Poll shows sense of isolation is growing
Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims seem to be feeling an increasing sense of isolation, with nearly half the adults now wanting their children to go to separate Muslim schools, according to a Guardian/ICM opinion poll.
Its interviews with 500 Muslims show that the desire to integrate into Britain’s multicultural society has weakened in the past 18 months, and a growing minority feels they have given up too much already.
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Although the majority still has a desire for integration, the balance of opinion in the community in the past 18 months has begun to swing against measures such as the home secretary’s citizenship ceremonies and oaths of allegiance.
The ICM poll shows that many Muslims see the “war against terrorism” as a war against Islam and believe that British anti-terrorist laws are being used unfairly against the Muslim community.
The survey confirms the last Guardian/ICM “snapshot” in June 2002, showing a community in which one person in three reports personally experienced hostility or abuse because of their religion and most believe that community relations have worsened since the Iraq war a year ago.
There is still a clear desire to integrate into mainstream British culture, 33% feeling that more needs to be done, but this feeling seems to have weakened considerably since the previous poll, when 41% said they felt that way.
The proportion of people who feel that the Muslim community has integrated too much already has risen from 17% to 26% of those interviewed. This compares with 44% of all British voters, who say that the Muslim community should do more to integrate.
The growing separatism is most sharply seen in schooling. Nearly half the Muslim respondents say that, given the choice, they would send a child of their own to a Muslim school rather than a state school.
Since only a small fraction of Muslim children are already in such schools, this represents a huge latent demand for separate religious schooling. The demand is stronger among men, younger families and the more affluent.
The poll also shows that the police and the home secretary, David Blunkett, still have a long way to go to persuade the Muslim community that the anti-terrorism laws are not being used in a discriminatory way against them. More than two-thirds feel they are being used unfairly against the Muslim community.
A cross-analysis of the answers to the question about the state of community relations shows that it is Muslim voters who have deserted the Labour party en masse who feel most acutely that things have got worse in the past year.
The poll shows that Labour support in the Muslim community has halved from 75% at the 2001 general election to 38% now. About 60% of those who say they now intend to vote Liberal Democrat or Conservative say that community relations have got worse, compared with 43% of those who have remained Labour voters.
· ICM interviewed a random sample of 500 Muslims between March 3 and 11. ICM also interviewed a random sample of 1,014 adults on March 10 and 11. Interviews were conducted by telephone across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.
· More than 57% of Iraqis say that their lives are better one year on from the war, according to a BBC/Oxford Research International poll published today which surveyed 2,500 Iraqis.