One Year On

On the anniversary of the London bombings the Sun has published a new YouGov poll of British Muslims, along with a proper parrallel survey of British non-Muslims. Whenever there is a poll of British Muslims it inevitably shows that a small proportion of British Muslims symapthise with terrorism, and someone inevitably asks the perfectly reasonable question of what proprotion of the population as a whole would agree with the same statement. This time we can answer it.

YouGov asked whether people agreed that “It is NEVER justified for anyone to attack British civilians because of Britain’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan” – 73% of British Muslims agreed, 10% disagreed. In contrast 83% of the wider British population agreed, but 7% disagreed. The question is not as harsh as some of the questions included in other polls on the London bombings – YouGov did not ask if people actually approved of the bombings for example – but it does indicate that while we get het up about the small minority of British Muslims who think attacks on British civilians are justifiable, there are apparantly also a small minority of British non-Muslims who think the same. Asked whether, given what is happening in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, they have some sympathy with Muslims fighting a holy war against the West 51% of British Muslims agree…but so do 19% of British non-Muslims.

The poll contains some interesting comparisons between the opinions of British Muslims and the rest of the population. Muslims tend to be more optimistic about the way forward – while 52% of the wider population think that Muslim extremism has got worse in the UK over the last year, British Muslims are more evenly split with 24% thinking it has got worse, 19% think it has improved. 60% of non-Muslims think the threat of further terrorist attacks has grown, but only 30% of Muslims do. 65% of non-Muslims think that another terrorist attack is inevitable in the long-run, whatever action the police and security services take, 50% of British Muslims disagree with this with only 24% agreeing.

Muslims are also slightly more optimistic about the potential for Muslims to integrate fully into British society. While 49% of the non-Muslim population think that it will never be possible for Muslims to integrate fully, only 32% of British Muslims think the same (they also seem more well disposed towards the idea – only 9% of Muslims thought it would be better if they did not integrate, compared to 16% of non-Muslims.)

British Muslims overwhelmingly (76%) think that British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, though this is also supported by 54% of non-Muslims. Over 80% of both groups think that Britain’s backing of the USA has made her more vulnerable to terrorist attack, but there is sharp disagreement over whether Britain’s foreign policy is anti-Muslim: 58% of Muslims think it is, 64% of non-Muslims think it isn’t.

There are also noticable differences in attitudes towards how to combat the threat of terrorism and improve communty relations. Neither group has much confidence in how the government is tackling terror; only 21% of Muslims and 33% of non-Muslims think they are doing a good job. There is a distinct lack of confidence in the police amongst the Muslim community – while 47% of non-Muslims think they are doing a good job, only 24% of Muslims agree and 64% think they are doing a bad job. Neither groups is convinced by the performance of the leaders of the Muslim community. 41% of British Muslims think their community leaders are doing a good job, but 46% disagree. 60% of non-Muslims think they are doing a bad job. Overall 57% of Muslims think that community leaders should do much more to condemn extremism. This too is a recurring theme in polls of British Muslims – a lack of confidence amongst normal Muslims in their “community leaders” – although 44% Muslims respondents did at least think community leaders were doing all they could to foster good community relations.

Asked it is worth curbing civil liberties to combat terrorism only 24% of British Muslims agreed while 54% of non-Muslims agreed (hardly surprisingly given that any dilution of civil liberties under the present circumstances would likely affect British Muslims more than any other group). Opinions also contrasted on whether the death penalty should be re-introduced for those committing terrorist acts in this country – 54% of non-Muslims agreed but only 30% of Muslims. 63% of non-Muslims thought that the police should carry out raids like that in Forest Gate even if intelligence later turns out to be faulty, with 9% thinking that the police should hold back when there is insufficient intelligence – 23% said the positions were not contraditory, the police just needed better intelligence. Amongst Muslims only 15% took the “gung-ho” option, with 27% saying the police should hold back even if they missed the chance to pre-empt a terrorist attack.

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