Existing negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims in Britain are largely confirmed in an opinion poll released to coincide with the launch on 7 June of the Exploring Islam Foundation’s Inspired by Muhammad advertising campaign.
The campaign is designed to improve the public’s understanding of Islam and Muslims. It showcases Britons demonstrating how the Prophet Muhammad inspires them to contribute to society, with a focus on women’s rights, social justice and the environment.
Advertisements in connection with the campaign will be appearing at selected London tube-stations and bus-stops and on some of the capital’s black cabs. There is also a new website (http://www.inspiredbymuhammad.com) providing online support with information about Islam, Muhammad and British Muslims.
The survey was conducted online by YouGov between 19 and 21 May among a representative sample of 2,152 UK adults aged 18 and over, drawn from its panel of more than 185,000 people who have signed up to participate in YouGov studies.
77% of the sample considered they knew little or nothing about Islam, 20% a fair amount and just 2% a great deal. Most of their information about Islam came from television news (57%) and newspapers (41%), with only 12% citing local Muslims and 3% Muslim organizations. Two-thirds had no interest in finding out more about Islam.
While three-quarters of adults associated the word ‘religious’ with Islam, this would not necessarily have had positive connotations. Large numbers thought of the faith in terms of extremism (58%), terrorism (50%) and violence (33%). Few connected Islam with peace (13%), inclusivity (7%) or justice (6%).
Apart from the Prophet Himself (34%), Osama bin Laden was seen as the individual who best represents Islam (13%). Nobody else scored more than 3%. 49% of the sample identified the Prophet as religious, 24% as peaceful, 19% as misrepresented, 13% as misunderstood and 11% as extremist.
Asked whether ‘on the whole, Muslims have a positive impact on British society’, 19% agreed, 41% disagreed and 40% expressed no clear opinion. 30% agreed and 37% disagreed that Islam is a violent religion, 69% and 8% respectively that it encourages repression of women, 15% and 42% that it is concerned with social justice, and 6% and 29% that it is taking active measures to protect the environment.
The Exploring Islam Foundation’s press pack about the campaign is available at:
The full YouGov data tables, with disaggregations by gender, age, social grade and region, can be downloaded from:
For earlier opinion polls on Islam and Muslims in Britain, see Clive Field, ‘Islamophobia in Contemporary Britain: The Evidence of the Opinion Polls, 1988-2006’, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Vol. 18, 2007, pp. 447-77 and Erik Bleich, ‘Where do Muslims stand on Ethno-Racial Hierarchies in Britain and France? Evidence from Public Opinion Surveys, 1988-2008’, Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 43, 2009, pp. 379-400. Field is preparing a new essay on the years 2007-10, which will be published next year.