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Monday, July 28, 2008

That poll of UK Muslim students

There has been a bit of news in the past couple of days about a poll taken of Muslim students in Great Britain:
ALMOST a third of British Muslim students believe killing in the name of Islam can be justified, according to a poll.

The study also found that two in five Muslims at university support the incorporation of Islamic sharia codes into British law.

The YouGov poll for the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) will raise concerns about the extent of campus radicalism. “Significant numbers appear to hold beliefs which contravene democratic values,” said Hannah Stuart, one of the report’s authors. “These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said there is no extremism in British universities.”

The report was criticised by the country’s largest Muslim student body, Fosis, but Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: “The finding that a large number of students think it is okay to kill in the name of religion is alarming.

In addition to its poll of 1,400 Muslim and non Muslim students, the centre visited more than 20 universities to interview students and listen to guest speakers. It found that extremist preachers regularly gave speeches that were inflammatory, homophobic or bordering on antisemitic.

The researchers highlighted Queen Mary college, part of London University, as a campus where radical views were widely held. Last December, a speaker named Abu Mujahid encouraged Muslim students to condemn gays because “Allah hates” homosexuality. In November, Azzam Tamimi, a British-based supporter of Hamas, described Israel as the most “inhumane project in the modern history of humanity”.

James Brandon, deputy director at CSC , said: “Our researchers found a ghettoised mentality among Muslim students at Queen Mary. Also, we found the segregation between Muslim men and women at events more visible at Queen Mary.”
Predictably, Muslim student associations in Britain reacted furiously:
Britain's main students groups have disparaged a report by a right-wing group claiming that a third of Muslim students believe killings can be justified in the name of Islam.

"This report is a reflection of the biases and prejudices of a right wing think tank - not the views of Muslim students across Britain," Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said in a statement on Sunday, July 27.

"It is a willful 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."

"The report is methodologically weak," Faisal Hanjra, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), said in a statement.

FOSIS said the report was part of attempts to undermine efforts by Muslim groups to fight extremism in Britain.

"It is unrepresentative and above all serves only to undermine the positive work carried out by Islamic Societies across the country," it stressed.
It is most interesting that FOSIS pretends that it is doing positive work and that it is fighting extremism, because the report itself shows where FOSIS supports terror:
FOSIS – and by extension ISOCs – also enjoy strong ties with the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), widely considered a British branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A 2005 FOSIS publication claims these links help to foster greater tolerance
within such organisations:

“The involvement of many former FOSIS activists has helped in establishing an inclusive and broad-based ethos within other organisations such as the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain.”

However, FOSIS and its constituent Islamic societies regularly book MAB leaders
and activists, many of whom publicly support the Muslim Brotherhood, to speak
on university campuses. One such speaker, Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas supporter,
said in a BBC interview in 2006, “if I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself I
would do it.”

FOSIS provides ISOCs with literature – Freshers and Dawah packs, leaflets on Islamophobia and pamphlets on political issues such as Palestine, Kashmir and Iraq
– many of which are published by Friends of Al-Aqsa, a lobby group campaigning
against alleged human rights abuses by Israel that advocates the creation of a single
Palestinian state to replace Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Leaflets produced
by Friends of Al-Aqsa include “Israeli War Crimes” and “Israeli Apartheid Policies”,
and much of the literature calls for a boycott of Israeli products and academic institutions.

Founded in 1997, Friends of Al-Aqsa’s stated goals include “defending the human
rights of Palestinians and protecting the sacred al-Aqsa Sanctuary in Jerusalem.”
Ismail Patel, the current leader of Friends of Al-Aqsa, has said that the group aims
“to raise awareness of the Palestinians’ sufferings and dispel the notion that Hamas
is barbaric, and that it cannot be dealt with.”

Patel is a regular spokesman for the British Muslim Initiative (BMI), founded
in 2006 by prominent members of the MAB – the Muslim Brotherhood’s British
franchise. Patel also sits on the advisory board of the Conflicts Forum, a pressure
group that promotes the Muslim Brotherhood to policy-makers in the West, and is
a director of IslamExpo.

Speaking at an event in November 2007 organised by the University of Manchester
Palestinian society, Patel argued that a Palestinian state could only exist at the
expense of the Jewish one.

At the same event, Patel pledged his support for Hamas, the militant Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, the UK and the European Union. Answering an audience question about his views on Hamas, Patel said: “I think [Hamas] is one of the noblest resistance movements I’ve come across.”
The report itself seems to have a sound methodology, and it describes it in detail. Unlike the characterization of the report given by the Muslim groups, it is quite fair and it shows a deep divide between the generally more active Muslim students - who tend to be more radical and extremist - with the more moderate ones. In most polling questions the "extreme" and "moderate" positions are roughly equal, and the "extreme" positions are far more prevalent among members of Islamic student groups.

So rather than attacking Muslims, this report really attacks the ideology of the many Islamic student groups that it documents as supporting terror. And the criticisms by those same student groups have no basis in fact.