Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Democracy's soft underbelly, Part 1 the case of the UK

If you go here http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/ you will find a British website for something called "The Centre for Social Cohesion."

It's got some online articles, but mostly consists of downloadable PDF files for lengthly documents, surveys, etc. It looks like a pretty good resource for those interested in what's going on in Britain vis-a-vis the Muslim immigrant population.

I've read the organization referred to as "conservative," and it does at least deal with the problem of Islamism in the UK. For example:

Virtual Caliphate: Islamic extremists and their websites
James Brandon

Virtual Caliphate, published 11 June 2008, shows how Islamic extremists in the United Kingdom have established dedicated websites in order to circumvent British anti-terrorism measures introduced after July 2005. It is the first report to catalogue the content of these websites and to analyse how British extremists use these sites to spread jihadist ideologies, co-ordinate their activities and win new recruits.

But then in other places they sound... well, kinda wussy. See here:

Hazel Blears pledges to do “more work on the ground” with Muslim Communities
Guest blog from James Kitching, CSC research intern:

Hazel Blears today made it clear that she intended to put more work into creating a “critical dialogue” between ministers and young Muslims who are disaffected with the government.

Blears said "part of the challenge is how do we ensure that those young people who are angry about injustice, about poverty...can channel some of that anger through democratic means."

(Blears is something called the "communities secretary" in the UK government.)

They seem very careful to refer to Muslim "extremists" as a separate category of their immigrant population. Maybe they're being careful not to sound too strident.

Now "extremist" is a question-begging term that ought to be pretty straightforward. An extremist is someone who has views which are, extreme. Which clearly implies views held by a small minority.

It doesn't necessarily have a negative connotation. I am a libertarian, i.e. one who believes political liberty can, and should, be taken to a further extreme than it is today, even in this country where it exists in a more "extreme" degree than any other.

Remember (or maybe you don't, I'm dating myself) Barry Goldwater's "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."?*

The question arises however, of how extreme are the views of the Islamists among the immigrant community in the UK.

The Centre has a report, "Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinions" which you can download from the site.

According to the report, "It is based on a YouGov poll of students opinions as well as on the ground research into a dozen university Islamic societies, exploring the views and experiences of Muslim and non-Muslim students on UK campuses during the academic year 2007/2008. The results show that Muslim students hold opinions and attitudes which are broad and varied, giving cause both for hope and concern."

There are about 90,000 Muslim students at UK universities, according to the introduction. That's out of 1,591,000, (or 2.8% of the total population) Muslims in the UK, according to Wikipedia, which also notes that makes Islam the second largest religion in the UK.

At a glance, it would seem Muslims are underrepresented in universities, by percentage of total population. How this relates to views held by university students versus non-university students is not clear.

It is NOT a safe assumption that students will be less extreme and more tolerant in their views than non-students. A moment's reflection on the US should confirm that.

The study polled 600 Muslim and over 800 non-Muslim students, conducted in-depth interviews of Muslims from a variety of backgrounds (including converts), and noted things like books available in reading rooms.

The questions covered subjects such as: membership and level of activity in Islamic societies on campus, attitudes towards Jews, homosexuals, atheists and people of other faiths, attitudes towards other varieties of Islam (Sunni versus Shia and Sufism), Sharia, frequency of worship, friendship with non-Muslims, attitudes towards "Islamism," parents, women etc.

They also asked the hot button questions.

Q: How supportive if at all would you be of the official introduction of Sharia Law into British law for Muslims in Britain?

A: 21% very supportive, 19% fairly supportive, 16% not very supportive, 21% not at all supportive, 23% not sure.

Q: How supportive if at all would you be of the introduction of a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia Law?

A: 33% very or fairly supportive, 25% not very or not at all supportive, 42% not sure.

Q: Is it ever justifiable to kill in the name of religion" A comparison of Muslim and non-Muslim responses.

A (Muslim): 4% Yes in order to preserve and promote that religion, 28% Yes but only if that religion is under attack, 28% No it is never justifiable, 15% not sure.

The figures for non-Muslims are in order: 1%, 1%, 94% and 4%.

Left open was the question of what constitutes "under attack." Not a trivial question.

If you look at the report in its entirety, there is also a breakdown of that question according to ISOC (Muslim students' society) members versus non-members, younger versus older students, etc.

Perhaps not surprisingly, members are more "extreme" than non-members, and younger students more than older.

First important point: the more "extreme" views, are not.

These are the views of a minority - but not a small one.

Next: Part 2, implications.

*This by the way, may have been written for him by his radical libertarian speechwriter Karl Hess.

Towards the end of his life, the subject of that quote, and how he was flayed for it in the media, came up in an interview.

He asked, "What the hell is so wrong about that?"

I still admire that old curmudgeon. We will not see his like again I fear.


  • At 1:52 PM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    Just as students tend to be more extreme in their views than the general public, the UK Muslims tend to be more extreme than than the general public in the countries that they emigrated from. I wonder if this is a meaningful correlation. Is it the privilege and idleness that gives way to such thinking? Is it the tendency in academia, and the west in general, to question things, coupled with a strange trendiness for self-loathing?

    There is a disturbing tendency in the west, particularly in "higher" education to view, by default, anything non-western in the most non-judgmental manner possible. Indeed, no judgment, no matter how deserving, seems to be the ideal. "Awareness" is treasured, but evaluation is scorned - unless we are evaluating western custom or tradition. Then only harsh judgment is acceptable to the typical academic.

    Anti-intelligentsia is the new intelligentsia.


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