British Muslims and the Police

Taken as a whole, Muslims in England and Wales express higher levels of trust and confidence in the police than do the general population, notwithstanding the fact that they report crime and disorder impacts more negatively upon them than society at large.

This conclusion, from secondary analysis of the British Crime Surveys (BCS), is held to challenge the oft-repeated claim that Muslims have been profoundly alienated by the workings of Prevent policing since its inception in 2003, as part of the Government’s CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy.

This research is written up in a new report commissioned and published by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) Business Area. Assessing the Effects of Prevent Policing, by Martin Innes, Colin Roberts and Helen Innes of the Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University, is available for download from:

The quantitative data in the report derive from BCS studies undertaken among adults aged 16 and over in England and Wales between 2004/5 and 2008/9. The Muslim sub-samples were large: about 1,800 in 2004/5, 2005/6 and 2006/7 (when there was an ethnic minority booster), and 1,000 in 2007/8 and 2008/9. A few findings are summarized below.

In addition, there was a qualitative investigation, comprising 95 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Muslim community members and police involved in delivering Prevent, but this evidence is not considered here.

The 2008/9 BCS showed that Muslims were more likely than the general population to give their local police a rating of excellent or good. This was true of all Muslim gender and age groups, separately considered. Although young Muslims (aged 16-34) of both sexes were less likely to give this rating than the over-34s, 59% against 66%, this was still 6% more than for young adults generally. But Muslim males aged 16-24 were an exception to this rule, a possible by-product of Prevent policing.

This mostly positive picture was largely confirmed by seven measures of local police effectiveness in the 2008/9 survey, 34% of Muslims compared with 23% of the general population agreeing with all seven. Agreement with individual measures was naturally much higher, for example 75% of Muslims against 67% of the general population having confidence in the police in their area. Only in the matter of being treated with respect when in contact with the police were Muslims slightly more negative than all adults; even so, 81% remained optimistic on this point.

Muslims were more inclined than the general population to regard a raft of criminal activities and social disorders as problematical, especially teenagers hanging around on the street, drug use and public drinking. This was true across all five BCS studies considered. Throughout the same period Muslims were also impacted more (in terms of quality of life) by the fear of crime and actual crime than were citizens generally. Muslim perceptions of the local crime rate were likewise higher than the norm.

On average over the quinquennium, Muslims were about 15% more likely than all adults to be very or fairly worried about falling victim to a crime, the 2008/9 statistics being 52% and 35%. The differential was maintained for concerns about six specific types of crime. However, Muslims were markedly less prone (by a factor of 20% in some years) to have reported to the police that they had been such a victim.

Despite these anxieties about crime, the vast majority of all adults in the 2007/8 BCS endorsed the statement that people from different backgrounds got on well together. This was particularly true of Muslims and, within this faith community, of inner city residents and women. The overall Muslim figure of 87% represented a dramatic recovery from 2006/7, when it had collapsed to 42%, almost certainly a reflection of perceived enmity towards Muslims following the London bombings in 2005.

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