This Wednesday, Channel 4 in Britain will broadcast a Trevor Phillips documentary on ‘What British Muslims really think’. On Sunday, the Sunday Times published details of an ICM poll about Muslim attitudes commissioned for the programme and ran an essay by Phillips on Muslim integration. The headlines generated by the poll – ‘Half of British Muslims want gay sex banned says poll’; ‘Most Muslims would not give terror tip-offs’, etc – and Phillip’s argument (‘the integration of Muslims will probably be the hardest task we’ve ever faced’) have combined to generate considerable debate and controversy over the last few days. I will hopefully write properly soon on the poll, the programme and Phillips’ argument. In the meantime some initial thoughts:
This is not the first poll to have shown the social conservatism of British Muslims. Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University, for instance, conducted a series of surveys with YouGov on religion, politics and social and personal morality, the results of which were published in 2013. I wrote briefly about the findings at the time. The poll showed that religious believers were more liberal on issues such as abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and assisted dying than usually recognized in public debates. The key exception, however, were Muslims, whom the poll found to be more socially conservative than most other religious groups.
But that was not the whole story of the poll. It also found that Muslims were more polarized on many social issues than other groups. For example on abortion, 20 per cent of Muslims wanted to ban abortion altogether, a much higher figure than the general population, and higher than any other religious group. At the same time, 12 per cent of Muslims want to increase the time limit, twice the figure in the general population, and higher than in any other religious group. The ICM/C4 poll also shows some evidence of such polarization, on a range of issues.
Given this polarization, there is a possible methodological issue with the ICM poll. It polled Muslims only in areas where they made up more than 20 per cent of the local population. According to the statistician Martin Boon, this covered 51.4 per cent of the British Muslim population. Those who live in areas of high concentrations of Muslims could well be more socially and religiously conservative than Muslims who live in predominantly non-Muslim areas, and possibly less integrated. That said, the findings of this poll are not that different from previous ones.
The ICM/Channel 4 poll is, as one might imagine, complex in what it reveals, and far more so than the headlines might suggest
On certain social issues – particularly homosexuality – there is considerable illberalism. Just 18% of Muslims think that homosexuality should be legal (compared to 73% of the general population) while 52% disagree. Twenty-eight per cent would be happy to have gay teachers, while 48% would not (the figures for the general public are 75% and 14%). (On the surface, there does seem something odd in more than twice as many Muslims being willing to accept a gay teacher as being willing to accept homosexuality as legal.)
A large proportion of Muslims believe many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Thirty-eight per cent thought ‘Jewish people have too much power in Britain’, 39% that they have too power over the media, and 44% that they have too much power in the business world (the figures for those that disagreed are respectively 20%, 17% and 14%). But when asked about what they thought of Jews personally, the picture changes dramatically. Respondents had to rate their feelings towards Jews on a scale from 0 to 100. The mean scores for Muslims and for the general population were similar (57.1 and 63.7); the mean score for Muslims’ feelings towards Jews (57.1) is little different to the mean score of the feelings of the general population towards Muslims (55.2). If we look at the proportion of the two samples that rated Jews between 0 and 50 (that is, rated them more negatively than positively), it is lower for Muslims than for the general population (39 to 52). By that score there appears to be more antipathy towards Jews within the general population than among Muslims.
Muslims do not appear to see Britain as a nation in thrall to islamophobia. Seventy-three per cent thought that religuious harassment of Muslims was not a problem, 82% had not faced harassment in the past 2 years; and of the 17% who had, more than three-quarters reported it as verbal abuse. More Muslims (40%) think anti-Muslim prejudice has grown in the last five years than think it has decreased (14%). But the comparable figures for the general public are 61% and 7% respectively. Muslims, in other words, actually seem less concerned about the growth of anti-Muslim prejudice than the public at large.
Seven per cent of Muslims supported the idea of a Caliphate, and 3 per cent supported IS (2% of the general population supported a Caliphate, and 1% backed IS). Far fewer Muslims could ‘understand why a British Muslim like Mohammed Emwazi would be attracted to radicalism’ than could members of the general public (13% compared to 27%). The Daily Express, under the headline ‘”Astonishing” two in three British Muslims would not give terror tip-offs’, the Times and many other newspapers, in Britain and abroad,noted that only one in three Muslims would report to the police someone close who might be getting involved in terrorism (the actual figure is 34%). But what the reports failed to note was that a lower proportion of the public at large (30%) would contact the police given the same circumstances. This is, in other words, not a Muslim problem, but a general reluctance to shop friends to the police, however heinous their potential crime.
What is difficult to argue from the figures is, as Trevor Phillips claims, that the social conservatism of Muslims is linked to a lack of integration. When asked ‘How strongly do you feel you belong to Britain?’, 86% of Muslims did compared to 83% of the general population. A higher proportion of the general population (17%) felt little attachment to Britain as compared to Muslims (11%).
Respondents were asked how much integration they desired. Forty-nine per cent of Muslims said they would like ‘to fully integrate with non- Muslims in all aspects of life’, 29% wanted ‘to integrate on most things, but there should be separation in some areas, such as Islamic schooling and laws’, 12% chose ‘to integrate on some things, but I would prefer to lead a separate Islamic life as far as possible’, and 1% wanted a ‘fully separate Islamic area in Britain, subject to Sharia Law and government’. The figures reveal a desire for a degree of separation among half the Muslim population, but not a ‘nation within a nation’, as Phillips claims.
What the poll seems to show, as previous ones have, is a deep well of social conservatism, a more polarized community than one might imagine, and a considerable attachment to Britain and to British identity. It shows issues that need confronting, but not necessarily as the headlines present them.
British Muslims seem more socially conservative than Muslims in some other Western countries. An Ifop poll of French Muslims and a Pew poll of US Muslims, for instance, both show more liberal views.
The Ifop poll found that 68% of observant women never wear the hijab. Fewer than a third of practising Muslims would forbid their daughters from marrying a non-Muslim. Eighty-one per cent accept that women should have equal rights in divorce, 44% have no problem with the issue of co-habitation, 38% support the right to abortion, and 31% approve of sex before marriage. The one issue on which French Muslims are deeply conservative is homosexuality: 77% of practising Muslims disapprove.
According to the Pew poll, US Muslims are much more liberals about homosexuality than co-religionists in Europe – 39% thought homosexuality acceptable.
Over the past 25 years, people of most faiths in Britain have become more liberal on issues such as homosexuality and women’s rights. British Muslims, on the other hand, seem to have become more conservative on such social issues. I don’t have any proper data on this, but I speak largely from personal experience. (If any one knows of any proper historical data on this, do let me know; I’d be very interested.)
As I have observed many times, the views of today’s British Muslims are different from those of previous generations. The first generation of Muslims to this country were religious, but wore their faith lightly. Many men drank alcohol. Few women wore a hijab, let alone a burqa or niqab. Most visited the mosque only occasionally, when the ‘Friday feeling’ took them. Islam was not, in their eyes, an all-encompassing philosophy. Their faith expressed for them a relationship with God, not a sacrosanct public identity.
The second generation of Britons with a Muslim background – my generation – was primarily secular. Religious organizations were barely visible. The organizations that bound together Asian communities (and we thought of ourselves as ‘Asian’ or ‘black’, not ‘Muslim’) were primarily secular, often political; the Asian Youth Movements, for instance, or the Indian Workers Association.
It is only with the generation that has come of age since the late 1980s that the question of cultural differences has come to be seen as important. A generation that, ironically, is far more integrated and ‘Westernised’ than the first generation, is also the generation that is most insistent on maintaining its ‘difference’.
The differences between attitudes of British, French and US Muslims may be the consequence of a number of factors. One may be the difference in countries of origin and social status of migrants. British Muslims came largely from south Asia. French Muslims came primarily from North Africa and, unlike British Muslims, were largely secular. Even today, the majority do not describe themselves as practicing Muslims. American Muslims tend to be more middle class than those in Britain and France.
A second difference is in social policy, in particular the development of multicultural policies in Britain that have helped create a more fragmented society. The differences in Muslim attitudes in the different countries are likely to have been created by a combination of these two, and possibly other, factors.
Much of the debate around the poll, and Phillips’ own commentary, has confused three issues: social conservatism, integration and jihadism.
We should be rightly concerned with the degree of illiberal social attitudes within Muslim communities, especially as it was very different just a generation ago. We should not simply shrug our shoulders and say ‘That’s what happens in a plural society’. We should combat illiberal attitudes, from whichever group, and support those struggling for a progressive future, including within Muslim communities. Too often liberals betray such progressives in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘pluralism’. But holding illiberal views is not necessarily the same as failing to integrate – and this poll does not reveal a link between the two.
We should also be concerned with the more fragmented nature of British society today, with people inhabiting their own identity silos, and with the lack social contact between different groups (some evidence for which is revealed in this poll). We should be concerned, too, with the growth of sectarianism within Muslim communities. There is a good argument to be made that silo-building has helped create the well of social conservatism within Muslim communities, and has encouraged sectarianism. The problem is not so much a lack of integration as the view, promulgated by many politicians and policy makers, that it is through identity groups that such integration should take place. We need to challenge the social and multicultural policies that have, over the past three decades, helped entrench identity politics and encouraged silo-building.
Thirdly, there is the problem of jihadism, and of a section of Muslims being drawn toward Islamist views. As I have noted before, most studies show that Muslims are rarely drawn to jihadist groups because they already hold extremist religious views; rather it is their involvement in jihadism that leads them to accept religious extremism as a justification for their acts. As the former CIA operation officer, now an academic and counter-terrorism consultant to the US and other governments, Marc Sageman, has put it, ‘At the time they joined jihad terrorists were not very religious. They only became religious once they joined the jihad.’ That is why we need to rethink our ideas about radicalisation and how to combat it.
Illiberalism, integration and jihadism are all urgent issues that need tackling. But we will not tackle any of them by drawing facile links between them.
The images are The Favour by Vaseem Mohammed, and calligraphy by Mohammad Ehsai
Excellent point I think about the countries of origin shaping the views of British and French Muslims. Might it also be to do with the brand of Islam (I’m assuming North Africans to be majority Shia, though I might be wrong)? Whilst both major strands of Islam might be deeply conservative, the relatively better-structured (?) Shia has limits beyond which the individual is dissuaded from going (the murder of Mr Shah or suicide bombing for instance) as the Theocratic State is made responsible for meting out violence against its enemies. I’m also interested in the Ahmadi question: it appears not to be known – due to the Pakistani State’s vicious repression – exactly how large this group is, and this must affect British Society.
The vast majority of North Africans are Sunni and Shias are very rare indeed in those countries. Generally, west of the Suez canal is almost exclusively Sunni country.
There is an epidemic of street harassment by Muslim men against non-Muslim/not covered British women. Britain has become less safe for women. This is my personal experience of London and the Northern town I now live in. The Guardian our deleting any comments I make about this.
If it is your personal experience, how can you speak of an ‘epidemic’? Is it an epidemic against you personally? That simply doesn’t make sense. There are places on the internet where such nonsensical comments can pass unchallenged, but this is not one of them. Shoo.
If this is based on your personal experience, how can you talk of an ‘epidemic’? Is this an ‘epidemic’ against you personally? That doesn’t make any sense. There are places on the internet where such nonsensical statements can pass unchallenged, but this is not one of them. Shoo.
Btw, the Guardian had a whole series of articles about people like you this week. I doubt you read any of it, but you probably tried to offer your opinion on it nonetheless.
Thank you for this analysis. The issues are much more nuanced and complex than they first appear. Still, I am left wondering what the basic doctrine of Islam has to do with confused thinking about the world and what role that plays at all intersections of though and action.
Where’s the ‘nuance’ in 52% of Muslims wanting being gay to be made illegal?
If a survey had just found that 52% of the entire UK population wanted being a Muslim to be made illegal, would you be talking about ‘nuance’?
I’ve listened to Owen Bennett Jones’s Radio 4 investigation ‘The Deobandis’ and wonder whether/how you believe this Islamic group has influenced the wider British Muslim population.
Also, from my own fundamentalist experience, though I largely agree that ‘holding illiberal views is not necessarily the same as failing to integrate’, I’d say religious illiberalism necessitates a degree of non-integration, so they act as two sides of the same coin. We live ‘in’ the world, but were not ‘of’ the world was a tenet constantly drummed into us to reinforce the separationist doctrinal attitude to the people around us, including non-believing family members. And our version of Christian ‘jihad’ was a metaphysical/spiritual battle.
I do wonder why Trevor Phillips does these kinds of programmes, because he must know that the discussion of them will be dire. As it has been with the coverage of this one.
Straight away, some Muslims have been ringing in to radio phone-in shows to cast doubt on the method of polling.
Because they don`t personally know anyone who was interviewed for the poll, they think the figures are all wrong.
I heard this BBC radio documentary the other night, about Muslim prisoners in France.
Whatever we do, we are going to have serious problems for the foreseeable future.
In France, it seems that alienated young Muslim men are easily radicalised, but reversing that process is one that takes time and is hard to do.
This reminds me of research a few years ago that asked young Australian Muslims if they had to choose between Islam/ the ummah and being Australian, which would they choose? The respondents leaned heavily towards Islam, BUT asked why did they have to choose? Making them choose, they said, was our (non Muslim Australian) problem, not theirs. In Australia many Muslims, conservative Christians and Orthodox Jewry have lined up together against same sex marriage, against abortion. If we use the world values scale, then it is national cultural values that are most indicative of conservatism/liberalism, rather than religion per se, though strong belief in a conservative religion correlates well with conservative values elsewhere, and the willingness to submit to arguments from authority.
As to point number 4, I believe the history of Muslims in France (and, from what I’ve read, in Belgium) is very similar. The generation that immigrated in the 1960s and early 70s was more interested in finding work than finding god. But what I think is most striking in your article is the observation about people “inhabiting their own identity silos.” To what extent do you think this happens when identity itself is held out as the answer to things, rather than as a question which is continually being posed to us? In fact, I wonder if there aren’t a number of people who have to expend an inordinate amount of time maintaining and elaborating an “identity” when they could be doing something much more interesting with their time. But perhaps this speaks to the point that one of your commentators made about being “in the world, but not of it.”
I agree, there are similar trends in France, Belgium and throughout much of Western Europe. I also agree that the problem lies in the changing meanings of identity and in the rise of identity politics. I have made the point with respect to social policy in both Britain and France.
I read a piece that stated the Belgian muslim community’s turn to a more strict religious identity was due to the rise of Saudi Arabian ‘petro-islam’. The Muslim community there is largely from North Africa and their faith was influenced by the Maliki school, Saudi Arabian funding pushed Salafi islam teaching which was foreign to the Belgian muslim community but accepted over time. I wonder the extent to which Saudi shoulders responsibility along with the social policy of western governments?
You wrote, “The first generation of Muslims to this country were religious, but wore their faith lightly. … The second generation of Britons with a Muslim background – my generation – was primarily secular. … It is only with the generation that has come of age since the late 1980s that the question of cultural differences has come to be seen as important.”
I find your observation interesting because it’s very much like what I’ve observed growing up Jewish in the United States. My grandmother, who was a first generation immigrant, kept a Kosher household. Jews of that generation struggled to be accepted as authentic Americans.
My parents were fully assimilated and not very religious. It was my generation that was secure enough in our identity as authentic Americans that we could start asking, “What happened to my heritage? What’s my ancestors’ culture?” Out of that came the Klezmer music revival.
The main difference I see between what you describe about third-generation Muslims in Britain and what I observed about third-generation Jews in the U.S. is that, in my experience, the third-generation search for our roots took us in other directions than religious piety. Given the similarities I’ve just noted, I wonder why this part of it plays out so differently.
Thank you for this analysis. It is very helpful to see the wider context.
I do question though your point about integration. If I understand the figures correctly, 51% of respondents wanted at least some separation in schooling and law. Whether that warrants the phrase “a nation within a nation” is perhaps a point for students of rhetoric, but half of the respondents wanting separate schooling and/or laws does seem to warrant concern about the level of integration.
This also seems to fit with your general point about identity silos and multiculturalism, which I do find interesting.
Great piece, thanks for writing it. A couple of points that drew my attention:
“Those who live in areas of high concentrations of Muslims could well be more socially and religiously conservative than Muslims who live in predominantly non-Muslim areas, and possibly less integrated”
I’ve had a quick glance through the density response tables to the questions and there doesn’t seem to be an correlation (to the eye / at a glance) between density and conservative responses, bar maybe a few exceptions (I think one was the legality of homosexuality question where conservative views seemed to show a clear trend of *decreasing* as density increases, in fact). If density is a factor, it must come into play below 20% density which, as you mentioned, covers less than 50% of the Muslim population. So even if we assume there is change in attitudes at some point below 20% density, it still wouldn’t necessarily have much effect on the overall results.
“Just 18% of Muslims think that homosexuality should be legal…Twenty-eight per cent would be happy to have gay teachers…(On the surface, there does seem something odd in more than twice as many Muslims being willing to accept a gay teacher as being willing to accept homosexuality as legal.)”
The wording is “homosexual person” for the teacher question and “homosexuality” for the legality question. My assumption would be that the latter was interpreted more along the lines of ‘homosexual acts’ and the former along the lines of ‘homosexual persuasion’, and so there are more Muslims against ‘acts’ than ‘persuasion’. Sohail Ahmed sort of writes on this here: “Whereas a few years ago, most British Muslims would have claimed that homosexuality in and of itself as an attraction was wrong, now many British Muslims will say that being homosexual isn’t itself wrong, but the act of two people of the same gender sleeping together is” (http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/i-feel-british-former-radical-muslim-poll-51-muslims-disagree-homosexuality/?fb_ref=f8e8edc95c954b9196c9e24723aba683-Facebook#gs.8aoiNHg). Personally, I think the ‘new’ line of thought has almost the same practical implications as the ‘old’, so don’t view it as really any better (although would agree is a step in the right direction).
“If we look at the proportion of the two samples that rated Jews between 0 and 50 (that is, rated them more negatively than positively), it is lower for Muslims than for the general population (39 to 52). By that score there appears to be more antipathy towards Jews within the general population than among Muslims.”
I think this a poor comparison to make, for various reasons, but there are also easy ways of showing why we shouldn’t draw such conclusions. For instance, using the same method regarding views towards the non-religious, 40% of Muslims scored them <50 compared to a larger 42% of the General Population (GP) – but the GP scored the non-religious *highest* on average above all other groups. In fact, *all* groups were scored <50 by a greater proportion of the GP than proportion of Muslims. This is because the modal scoring of the GP, for all groups, was 41-50 – hence skewing the proportion that score 0-50 upwards. The modal scoring for Muslims, on the other hand, for all groups*, was 91-100 (*If we ignore the "Don't know" vote for Jews). Each was the second highest modal score for the other, though, so it seems there are two main types of people when it comes to answering this sort of question – those who view 41-50 as a default score for human beings and those who view 91-100 as a default score for human beings. If I were to try and make a comparison to show whether there is greater antipathy towards Jews among the GP than Muslims using this data, I'd possibly compare the fractions of proportion that scored Jews <50 over the mean proportion that scored groups <50 with one another. By my calculations this gives 0.18 for Muslims and 0.15 for the GP – that is to say* more Muslims score Jews <50 than they do usually for groups by a greater proportion than the GP does – Muslims hold more antipathy than the GP towards Jews. (*I'm finding this quite difficult to word…)(A related question I've also looked at is whether the GP likes Muslims less than Muslims like Jews. Comparing mean score over average score for all groups shows Muslims like Jews less than the GP likes Muslims, relative to how well they like groups in general.)
I actually forgot to divide the proportion totals by the number of groups in that last section. Doesn’t make any difference for comparative purposes but the values should read 1.29 and 1.04 (rather than 0.18 and 0.15) if they’re to represent what I say. (So 29% more Muslims score Jews <50 than do for groups on average, where was 4% more of the GP score Jews <50 than do for groups on average.)
1) I disagree with the your judgement that making homosexuality illegal is social conservative. This position is outside of social conservatism.
2) I wonder what one deems to be a lack of integration if not living in identiy-silos.
3) The reason why the latest generation of Muslims is more socially conservative is because the entire Muslim world has become more radical. (And is still becoming more radical.)
I think the point you made in 3 is the most pertinent and so far largely unexplored in the context of British Muslims and changing attitudes. The whole of the Muslim world in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia etc have become far more pious and illiberal in the last 30 years or so. So maybe the concern about British Muslims should be more a concern for change in the Muslim diaspora and British and other Western Muslims are just reflecting that.
There is a good deal of evidence of the Arabisation of Asian communities living in Britain and I wonder if this is the fruit of Saudi Arabia’s aggressive promotion and funding of Wahhabism throughout the Muslim world. Certainly the timing is right after 40 or so years of it.
The irony of course is that the ruling family, the Sauds are seen as unIslamic by those Islamists they helped create
This is a great piece. Thank you for writing it.
I made similar points in my latest article on Charlie Hebdo’s Brussels editorial, which quotes you:
At the moment the Muslim population in Britain is said to be around 1-2%. So when questions are asked as to whether the Muslim population may one day ‘take over’ Britain, we can probably conclude any possible Islamic take over is far down the line.
However, there is a possibility that the wrong question is being asked; because I think what most people are concerned about is something more realistic.
And I would formulate the question like this:
I acknowledge that the British Muslim population currently sits around 2%. And yet I am acutely aware of the affects of their presence, and the exponential influence of the Muslim demographic in Britain is already quite assertive, widespread and overt.
So I must ask – what will the exponential influence of Muslims in Britain be like when their demographic reaches 10%?
Of course this question isn’t being asked. Because it is both symbolic of a future that will most likely occur, and therefore exists as a difficult sell for the left.
And this brings me to my next point:
Anti-Islam organisations like PEGIDA are not just protesting Islamic extremism – and the component of terror associated within, they are protesting against the literal transformation brought about by a perceived Islamisation of European towns and cities.
And I would have to query – are they wrong?
And if a local, indigenous European feels their city is slowly transforming into a non-European, Islamic enclave, due to the many changes implemented upon the request of a continually growing, influential – yet imported Muslim community, is it right to simply tarnish this individual as a ‘racist’?
I would say no. And I suspect if a Muslim nation was forced to undergo drastic religious and cultural changes for the benefit of an imported European influx, I suspect the left would feel an obligation to support the indigenous Muslims.
Back to my first question:
UK and European politicians are refusing to have a conversation about the possibility of a future that most researchers estimate will be felt by Europeans within only 30 years. It is a future in which imported Muslim communities are no longer stuck at the minimal 2% margin, and have actually grown to 10% or more. Therefore the Europe many of us have always known, will no longer be the same.
And this is where the left – and the establishment right, would rather openly describe those with intellectual concerns as ‘racist’.
“We should be rightly concerned with the degree of illiberal social attitudes within Muslim communities, especially as it was very different just a generation ago. We should not simply shrug our shoulders and say ‘That’s what happens in a plural society’. We should combat illiberal attitudes, from whichever group, and support those struggling for a progressive future, including within Muslim communities. Too often liberals betray such progressives in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘pluralism’. But…”
Of course. There is always a ‘but’.
I’m gay and I’m not massively happy about the fact that 52% of British Muslims would like me and people like myself to be imprisoned (or possibly worse). I’d go so far as to say I’m more than ‘concerned’ about that, I’m somewhat alarmed and in fact rather angry about it. Can you understand why? I’m not much impressed by the ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ mumbling and whataboutery around this information, either. A number of people seem to be more upset that this information has been released than about the information itself.
Guess what, I’d rather such attitudes didn’t exist. But they do, and glossing them over is doing a profound disservice to gay people and other targets of Muslim bigotry. We actually matter too.
So what are you, Kenan, and your fellow liberal mumblers going to do about this? Tick tock.
If the ‘but’ was about why we should not be concerned or alarmed about homophobic views within Muslim communities, or why we should not combat them, then you may have had a point. But (and that’s another ‘but’), what I actually wrote after the ‘but’ was that ‘holding illiberal views is not necessarily the same as failing to integrate’. You may wish to dispute that view, but (another ‘but’), don’t try to pretend that I was ‘glossing over’ homophobic attitudes or that I was ‘more upset that this information has been released than about the information itself’, or that I don’t at every point challenge such homophobia. It’s part of the weirdness of contemporary public debate that demanding that these issues be taken seriously is regarded ‘liberal mumbling’.
Thanks for your reply, Kenan.
“what I actually wrote after the ‘but’ was that ‘holding illiberal views is not necessarily the same as failing to integrate’.”
It depends what your idea of integration is and who is to be integrated. Not approving of homosexuality is one thing, but wanting gay people criminalised is a rather more serious matter. If 52% of the general population wanted being Muslim to be a criminal offence in this country, would you content yourself with describe that view as merely ‘illiberal’ but not an integration problem?
2. “It’s part of the weirdness of contemporary public debate that demanding that these issues be taken seriously is regarded ‘liberal mumbling’.”
Yes, but you didn’t make any specific proposals. I can think of two actions, straight off, which you and other journalists and media commentators could and really should be involved in.
You could campaign for journalists, media organisations and politicians to:
1. Shun Islamists, who espouse the views you say you are concerned about, rather than associating with them. You yourself have frequently written for the Guardian, and it and other ‘liberal’ media outlets have fallen over themselves to give space and respectability to these vile bigots. Example: Peter Oborne’s crawling piece about Abu Qatada.
2. Instead give more support to Muslims and people of Muslim upbringing who argue for secularism and tolerance. As it stands, once again your own beloved Guardianeither ignores or smears such Muslims. Example: David Shariatmadari’s hatchet job on Maajid Nawaz, aournd the time of Oborne’s puff piece.
The fact is, it is the political and media left which have done most to excuse and aid Islamists and to denigrate and marginalise the critics of Islamism, including non-Islamist Muslims in this country.
A major problem is in the ranks of your own left / liberal colleagues and the papers you write for and the politicians you support (Corbyn et al).
Do you not think the left media needs to do something about that? Why not organise a petition of left-wing journalists to get the Guardian to change it’s disgraceful pro-Islamist line?
On integration: Part of the problem is that what we mean by integration is itself a matter of debate. My point was that we cannot reduce integration simply to a question of having the ‘wrong’ beliefs.
In France, more than one voter in five supports the Front National, and it is possible that Marine Le Pen may become the next President. In Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats are well represented in parliament, as is the Danish People’s Party in Denmark. In America, there is, of course, the Trump phenomenon. Large sections of the population in these (and many other) countries, sections not of a small minority group but of the majority population, hold deeply illiberal views about migrants, Muslims, indeed often about gays. Many support policies for banning Muslims, deporting migrants, etc. Are we going to suggest that those who hold such deeply illiberal views, which would have devastating consequences for Muslims, for migrants, and for others, are poorly integrated? Of course not. It is quite possible for very large numbers to hold very illiberal views that could have devastating consequences for fellow citizens and for us to seem them as integrated. That is why I wrote that to hold illiberal views is not necessarily the same as failing to integrate.
As for ‘associating with Islamists’, I am assuming that you don’t actually know my work. Virtually all my adult life I have been challenging Islamism and the illiberal left. No, I don’t sign petitions, I debate and challenge, and organize solidarity for those fighting for secularism and equal rights.
My first public debate was with Islamists in defence of Salman Rushdie in 1989 at Oxford House in Bethnal Green in East London (at a time when few thought of Islamism as a problem). Since then I have been involved in a host of debates with Islamists and their supporters on a host of issues from evolution to gay rights to free speech. This, for instance, was a Channel 4 debate called ‘Muslims vs Free Speech’ in 2006 in the wake of the Danish Cartoons controversy, and this is a debate on Nihal’s show on the Asian Network on offence and blasphemy.
Some other work you might wish to check out:
On the importance of the right to offend
Je Suis Charlie? It’s a bit late
The pleasure of pluralism, the pain of offence (talk at the sixth anniversary celebration of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain [CEMB])
Be pragmatic, legitimize terror
Bigotry, debate, censorship and the left
To name the unnameable
Do I want people to shut up?
What’s the problem with multiculturalism?
Introducing Jesus and Mo
Back to Bradford for an old debate
Free speech and its discontents
Radical Islam and the rage against modernity
And there are dozens more on similar lines.
Finally, if I only wrote for newspapers or magazines with whose politics I agreed, I would not be writing anything at all.
J.J. Rousseau says in his Social Contract: “Those who distinguish civil from theological intolerance are, to my mind, mistaken. The two forms are inseparable. It is impossible to live at peace with those we regard as damned; to love them would be to hate God who punishes them: we positively must either reclaim or torment them.” (chapter on Civil Religion)
The same holds true for Muslims. I don´t believe that on the long run there can be peace with people who despise us as unbelievers condemned to hellfire.
The first coverage I heard this morning, after the broadcast of the programme last night, was a mocking audio montage that some Muslims had put together – and one of the morning LBC radio presenters played part of it. Every idea that Trevor Phillips had raised in his programme was ridiculed.
Including the report that teachers had seen Muslim primary school boys ”hit girls in the head” for not wearing the hijab.
This was just jokingly dismissed as being the teachers duty to do something about small children hitting each other. Apart from that, it didn’t seem worth even mentioning.
And I see that the Guardian and the Independent have ran articles by Muslims today calling the programme unbalanced and biased.
Looks like we have total denial from some quarters. And a divided country also.
It’s looking more and more like the politics of a sectarian divide – Northern Ireland style.
And it can only grow, as the Muslim population grows in numbers and as a proportion of the population of Britain.
Coming at the same time as Radio 4’s recent programmes on the large Deobandi sect of British muslims who seem to have largely condoned terrorist actions and ideology both before and after 9/11, this is a sobering moment for British ‘society’. Muslims are a very diverse grouping but a large amount of them aren’t interested in Western secular life, despite living here. This insular way of living isn’t the same as terrorism, despite Cameron’s blundering equation, but it helps incubate it. We had better get used to more attacks.
Holding illiberal views is not the same thing as not being integrated. I agree. But here is the crux: take this case
Is the Swiss state right in denying citizenship to a candidate that finds 50% of the country’s population too filthy to shake hands with?