The Numbers Say a Lot July 29, 2008

The Numbers Say a Lot


From The Daily Mail:

The findings were described by researchers at the Centre for Social Cohesion think tank, which commissioned the poll, as ‘deeply alarming’.

But a prominent Muslim student group called the report ‘weak and unrepresentative’ and said it undermined ‘positive work carried out by Islamic societies’.

The Centre for Social Cohesion, founded last year to study religion and tolerance, has drawn attention to the extremist influence of Islamic societies and study centres at British universities.

The survey was based on a YouGov poll of 1,400 students, 600 of them Muslims, at 12 universities with influential Islamic societies.

These included eight in London, among them the London School of Economics, Imperial College, and the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester and Manchester.

It found that a large minority of Muslim students express views that are strongly socially conservative or which suggest they are open to extremist thinking.

And the critics respond:

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies called the survey mischievous.

Its president Faisal Hanjra said: ‘This is yet another damning attack on the Muslim community by elements within the academic arena whose only purpose seems to be the undermining of sincere efforts by mainstream Muslim organisations to tackle the threat of terror which wider society faces.

‘The report is methodologically weak, it is unrepresentative and above all serves only to undermine the positive work carried out by Islamic societies across the country.’

Even if these numbers are a bit exaggerated, which may or may not be the case, it should be chilling that anyone could justify killing another person in the name of religion.

(via hoverFrog at the FAForums)

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  • llewelly

    hm. I’ve no comments on this article directly, but I’ve seen so much hardcore kookery out of The Daily Mail that my BS detector starts pinging as soon as I see it referenced.

  • The Daily Mail rotates the same four stories ona regular basis: Muslims are bad, Princess Di was murdered, [insert celebrity] has let themselves go a bit, and Oh My God, Recession! They also tend to report a distorted view in order to sell more copy. I’m sure the questions were worded to catch people out and make them seek like crazed jihadist suicide bombers. That said it is still disturbing that a religious faith could justify killing someone at all.

    At least the Christian faith doesn’t have a history of religiously motivated war and torture….oh wait.

    Oh, let’s not forget that we evil atheists have also had regimes that kill people. Let’s get in there first and mention Stalin and Pol Pot. Although I’d argue that these mass killings were political rather than religious and if I’m going to use that argument then you can say the same about the Crusades. Did I cover all of it?

  • the poll was taken by YouGov, not the Daily Mail, and it has appeared in several other sources.

  • Ok? In that case Muslims in England are clearly on the verge of a mass murders in the name of Allah. That or the results are being misrepresented. Hmm, I wonder which it could be?

  • Chris

    The report is available here: (6Mb).

    Let’s unpack that headline figure: 60% of students in Islamic societies felt killing for religion could be justified. First notice this is students in Islamic societies not all students – only a quarter of the 600 Muslim students interviewed were in Islamic societies (Diagram1). The 60% quoted though is for students that are active ISOC members. I’m not sure how they define this but from diagram 3 is seems less than half of ISOC members describe themselves as active. So we have 600 Muslim students, of which only 150 are in ISOCs of which only 67 or 68 describe themselves as active. Of which 40 or 41 think it is justifiable to kill for religion. Hmm – these are small samples.

    Now lets look at the question that was asked: “Is it ever justifiable to kill in the name of religion?” And there are four responses shown below with the results for “active ISOC members”

    – Yes in order to preserve and promote that religion 11%
    – Yes but only if that religion is under attack 49%
    – No it is never justifiable 30%
    – Not sure 10%

    So this was not a straight yes/no question. I believe it to be unbalanced. I’m sure if I put my mind to it I think I could come up with more “Yes” options that would bump up the percentage agreeing to kill for religion. For example, “Yes but only to save the lives of co-religionists”, “Yes but only to save the children of co-religionists” – I could go on.

    It is interestng to note that overall Muslim students only 32% answered yes. Half the figure used in the headline.

    Of course these figures are, to me an atheist, a worrying show of irrationality but, perhaps, not really as alarmist as the Daily Mail would like.

    Here are some other findings as freely interpreted as above but with a more positive spin:

    75% of Muslim students integrate into non-muslim student life (Diagram 7

    Only 15% of Muslim students beleive politics to be an important part of Islam (Diagram10)

    Only a quarter of Muslim students think Sharia cannot be changed to meet circumstances (Diagram15) (I wonder how many Christians think the 10 commandments can be changed to meet circumstances)

    Only 25% of muslim students think Islam cannot be seperated from government (Diagram45)

    84% of Muslim students in Islamic societies think Islam is compatable with Western democracy (Diagram 43)

    Only 5% of Muslim students think those leaving the faith should be punished. (Diagram32)

    One thing that stands out to me is the large number of not sures on many questions: 50% not sure if Sharia law can be interpreted, 42% not sure if they suport a worldwide Caliphate. I think this is a bunch of people who are still forming their ideas. Not a group who want to kill in the name of religion.

    So maybe the numbers do say a lot – but what I mostly think they say is never trust the Daily Mail to report statistics fairly and never trust them to report Muslims fairly.

    I strongly beleive that atheism needs to be better respected and that religion is, on balance, a malign presence in society. We need more clear thinking but the Daily Mail is rarely a source of that.

  • The Daily Mail is a racist rag, ignore anything it says until you’ve found the original source, checked it, twice, and then worked out how it’s been spun to support their unpleasant brand of intolerance.

    The Mail is famous for completely misrepresenting studies of this kind.

    I’m an atheist too, so I can understand how this stuff looks to support our side of the debate. It isn’t though, it’s the most disgusting racist rubbish, the Mail isn’t reporting this because of any worries about religious extremism. The mails latches onto stuff like this because Muslim is their new code word for people who have recent immigrant ancestry and dark skin.

    I really can’t say it too strongly, this paper is RACIST.

  • Looks like other people have got here first to berate the Daily Mail, it’s a terrible right-wing paper and although the poll may be from independent YouGov, this is classic Daily Mail scaremongering reporting. I think these results are worrying, I’d just rather not have the Daily Mail’s spin on it.

  • In that case Muslims in England are clearly on the verge of a mass murders in the name of Allah. That or the results are being misrepresented. Hmm, I wonder which it could be?

    How about: the guy promoting a false dichotomy is aiming for a predefined conclusion?

    I’m not surprised by these numbers. There’s a strong minority who hold extremist views in Muslim societies. A while ago, I found a survey in Yemen that showed that over 50% of Muslim clerics there agreed that the death penalty was the appropriate punishment for Muslim apostates (i.e. people who leave the religion of Islam). I think it’s pretty clear that there is a fair amount of public relations going on to cover-up these embarrassing numbers. Of course, there’s little to be gained by pointing out the extreme views of many Muslims – it will only make people dislike them. At the same time, I think people should be aware of it, be aware of the effects that large Muslim majorities will bring, and potential converts should be aware of the strain of extremism running within the religion. Moderate Muslims should not be allowed to claim that their views are the sole voice of Muslims, effectively whitewashing the situation to defend their religion in the public eye. By hiding these dirty secrets, they also prevent any change.

    Even Muslims debate the justice of executing apostates
    “A survey carried out in Yemen revealed that even imams do not all share the same views on the matter, even if the majority is for the death penalty.”

    BBC: When Muslims become Christians

  • The survey was from The Centre for Social Cohesion, which is an offshoot of Civitas, which is a right wing think tank which has the aim of cutting immigration.

  • Richard Eis

    I would be interested in seeing a “christian” version of this, or atheist for that matter. I doubt it will be much different if they can shave off the veneer of “political correctness” that plagues these kind of polls.

    I also notice some of the wording “killing COULD be justified for religion.” Well yes, i can think of several reasons why i might possibly, maybe need to kill someone to protect something given weird enough circumstances. So what.

    Also only 25% with little or no respect for homosexuals? Thats quite good. that means 75% of the students had respect for them. Also..what’s “a little respect” ?

    Personally, i think this shows that things are improving…not the doom and gloom the daily mail has decided on.

  • Ron in Houston

    Well, even assuming it’s grossly overstated, even 1% believing that killing in the name of religion is acceptable is a major problem.

  • Well, even assuming it’s grossly overstated, even 1% believing that killing in the name of religion is acceptable is a major problem.

    You sound like you’re determined to paint Muslims as Bad People.

  • Wallu

    Muslims aren’t necessarily bad, just brainwashed by most wicked ideology (after communism). Read Quran and history, and you’ll see how Islam became what it is today (which is a religion of “peace” 😉 ). And crusades, well, maybe you just don’t remember that it was the muslims who started the war. Check wikifor example.

  • Ron in Houston

    I like tea

    ???? Where do you get that? I have a Muslim doctor who is an excellent physician and a wonderful person. If 1% of Catholics believe in religious killing then that’s a problem also. If 1% of atheists believe it’s acceptable to kill religious people because they’re delusional, well, I’d say that’s a problem also.

    However, Muslims need to reach out to whatever percentage believe in religion based killing and work to change that dangerous belief.

  • TXatheist

    i like tea, well after Theo Van Gogh was murdered I no longer care if muslims are offended but I do care if they agree with me that naming a teddy bear muhammad is ok, drawing a picture of muhammad with a bomb on his head is ok and death threats against Ayaan Ali is not ok. If they don’t see that then I think they are bad people who are muslim.

  • The trouble is that studies like this muddy the water. If this study had been conducted by a more reputable think tank and reported by a less rabidly racist newspaper then it would have been extremely valuable.

    Having such a study done by an anti-immigration think tank, plus the reporting by such an unpleasant paper as the Mail means decent progressive liberal commentators have to stand up to condemn the racist element of the reporting and are unable to properly condemn the graphic examples of religious extremism.

    We can, and should, stand up against racism. Whilst also standing up against the kind of religious insanity that is so readily apparent from all the major religions.

    Down with the Daily Mail, down with racism, and down with religion!

  • Polly

    Who were they polling? Al-Qaeda?
    When I see stats like this, my Bullshit alarm starts ringing. When I see the phrase “think tank” that alarm starts blaring!

    There are internationally respected polling organizations. Is there any corroboration from them?

    While I’ve known only a few Muslims in my life, I find it hard to believe every single one of them was defying the odds.

    Speaking of religion inspired killing…
    Did anyone else hear about the guy (in Knoxville, TN) who opened fire on a UU church because of its liberal stances on homosexuality and abortion, et al.? I just head about it last night.
    UU Shooting

  • Miko

    Its president Faisal Hanjra said: ‘This is yet another damning attack on the Muslim community by elements within the academic arena whose only purpose seems to be the undermining of sincere efforts by mainstream Muslim organisations to tackle the threat of terror which wider society faces.

    And once again the moderates provide cover for the extremists. No, the problem couldn’t possibly be that some Muslims are bad people. It’s a conspiracy to discredit Islam by making it look like some Muslims are bad people.

    (By the way: for those quoting personal experience as a counter to this: if you’re an American, you should we aware that previous studies have found that the views of American Muslims are vastly different from those of European and Middle-Eastern Muslims, so your experiences really aren’t representative. In any event, unless you’ve actually discussed these topics with them, I doubt that you really know how they’d respond to the type of questions asked here; compartmentalization is the hallmark of religion.)

  • As for killing for a deity, check out pages 254-256 of The God Delusion (by Dawkins) There, the story of Joshua’s genocide was retold where his name was replaced by a Chinese general Lin (fictional). 75 percent disapproved of the slaughter. But retold in the form as in the book of Joshua, 66 percent approved of the slaughter.

    The group of kids was an Israeli group.

    So killing in the name of a deity is commonly accepted among theists.

  • Polly

    My best friend wrote and performed a rock song about Joshua and his “conquest” of Jericho. (He was the leader of a xian rock band).

    EVEN though I was a believer at that time, the song (and the Biblical passages I was well acquainted with) turned my stomach. And this was in spite of the fact that my religion forced me to agree with everything god commanded.

    The Jews in Israel believe they are the chosen people. They have no problem killing infidels for their Holy Land. They use military equipment against a relatively lightly armed mostly civilian populace that they are trying to drive out because the book of Genesis says that YHWH gave the land to their patriarch. In case you doubt that religion plays a part, take a look at the message boards of some Israeli online papers.

    The Religious Right in the US wants to start a war with Iran. They’ve even spoken of nuking the country. A country made up of 70 million people. And why? Because they’re mostly infidels, that’s LATIN (not Arabic) for non-believers. They value non-xian life less than xian.

    Do a body count and tell me who the most violent people are?
    3,000 dead at the world trade center is nothing compared to America’s and Britain’s civilian body count in their mid-east misadventures. But, our born again president would tell you that he prays about every decision.

  • Siamang

    Hemant wrote:

    Even if these numbers are a bit exaggerated, which may or may not be the case, it should be chilling that anyone could justify killing another person in the name of religion.

    I recently had a conversation online with a student at a Catholic university about the wafergate thing, and in the middle of the conversation he expressed the following idea:

    “If the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ should death be out of the question for those who desecrate it?”

    I found it absolutely chilling. He made it clear that he eschewed violence, and to be clear (please read the entire discussion to get the context) he wasn’t calling for anyone to actually use violence.

    And yet. There was this …tinge… to the conversation that I heard from a number of Catholics during wafergate that really chilled me. Like they eschewed violence… but not exactly as forcefully as one might like. Like they were one note shy from complete condemnation…. you know?

    In another post on his site, he wrote:

    In the eyes of Catholics he hasn’t accomplished anything beyond sacrilege, and in the eyes of Muslims…well…let’s hope some of the more radical Muslims don’t find out about his hate crime. They very well could call for his death.

    This was after he specifically brought up the Koran and asked if Myers would desecrate it by urinating on it or burning it.

    Is it just me… or is this reaction just a bit on the creepy side?

    And remember, to date Myers has gotten zero death threats from Muslims.

    Anyway, I responded by saying that:

    Sometimes I fear the religious, to be honest, and this is one of those times when I take pause and realize that folks will be nice and friendly and kind and gentle until you break one of their religious rules that, frankly I didn’t even know existed. Then they tear off the mask and it’s all 14th century back there.

  • Justin jm

    The survey says that only 600 of the 1400 students polled were Muslims. What about the other 800?

  • BZ

    Does anyone have a link to the actual study?

  • Larry Huffman

    Who cares…just more of the same.

    Their holy books represent all of the bad being sought in the survey. The survey only matters in showing how many muslims polled really understand their religion or have read the koran and other canon.

    It is false to think that if enough average citizen-type-muslims think they are peaceful…then they are. They do not move their followers…they do not call for martyrs…it is the leaders.

    Poll the religious leaders and others in the middle east. See how they answer. I assure you the results would be in line with what islam is really about…a murderous, warlike and intolerant religion that regards human life far below it’s own self.

    For example…if you lived in a country where women can be executed based merely on accusations of their husbands…you would say that is not a peaceful or good place. Since that is in perfect line with islam…to them it is as it should be…and they cannot seem to understand why we are all afrronted by them…except that we are indifels…so that is the reason…and we should die too! hehe.

    Islam is not a religion of peace. Any muslim who is practicing a version that is peaceful…either has not read his holy book or has chosen to only believe certain parts (just like christians had to start doing to escape what the church really stands for…the dark ages showed the christian church in it’s biblically supported glory). There is simply too much in their holy books and in their deeds throughout history to begin to accept any kind peaceful view of islam. They are not at all.

  • Chris

    @ BZ

    A link to the study is in my post –

  • Desert Son

    Chris, llewelly, hoverFrog, and Akheloios said it already, and just as a reminder, I submit the following SAT-esque analogy:

    The Daily Mail : xenophobia as

    A. chocolate : vanilla

    B. Starsky : Hutch

    C. mass : gravitation

    D. Kingdom of the Netherlands : orange

    The correct answer is C. Please remember to use a #2 pencil, and fill in the oval completely.

    Also, they need to hire a copy editor. Re-read the caption under the 25 per cent statistic in the right column.

    No kings,


  • Darryl

    I don’t trust polls anymore.

    All the big religions kill and justify it. Nations kill for a variety of reasons. Look at how many people we’re killing these days.

    Most ignorant people are dangerous no matter what they believe or where they live.

    There are peaceful Muslims and there are unpeaceful ones. Just like moderate to liberal Christians, moderate Muslims can overlook the nastier parts of the Koran when they preach and practice their faith.

    This kind of thing is not helpful.

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