Muslim students: joint statement issued

Following last Sunday’s report (PDF) by the “Centre for Social Cohesion” (in reality, a right-wing think tank largely geared towards raising suspicion about Muslims) alleging that a large proportion of Muslim students support killing in the name of Islam, a number of organisations have put out a joint statement, which is reproduced over at Islamophobia Watch:

The latest report on British Muslim students by the Centre for Social Cohesion serves only to strengthen bigots and demagogues keen to sow discord amongst British people. The authors of the report cannot hide behind a purportedly scientific survey to justify their own agenda of creating anything but cohesion in society. We refer to more concrete polling data that illustrate the commitment British Muslims have to British society and the people around them. The authors cite their unsatisfactory sampling to extrapolate ideological and biased conclusions to serve their own divisive ends.

We are a cross-section of British people who believe in the importance of meaningful social cohesion, where British people from all backgrounds and persuasions can live together without maligning each other. The Centre for Social Cohesion is opposed to this, and we reject their conclusions utterly.

We do not deny that the terror threat is serious, nor do we object to the notion that separatism and bigotry should be challenged, including from within the Muslim community. However the report incorrectly ascribes guilt by tenuous association with those national Muslim organisations who have been firm and innovative on both counts. Moreover, these organisations are theologically diverse, and yet the study insinuates that they favour one Islamic tradition over another.

The report reserves a lot of its fire for the Islamic student societies that operate from campus up and down the country. We find it curious, therefore, that the report sought qualitative opinions from only twelve Islamic student societies, yet there are scores of Muslim student bodies in the UK - hardly a representative sample.

The emphasised statement is key - the survey of Muslim students for attitudes such as supporting “killing” took in only 600 students. An organisation like YouGov, which carried it out, has no excuse for using such a piddling survey size; with a section of society as specific as Muslim students, one would have thought they could have surveyed as many people as they do with a normal poll, which would have made it more representative.

Besides, the question about “killing” is meaningless, because there are a variety of reasons why someone might kill in the name of their religion - such as, for example, someone being executed under Shari’ah law for killing someone during a robbery and defending the Muslim lands from invaders. It does not mean they support terrorism, yet this is what the headlines this report generated produced.

Really, Muslim organisations should be getting the message through to the Muslim public: do not answer opinion polls. Ever. There have been several such polls in the last five years or so which have been used in high-profile media Muslim-bashing campaigns. The source for their malicious tittle-tattle should be cut off.

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