LONDON: Young British Muslims are more likely than their elders to support Shariah law and admire al-Qaida, but three-fifths of 16- to 24-year-olds say they have as much in common with non-Muslims as with Muslims, according to an opinion poll published Monday.
The poll — conducted Dec. 4-13 by Populus for the Policy Exchange, an independent think tank — found that 37 percent of the 16-24 age group would prefer Shariah law based on the Quran, compared with 17 percent of those over 55.
Thirteen percent of the younger group expressed admiration for organizations such as al-Qaida that “are prepared to fight the West,” compared with 3 percent of those over 55.
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The poll detected little difference in the devoutness of the young and the old. Some 47 percent of the 16-24 age group said they prayed five times a day, while the figure rose to 53 percent for the over-55s.
Asked who had done the most to damage the image of Muslims, 37 percent of the youngest group chose U.S. President George W. Bush, while al-Qaida (33 percent) was the most frequent choice of those over 55.
Some 84 percent of the total sample — and of the 16-24 group — believed they had been treated fairly in Britain. Among those over 55, the figure was 94 percent.
Just over a quarter believed that authorities in Britain had gone “over the top” in trying not to offend Muslims. Thirty-nine percent of the whole sample believed authorities had got the balance “about right,” a view shared by 41 percent of the 16-24 age group and by 54 percent of those over 55.
Munira Mirza, the lead author of the report, attributed the difference to government policies.
“The emergence of a strong Muslim identity in Britain is, in part, a result of multicultural policies implemented since the 1980s which have emphasized difference at the expense of shared national identity and divided people along ethnic, religious and cultural lines,” she wrote.
The poll found that three-fourths of the sample group — 1,003 participants aged 16 and older — disagreed with a local council’s decision to ban advertising for a Christmas carol service, and 64 percent thought another council was wrong to ban pictures of pigs in its office for fear of offending Muslims.
Poll results for the 16-24 age group, with 209 respondents, had a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percentage points, and for the group of 55 people aged 60 and over the margin was plus or minus 10 percentage points. For the entire sample, the margin of error would be plus or minus 3 percentage points.
“The government should stop emphasizing difference and engage with Muslims as citizens, not through their religious identity,” Mirza wrote.
“The Muslim community is not homogenous, and attempts to give group rights or representation will only alienate sections of the population further.”