Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinion
Nearly a third of British Muslim students polled in a new report to be published on Monday said that killing in the name of religion could be justified. British Muslims [illustrative]. Photo: AP [file] Slideshow: Pictures of the week The report by the London-based Center for Social Cohesion (CfSC), entitled "Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinion," showed that 32 percent of Muslim students said killing in the name of religion could be justified, while 60% of active members of on-campus Islamic societies said the same. Only 2% of non-Muslims polled felt this way.
Based on a specially commissioned YouGov poll of 1,400 students as well as on field work and interviews, the report showed that most Muslim students supported secularism and democratic values, were generally tolerant of other minorities and rejected violence in the name of their faith. However, the report also revealed high levels of support for the adoption of Sharia law into British law and for a worldwide caliphate.
Forty percent of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of Sharia into British law for Muslims, and a third supported the introduction of a worldwide caliphate based on Sharia law; 58% of active members of Islamic societies supported the idea. In addition, 43% of Muslim students said Islam was compatible with secularism.
"These findings are deeply alarming," said CfSC researcher Hannah Stuart, one of the report's authors. "Students in higher education are the future leaders of their communities. Yet significant numbers of them appear to hold beliefs which contravene liberal, democratic values. In addition, there are signs of growing religious segregation on campus. These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said that there is no extremism in British universities."
Stuart also said active members of campus Islamic societies "often hold opinions that are significantly more extreme than those of ordinary Muslim students. The government needs to be wary about treating members of these societies as being representative of all Muslim students."
On attitudes toward Jews, only 7% said they had very little or no respect at all for Jews, while 79% said they respected Jews. The report also found that many non-Muslim students held negative attitudes toward Islam. However, a significant minority (9%) said they did not respect Muslims. Of non-Muslim students, 50% stated that Islam and Western democracy were incompatible and 55% said Islam was incompatible with secularism. CfSC director Douglas Murray said the report showed that Islamist groups such as the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) did not represent mainstream Muslim opinion. "It is vital that students and government understand that groups like FOSIS - who often promote a highly conservative interpretation of Islam - are not representative of all Muslim students. Empowering these groups risks giving an official stamp of approval to extreme forms of Islam," he said.
The report recommends that the government, university authorities and the Muslim community act to address these problems. "It is important that pluralist and democratic Muslim voices are encouraged and promoted and that intolerant voices are sidelined. University authorities need to urgently take steps to reduce Islamist influence on campus. Universities should be places where people of all faiths and backgrounds can come together in an environment of mutual tolerance," Murray said.