Polling Muslims: the devil is in the detail
Categories: Latest News
Tuesday April 12 2016
The Times yesterday in its coverage of the Channel 4 commissioned poll by ICM returned to a familiar theme with an article on page 2 of the paper headlined, “Two thirds of Muslims would not give police terror tip-offs“.
The opening sentence observes, “Only one in three British Muslims would tip off the police if they believed that somebody close to them had become involved with terrorist sympathisers, a poll has revealed.”
Back in December, The Times published a front page story titled ‘Muslims silent on Terror’ in which it claimed “less than a tenth of extremism tip-offs were coming directly from the [Muslim] community or faith leaders.”
The front story was heavily criticised for suggesting Muslims were “giving cover” to terrorists. The story garnered a strong response from campaigners in the London Boroughs of Waltham Forest and Newham, both of which have seen community groups reject the Prevent programme amid serious concerns about its impact on Muslim communities and young Muslims in particular.
In a letter published in the paper, in response to the headline, campaigners stated: “In east London, we have seen how the narrative of a “suspect community” fosters division and racism. Prevent and Channel have been discredited…At best they fuel suspicion; at worst, they feed into hatred and violence.”
The point about feeding into hatred is pertinent when you consider this significant detail omitted in The Times’ coverage of the ICM poll yesterday: The paper presented statistics which show that 34% of Muslims would “report to the police” suspicion that someone they know harboured terrorist sympathies but in the control group, the figure is 30%. A marginal difference and a strong showing that among Muslims and others the likelihood that individuals would tip-off the police is about the same.
It doesn’t help that the full data from the ICM poll was released after The Sunday Times’ feature article in last week’s paper. But it is indicative of the tendency of newspapers to portray Muslims in the worst possible light that no consideration was given to the results in the control group before The Times rushed out its article yesterday about two thirds of Muslims not giving police terror tip-offs. Might a correction follow today, given we now know that almost two thirds in the control group gave exactly the same response?