication void that must be bridged. No one can be complacent. This survey is not about apportioning blame but about correctly identifying the best way forward. The survey shows 84% believe it is possible for Britain’s Muslims and people of other faiths to live peacefully together at close quarters. A large majority reject the idea that people who settle in Britain should abandon their culture completely. 79% think they should “keep some aspects of their own culture and adopt some aspects of traditional British culture.” 69% agree that “Islam is mainly a peaceful religion; terrorists comprise only a tiny minority” While far more people think Britain’s Muslims have responded in a reasonable manner (56%) than an unreasonable manner (21%) since 11 September last year. But there is a chilling note among the optimism: 84% agree that “Britain’s non Muslims have tended to be more suspicious of Britain’s Muslims since September 11 of last year”. These suspicions do not translate into a general fear of a coming clash of civilizations: 66% feel it is possible for Western values and Islam to live peacefully together in today’s world against 26% who feel it is not possible. Information and contact are the greatest deficits. 64% of people admit they do not know very much about Britain’s Muslim community and 9% say they know nothing at all. Only 9% of people say their single biggest source of information is derived from “personal Muslim friends” while 65% get their information from television and newspapers.

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It is encouraging that Britain does want to be a multicultural society. But to make that a reality, to create more opportunity for British Muslim to be active, open, welcoming and responsive we all have to tackle the climate of suspicion, the lack of information and the failure of the communities getting to know each other. This survey is a clarion call to British Muslims to continue with efforts such as Islam Awareness Week. For eight years we have organised events, large and small, the length and breadth of Britain to help people get to know their Muslim neighbours. By itself, clearly that’s not enough. Our ability to be constructive depends on tackling the information and communication deficit. Most of all we have to create a new agenda for addressing the real disadvantage experienced by the Muslim community. It’s the only way to ensure the positives in this survey lead us forward to create a better and genuinely multicultural future for Britain. Better community relations are a two way process. Clearly Muslims are not wrong in thinking people have suspicions, it contributes to their reticence, which is neither unfounded nor entirely unjustified. Those who strongly disagree and disapprove of Britain’s Muslims may be a minority but they are large enough and significant enough to have a serious affect on the life and outlook of Muslims. That’s a reality we must address. Legal protection for British Muslims facing religious discrimination is well overdue. Poverty, unemployment, low pay, low skills, the disadvantages and social exclusion of living in blighted inner cities – these are general human problems but when they disproportionately affect one group it seriously affects the aspirations of the whole of British society. British Muslims, largely from Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic backgrounds, are more likely than anyone else to live in poverty, and are concentrated in the most deprived areas of our most deprived cities, that’s a real cause for concern. Muslim organisations are involved in proactive, constructive work, from improving interfaith dialogue to urban regeneration. Muslims can and must strive to do more. But much of the work they do is invisible and unknown to the wider society. The work of Muslim organisations is practical demonstration of values and concerns that are shared with the whole of British society. It is the answer to the 29% who don’t know and 57% who think Muslims do little in promoting social justice as opposed to the 15% who think they do. It is the best way to reassure the 38% who don’t know and the 46% who consider Muslim are little or not at all involved in charitable work, as opposed to the 26% who believe they are. And it is essential to meeting the concerns of the 27% who don’t know and 63% who believe Muslims do little or nothing to promote tolerance between people of different faiths as oppose to the mere 10% who think they do.

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We have to close this information gap. As this survey proves, our ability to do that is conditioned by and places a great responsibility on the media, the single most important source (65%) of information about Muslims for British society. What this survey identifies is a tremendous opportunity. It offers an optimistic, positive atmosphere if we as British citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim, choose to work together to improve community relations and address the real issues. British Muslims should take the initiative and have confidence in their ability to play a fuller, constructive role in working for the common good in British society.

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