Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Surveying Muslims – so what

The survey published by the BBC today (25 February 2015) about “Muslim attitudes” should be unremarkable and yet the coverage (for instance the Today programme on Radio 4) seems to want to portray the results as alarmist.

So what are some of the headlines of the survey?

  • The majority of British Muslims oppose violence against people who publish images depicting the Prophet Muhammad …
  • most have no sympathy with those who want to fight against Western interests.
  • 95% feel a loyalty to Britain
  • 93% say they should obey British Laws

[all very unsurprising – surely?]

But

  • 27% … had some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks.
  • Almost 80% said they had found it deeply offensive when images depicting the Prophet were published.
  • 46% feel prejudice against Islam makes it difficult being Muslim in Britain
  • 78% are offended when images of the Prophet Mohammad are published
  • 11% feel sympathy for people who want to fight against western interests

[again why should we be surprised – and why are people reacting with horror to these “but” views?]

Paraphrased from BBC News Website 25 February 2015 : Most British Muslims ‘oppose Mohammad cartoons reprisals’

The coverage on the Today programme (which commissioned the poll) seems to have trouble with people who are devout and who are offended when their religion is abused. I’m agnostic and favour a more secular society, but I am amazed by questions such as:

Should Muslims relax their core beliefs and be less offended?
BBC Radio 4 Today Program 25 February 2015 : Justin Webb to Baroness Warsi

I can possibly understand the need for all of us to be less easily offended, but to expect someone who is religious to “relax their core beliefs” is tantamount to asking them not to be religious.

I struggle for a comparison but if we treated Catholics (or Ulster Presbyterians) in a similar way there would be uproar.

We need to be more tolerant and if that means:

  • Accepting that Muslims are offended by depictions of their prophet
  • Accepting that Catholics are offended by people who speak disparagingly of Mary, the mother of Jesus
  • Accepting that Jewish people are offended by issues that are too complicated to even suggest
  • Accepting all deists are offended by comedians who talk about “imaginary friends”

surely it does not cost us too much to slightly modify our behaviour – particularly about things that are not critical to our lives?

If we can be respectful of religions (even if we do not share those beliefs – or even like me find such concepts difficult), we do then gain more freedom to criticise on the rare occasions when the religions are not respectful of our society. We also decouple the automatic coupling of the criticism of some states with criticism of a particular religion.

We might also be able to realise that not all the ills of society or that specific outrages can be laid at the door of specific religions. Most beliefs, be they religious economic or political, suffer from outlier or external groups that “get it wrong” or who take it too far.

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