A NATIONAL antipathy towards Muslims is suggested by a survey to be published later this month. One third of those asked said that they felt cool towards Muslims, more than double the number of the next least-popular religious group, Buddhists (15 per cent).
The figures are contained in a chapter of British Social Attitudes, a few details of which have already been released (News, 18/25 December). Of the 4486 people questioned, 50 per cent said they were Christian, down from 66 per cent in 1983; 43 per cent said they had no religious affiliation.
Half the respondents were asked to rate how they felt about various groups on a scale of 1-100, where 0-49 indicated coolness, 50 neutrality, and 51-100 warmth. “Protestants” were the best regarded, scoring just six per cent coolness, 44 per cent neutrality, and 47 per cent warmth. The Roman Catholic score was similar: nine per cent cool, 43 per cent neutral, and 45 per cent warm. Jews scored 13 per cent, 47 per cent, and 36 per cent respectively. (People professing no religion scored 8, 49, and 40 per cent respectively.)
Muslims, on the other hand, were regarded coolly by 34 per cent; 40 per cent felt neutral; and only 23 per cent felt warmly towards them.
One half of the sample were asked how they would react to plans to build a large mosque in their community. Fifty-five per cent said that they would be bothered about it. The other half were asked about the building of a large church. Only 15 were bothered by the idea.
The researchers, Professor David Voas and Rodney Ling, detected a degree of antipathy to what they term “imported” religion. Respondents were divided equally about the statement “Nearly all Muslims living in Britain really want to fit in”: 38 per cent agreed, and 39 per cent disagreed. One third of those who disagreed also disagree with the view that all religious groups should have equal rights.
It is probable that attitudes towards Islam have coloured attitudes towards religion in general. Half the sample were asked whether religion was increasing or decreasing its influence on British life, and whether this was a good thing. One quarter thought that it was increasing; six per cent of this segment regarded this as a good thing; and 18 per cent thought it a bad thing.
The majority, 57 per cent, thought that the influence of religion was declining; 13 per cent thought this a good thing; and 44 per cent thought this a bad thing.
On faith schools, 42 per cent agreed with the statement that “No religious group should have its own schools”; 43 per cent said that any religious group could; and 13 per cent thought that some religious groups could.
There is also a suspicion of the “deeply religious”: 29 per cent feel cool towards them.
When asked whether, in matters of right or wrong, people should follow religious leaders or their conscience, only six per cent suggested the religious leaders, compared with 89 per cent who recommended following their conscience.