Poll attacked over claim that a third of Muslim students think killing in the name of religion is justified and 40 per cent support sharia law in the UK
Almost third of Muslim students on Britain’s campuses believe killing in the name of religion can be justified, according to a controversial survey described as the most comprehensive of its kind.
The poll, conducted for Islam on Campus, a new report from the Centre for Social Cohesion think-tank, also found that 40 per cent of those interviewed supported the introduction of sharia law for British Muslims.
But the findings have been fiercely attacked by student groups which described the poll’s methodology as ‘deeply flawed’ and accused the report’s authors of isolating Muslims.
The YouGov survey found that 32 per cent of Muslim students polled said killing in the name of religion was justified, compared to 2 per cent of non-Muslims. A third of those polled said they supported a worldwide Islamic caliphate, or government, and more than half – 54 per cent – supported the idea of having their own political party at Westminster. Just under a quarter did not believe men and women were equal in the eyes of Allah, while 25 per cent said they had little or no respect for homosexuals.
‘These findings are deeply alarming,’ said Hannah Stuart, the report’s co-author. ‘Students in higher education are the future leaders of their communities. Yet significant numbers of them appear to hold beliefs which contravene liberal democratic values.’
But the claims were met with a ferocious response from the National Union of Students. ‘This is just another report by a biased, right-wing think-tank whose conclusions are drawn from an extremely limited number of students,’ said Wes Streeting, president of the NUS. ‘It is a wilful misrepresentation of the views of Muslim students designed to create as sensational a picture as possible. It can serve only to generate a climate of fear on campuses.’
Ed Husain, author of The Islamist and a former member of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been banned from most campuses, has claimed that universities are a fertile breeding ground for extremists.
In 2005, Professor Anthony Glees of Brunel University said that he had identified ‘extremist and/or terror groups’ at 30 universities. But his claims were largely dismissed by many academics and the NUS.
More recently, the government has published guidelines on combating Islamic extremism on university campuses. The higher education minister, Bill Rammell, said recently: ‘There is evidence of serious, but not widespread, Islamist extremist activity in higher education institutions.’
In June, the government launched a series of roadshows at British universities aimed at countering the threat of campus radicalisation.
Stuart said that the report’s findings showed there were signs of growing religious segregation on campuses. ‘These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said that there is no extremism in British universities.’
The report, based on a poll of 600 Muslims and 800 non-Muslims and which also drew on face-to-face interviews with representatives from leading student groups, also showed some members of Islamic societies held opinions that were significantly more extreme than those of non-members.
Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), said the findings showed that groups such as the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, which claims to represent the 90,000 Muslim students attending Britain’s universities, could not claim to represent mainstream opinion.
‘It is vital that students and government understand that groups like [the federation] – who represent a highly conservative interpretation of Islam – are not representative of all Muslim students,’ Murray said. ‘Empowering these groups risks giving an official stamp of approval to extreme forms of Islam.’
But Streeting disagreed. ‘The CSC has an unhealthy obsession with Muslims and Islam,’ he said. ‘Muslim societies are the key to forging a culture of inclusivity and the way this report suggests that they are part of the problem is extremely damaging.’
The report also found that many non-Muslim students hold negative attitudes towards Islam. Half of the non-Muslim students polled believed Islam and western democracy were incompatible. More than three-quarters said they believed men and women were not considered equal in Islam.