Poll reveals fear of future clashes
People in Britain take a hard line against Muslims protesting violently against supposed insults to their religion, and are gloomy about future relations between Muslims and the rest of the population.
Muslims protested peacefully in Trafalgar Square yesterday. But a Sunday Times-YouGov poll of more than 1,600 people shows widespread public anger about protests earlier this month in Britain and the worldwide uprising in response to Danish cartoons picturing the prophet Muhammad.
The poll shows that 86% of people think the protests were “a gross overreaction”. By 56% to 29% respondents said it was right to publish the cartoons in Denmark and republish them elsewhere.
Earlier this month Muslim protesters in Britain carried placards urging violence and death against those who insult Islam, and celebrating last year’s July 7 London bombings. Asked about those protests, 58% said it made them angry and 76% said the police should have arrested those carrying offensive or provocative banners.
The police and politicians are criticised more generally for not confronting Islamic extremism, with 80% of respondents saying the authorities show too much tolerance of Muslims who urge extreme acts. Two-thirds, 67%, think this is because senior policemen such as Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, are too “politically correct”.
Such views have been brought to a head by last week’s conviction of Abu Hamza, the Muslim cleric, for inciting religious violence and racial hatred. After reports that his activities had been known to the police for many years, 67% believe he should have been arrested much sooner, and 69% believe he should have been given a “significantly longer” sentence than seven years.
The support for a tough line extends to the anti-terrorism bill, which returns to the Commons next week. Tony Blair backed down on a proposal for terrorist suspects to be held for up to 90 days without charge, but 44% of people back the extension to 90 days, against 42% who say 28 days is an acceptable compromise.
Where foreigners stir up racial and religious hatred, 81% of people think they should be sent back to their own countries, even if to do so would endanger their lives.
There is widespread gloom about the future, with 87% expecting further attacks in Britain by Islamic groups on the scale of the July 7 bombings; and only 17% seeing a future in which there is peaceful coexistence between Muslims and others in Britain, while 67% think there will be a worsening of tensions. This is also true internationally. While 34% say western nations can coexist peacefully with mainly Muslim countries, 45% disagree.