Tuesday, February 07, 2006

OUT OF TOUCH

Today's Times carries an interesting poll from Populus, conducted with 500 British Muslims last December. Let's get some of the more worrying bits out of the way first:
A significant proportion of Muslims of all ages regard the Jewish community and its links to Israel with suspicion.

More than half (56%) think it right to boycott Holocaust Memorial Day (a figure that rises to 69% among 18-24 year olds). While the most popular specified reason, mentioned by a fifth, is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, an equal number favour the boycott for ‘other reasons’.
I wonder what those 'other reasons' might be? Clearly the message behind Holocaust Memorial Day has not got through to young British Muslims, although I'll wager that most 18-24 year olds in this country don't know too much about it either.

Judging by the standard of questions and answers given at a recent UCL Islamic Society meeting I attended, there's an awful lot of ignorance and hearsay presented as fact by leaders within the Muslim community - the MCB's Daud Abdullah's inability to back up his "Jenin massacre" claim being a fine example.

The situation is probably not helped when "as many (57%) are likely to turn to the clerics at their local Mosque as tune in to Britain’s national broadcaster" for news on the Middle East. It seems bizarre to non-Muslims that religious leaders are considered a reliable source of political information, but I guess for many Muslims the line between politics and religion is a fine one, hence turning to your local imam seems a natural thing to do.

But relying on imams amongst other news sources doesn't necessarily keep you in touch with the real world:
By a clear majority those surveyed believe that the Jewish community defends Israel whether it is right or wrong (58% v 20%), think that it has no interest in the plight of the Palestinians (57% v 21%), deem it to have too much influence over the direction of UK foreign policy (53% v 19%), and believe it be in league with the freemasons to control the media and politics (46% v 22%).
46%? That figure is astonishing. Someone, somewhere is telling lies rather brilliantly to Muslims in the UK. Let's have a look at who the most popular Muslim teachers are in Britain today.

Number 1, with 49% of those surveyed agreeing with his views, is Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens). An uncontroversial selection until you remember what he said during the Rushdie Affair:
Islam stated that rather than attend a demonstration where Rushdie would be burned in effigy, "I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing", and that if Rushdie showed up at his door, he "might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like... I'd try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is."

Islam stood by his statements during a subsequent interview with The New York Times.
OK, not as cuddly as he could be and since then he's not made any particularly foul remarks, but who's that I spy down at Number 2?

None other than Ol' Hooky himself, Abu Hamza.

It beggars belief that 27% of those surveyed agreed with his views and very worrying that in contrast, only 18% disagreed with the race-baiting preacher. With over a quarter of British Muslims identifying with Hamza, no wonder Jewish freemason conspiracy theories are flying around.

In an article entitled "Bashing the Square," Nick Cohen discusses Islamist paranoia of the freemasons in detail. Well worth a gander.

(Note to self: Must pep up on the International Jewish Conspiracy)

More encouraging was that "a half (52%) of those surveyed say that Israel has a right to exist", which is a start. Sadly, "16% still believe suicide bombings in Israel can sometimes be justified", but both of these stats strike me as pretty similar to those you might obtain if you polled the politically active members of academia that I regularly come across at my university bar.

Most interestingly, and this matches with my experience, is that only a quarter or less of British Muslims feel that their views are represented by the MCB, MAB, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Islamic Society of Great Britain, British Muslim Forum, Tablighi Jamaat or MPAC.

Yet the minute a "Muslim" voice is needed, whether it be for the news or a talkshow, our media immediately approach the usual suspects from within these groups. If these stats are anything to go by, the opinions of those talking heads we regularly see spouting nonsense are not representative of the views of ordinary British Muslims. If that's the case, who is?

Finally, The Daily Mail brigade will no doubt be extremely concerned with:
7% say the same about suicide bombings in Britain. This last figure is broadly comparable to the ICM poll of Muslims taken after the 7 th July bombings last year, where 5% said further attacks by British suicide bombers would be justified.
7% of 1.6 million means over 100,000 of Britains Muslims believe that the 7/7 terrorist attacks were possibly justifiable. However, it's a broad leap from supporting suicide bombing to going out and actually doing it. Clamping down on hate preachers such as Abu Hamza is vital if we are to prevent that 7% turning words into actions.

Replacing mouthpieces for unpopular (and often hypocritical) organisations with genuine representatives of British Muslims in our media wouldn't go amiss either.

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