Islamic and Other Themes


Attitudes to Muslims

One-quarter (26%) of Britons entertain a mostly unfavourable or very unfavourable opinion of Muslims, according to the latest release of data, on 12 May 2014, from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, for which 1,000 adults were interviewed by telephone in Britain between 17 March and 8 April 2014.

This was the lowest proportion holding unfavourable views of Muslims in the seven European countries investigated, significantly less than in Italy (63%), Greece (53%), Poland (50%), and Spain (46%), and broadly comparable with France (27%) and Germany (33%). Negativity toward Muslims was typically associated with older people and those espousing politically right-wing views, and Britain was no exception to this rule, with a gap of 9% between the 18-29s and over-50s and of 15% between leftists and rightists. More information is available at:

Notwithstanding a lower incidence of Islamophobia than in other countries, unfavourable attitudes to Muslims in Britain in 2014 are running at one of their highest levels since Pew first started measuring them ten years ago (as the following table of trend data shows), only marginally surpassed by the Autumn 2009 figure of 27%. They also far exceed negativity toward Jews in Britain, which has never risen above 9% during the past decade and stands at 7% in the Spring 2014 survey.




2004 Spring



2005 Spring



2006 Spring



2008 Spring



2009 Spring



2009 Autumn



2010 Spring



2011 Spring



2014 Spring



Halal meat

The controversy about halal meat entering the food chain for non-Muslims without clear labelling of its provenance rumbles on, and The Sunday Times commissioned YouGov to test public opinion on the subject, 1,905 Britons being interviewed online on 8-9 May 2014. The overwhelming majority (78%) thought that supermarkets should be required to label products containing meat from animals slaughtered using halal methods, with only 13% opposed; the over-60s (84%), Conservatives (84%), and UKIP voters (87%) were most in favour. A plurality (49%) said they would feel uncomfortable about eating halal meat, with discomfort most evident among women (52%), residents of southern England outside London (54%), the over-60s (56%), Conservatives (59%), and UKIP supporters (65%). Overall, 38% were comfortable with consuming halal meat, including 44% of men, 47% of Labour voters, and 51% of Londoners. Data tables can be found at:

Nigerian schoolgirls

The abduction of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls by the Islamist group Boko Haram was the most noticed news story of the week, for the second week in succession, according to replies to an open-ended question posed in an online Populus poll of 2,043 Britons on 14-15 May 2014. It was mentioned by 19%, just ahead of the Turkish mine disaster in second place on 16% and of the death of teenager Stephen Sutton on 14%. This information is taken from ‘Something for the Weekend’, the weekly email round-up by Populus, dated 16 May 2014.

When prompted in a YouGov poll on 12-13 May 2014, 55% of 1,977 respondents also indicated that they had been very or fairly closely following the story, with a high of 68% among over-60s. A similar number (54%) expressed support for the UK sending troops to help find the schoolgirls, if requested to do so by the Nigerian government, even though far fewer (32%) endorsed more general western military involvement in combating Islamism in northern Nigeria (with 40% declaring it would be ‘a bad thing’). Awareness of the Twitter campaign to BringBackOurGirls stood at 34%, with 54% among 18-24s (reflecting their greater usage of social media). Full results are located at:

A question about the kidnapping was also included in a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday, 1.005 adults being interviewed online on 9 May 2014. The majority of them (56%) wanted the British government to offer to send the SAS (special forces) to Nigeria to help with the rescue of the schoolgirls, with just under one-third opposed to any British military engagement. Support for SAS involvement was especially strong among Scots (64%), ethnic minorities (65%), and the top (AB) social group (68%). Detailed breaks can be found at:


Mindfulness is a meditative practice which originates in Buddhism but has been increasingly deployed to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. According to a YouGov online poll on 8-9 May 2014, 45% of Britons (comprising 51% of women and 38% of men) would support mindfulness-based therapy being available on the NHS to treat depression, with 25% opposed and 30% undecided. This idea has been mooted by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Somewhat fewer (39%) of the public, however, think that mindfulness probably has health benefits, with 29% unconvinced, and 33% uncertain. Complete results do not seem to have been published, the foregoing information being extracted from a YouGov blog post on 10 May 2014 at:

Post-war religious statistics

Thanks are due to Dr Ben Clements for alerting BRIN to the existence of a developing resource from the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois. The Composition of Religious and Ethnic Groups (CREG) project is assembling data on these two themes for 165 countries since the Second World War. There are three core sources of statistics – Britannica Book of the Year, CIA World Factbook, and World Almanac Book of Facts – with a variety of supplemental sources for individual countries and years. In the case of the UK actual or estimated religious population figures are provided as percentages for each year between 1945 and 2013 for the following groups: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, and non-religious (lines 6810-7489 on the ‘long’ worksheet, lines 1727-1795 on the ‘wide’ worksheet). The CREG website will be found at:

These data need to be used with circumspection since specific sources are not cited, the majority of figures appear to be estimates, worksheet columns are poorly labelled (the separate variable descriptions document needs to be consulted for explanations), faith group proportions do not always align with sample survey evidence, and the Protestant category is undifferentiated (and thus impossibly large). The statistics perhaps have some utility for comparative purposes, measured against those of other nations, although there are other compilations for this, perhaps the best-known being the World Religion Database. For the UK alone, Peter Brierley’s estimates are perhaps a better starting-point, albeit not always beyond question either; see, in particular, his UK Christian Handbook, Religious Trends, No. 2 (1999) and UK Church Statistics, 2005-2015 (2011).

Spiritual care at point of death

Hospitals in England are often failing to meet the spiritual needs of dying patients and their relatives, as laid down in national guidelines, according to the National Care of the Dying Audit for Hospitals, England: National Report, which was published by the Royal College of Physicians in conjunction with the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute Liverpool on 14 May 2014. The research was conducted in 2013 on the basis of a mixed methods approach, comprising an organizational audit of 131 hospital trusts, an anonymized case note review for 6,580 patients, and a survey of the views of 858 bereaved families and friends. The report can be found at:

The case note review indicated that 72% of dying patients professed some religion. Despite this, in 63% of cases the hospital failed to achieve the key performance indicator of assessing the spiritual needs of the patient and their nominated relatives or friends. Direct conversations about their spiritual needs were documented with only 21% of dying patients thought capable of participating in such discussions (equivalent to 11% of all patients), and indirect (proxy) conversations (via the nominated relative or friend) were held for 23% of patients. Evidence that patients had been seen by a spiritual adviser was recorded in a mere 9% of cases. Just 25% of the relatives/carers of dying patients were asked about their own spiritual needs. Among the sample of bereaved families and friends, 39% agreed that the patient’s religious or spiritual needs had been met by the healthcare team, with 50% expressing no clear view, and 11% disagreeing.


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