Survey finds British ‘cool’ to Muslims

14 January 2010

by a staff reporter

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.

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