One of the key techniques of extremists – of both the Islamic and the white Right – is to frighten and polarise their target audiences with exaggerated claims that they are widely disliked or are under attack. As well as helping recruitment, it furthers the extremists’ central lie that different races and faiths cannot coexist.
That is why it was so depressing to see today’s Guardian fall for a textbook distortion by one of these groups. A news story reported that “three quarters of non-Muslims believe that Islam has provided a negative contribution to British society, according to a new poll.”
The “poll” was not in fact a poll, using a representative sample of sufficient size and publicly reported according to the strict standards of the British Polling Council. It was a market research questionnaire of a small (500) and random sample. And though it appears to have been done by a professional firm, its results were totally twisted by iERA, the group which commissioned it, and whose claims the Guardian took entirely at face value.
iERA’s executive summary of the “findings” of this “poll” (page 8 of this PDF) does indeed claim that “75% believed that Islam and Muslims had provided a negative contribution to society.”
But the detail tells a rather different story. As page 21 of the same PDF shows, the actual number who believed that Islam and Muslims had provided a negative contribution to society was 36% – less than half what iERA claimed.
The executive summary (and the Guardian) also claimed that “63% did not disagree with the statement that Muslims are terrorists.” Gosh, do two-thirds of the public really believe all Muslims are bombers?
No, they do not. The proportion who agreed with the statement that “Muslims are terrorists” (page 23 of the PDF) was in fact only 24% – significantly less than the number (37%) who disagreed. A further 39% neither agreed nor disagreed. In this and in all the other questions, iERA achieved its headline-grabbing figure only by ignoring (or misrepresenting the views of) the large number of people who were neutral.
The agenda behind these inflammatory lies can be found in about two minutes on Google. iERA’s advisers include Bilal Philips and Zakir Naik, both banned from the UK by the Home Secretary; Haitham al-Haddad, who believes that music is a “fake and prohibited message of love and peace;” and a number of other people with utterly odious, anti-democratic views. The iERA “researcher” quoted by the Guardian, Hamza Tzortzis, is, as I reported in January, deeply in bed with extremism.
It is not the first time the Guardian has done this. Earlier this year, it publicised a report which claimed to have found a rising tide of anti-Muslim violence in London – something simply not supported by the crime figures (which is presumably why the report coyly neglected to give any figures!) This report was co-compiled by a well-known sympathiser of Islamism, Robert Lambert, and funded by the Islamist Cordoba Foundation.
Nobody should deny, of course, that there is bigotry against Muslims in Britain. But all the indicators – racial attacks in Muslim areas, the BNP’s rout at the recent election – are that it is diminishing. And if some people do think Muslims are a threat to British society, then the views peddled by the likes of iERA are partly to blame.