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Pat Condell should stop citing polls he hasn’t read

Alex Gabriel has an immense detailed analysis of Pat Condell’s claims in a recent video about the attitudes of “Muslims” to homosexuality. It’s actually more than that, more of a meta-analysis of surveys on the subject.

He summarizes at the end:

For those who’ve skipped to the bottom, as a tl;dr summary, the landscape they suggest can I think be distilled as follows:

  • Muslim attitudes are often highly varied, in some cases powerfully polarised, including on questions of sexuality.
  • Determinants of this variation, in addition to other less obvious ones, include nationality, ethnicity and age.
  • All of these, age in particular, challenge the view conservative and fundamentalist approaches to Islam are ‘imports’ through recent immigration; their followers are often young, born or raised in Britain, more ‘strict’ or ‘radical’ than prior generations.
  • Most if not all British Muslims consider homosexual acts ‘morally wrong’ over ‘morally acceptable’, but large majorities in various polls tend to express respect, acceptance or otherwise humane responses to gay people.
  • Supporters of sharia law are not an ‘extremist fringe’ as some have claimed, but are a clear minority, with most surveys showing them at somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of Muslims.
  • More and better polling is required on what exactly sharia supporters understand it or its (ideal) function to be in Britain, but advocates almost always desire it as a Muslim-specific legal system within Britain rather than a totalitarian alternative to the country’s current governance.
  • Further, strong appetites exist for reform or reinterpretation of sharia in line with contemporary views on human (and LGBT) rights, although it’s unclear what the relationship of ‘sharia reformers’ to ‘sharia advocates’ is.
  • Muslim support for extreme draconian punishments and human rights abuses such as the Iranian government’s executions by stoning or hanging is extremely low most of the time.
  • More broadly, Muslims are by and large extremely unlikely ever to find violence justifiable, though Muslims polled by Gallup across Britain in 2008 were an unexplained exception to this. (This does not, however, suggest support for terrorism or homophobic attacks, and other data explicitly suggests a near-universal lack of support in these areas.)
  • All of us – think tanks, journalists, agitators on the right and left, opponents of Islam, defenders of Muslims and people who are both – need to become more literate in polling analysis, more willing to survey the bigger picture and less exploitative of polls as propaganda.
  • Polling companies need to be more judicious about wording, formatting and research methods, refusing to use biased or imprecise techniques when agreeing questions with clients (especially those, like newspapers or think tanks, with particular outlooks).
  • Numerous points raised by research above are legitimately concerning for secularists and human rights campaigners – not just the minority of Muslims supporting fundamentalist or violent practices, but the view itself that queer sexuality is immoral (even when no structuralised oppression follows this belief) and the support and continued operation of sharia courts as parallel, separate legal institutions in the so-called Muslim community.
  • These concerns are not well dealt with by smearing, homogenising and misrepresenting Muslims generally, and sensationalist xenophobia which characterises the presence of Muslims as a major threat to ‘the British way of life’ are both unfounded and unhelpful: non-Muslims (or those outside the ‘Muslim community’) are directly threatened very little by the issues above, whereas Muslim women, LGBT Muslims and other parts of that community marginalised by conservative religious tendencies are strongly affected.
  • Atheists, secularists and skeptics should stop engaging in anti-migrant/anti-Muslim racism, taking on the actual problems.
  • Pat Condell should stop citing polls he hasn’t read.

Don’t miss it.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    I recommend reading Alex’s post on Muslims in Britain. It’s quite long but well written and well sourced.

  2. Schlumbumbi says

    Supporters of sharia law are not an ‘extremist fringe’ as some have claimed, but are a clear minority, with most surveys showing them at somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of Muslims.

    … Is this the point where we can stop worrying ? When “only” 20-40% percent support sharia ? Ridiculous.

  3. Al Dente says

    Schlumbumbi @2

    Why should you start worrying? That a minority group has a minority of its people supporting something you don’t like is no reason for worry.

  4. Tony! The Immorally Inferior Queer Shoop! says

    @2:
    why did you start worrying?
    Has sharia law had a demonstable negative effect on your life?

  5. says

    Oh no no no, that’s not right. It’s not a matter of “something you don’t like” – it’s a matter of universal rights, aka one law for all.

    Sharia and support for sharia definitely is something to worry about. Dismissing it as mere dislike is the same as dismissing laws that exempt religious believers from laws protecting children, for example.

  6. Al Dente says

    Ophelia @6

    Yo, Al, Tony! It’s not about you (or me), it’s not “everything that doesn’t harm me is ok and not something to worry about.”

    You have a point, Ophelia. Personally, I’m against sharia laws for the same reasons I object to rabbinical laws. Theocratic laws tend to be arbitrary, misogynist, and administered by some thoroughly biased, inequitable people.

    However, having read Schlumbumbi’s comments about same-sex marriage (see post 6) I’m not willing to give the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think Schlum’s objections to sharia have as much to do with justice as they do with a dislike of Muslims.

  7. RJW says

    Sharia “law” is not a legal system in the Western liberal-democratic tradition, so it’s definitely something to worry about

    “anti-Muslim racism,”– Muslims are not members of a “race” but followers of an ideology.

    Pat Condell has definitely ‘lost the plot’ somewhere, somehow, his videos regularly appear on some of the anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian hate sites.

  8. arthur says

    I know Muslims in the UK that have no problems with homosexuality. One close (female) Muslim friend is bisexual, for example.

    Don’t generalise.

  9. Silentbob says

    @ 9 RJW

    “anti-Muslim racism,”-Muslims are not members of a “race” but followers of an ideology.

    Can we put this silly objection to bed once and for all?

    Firstly, it ignores that racism isn’t really about “race”, it’s a form of xenophobia – a dislike of people who look and act differently.
    Secondly, it ignores that most Muslims aren’t Muslims for ideological reasons, but for cultural reasons. They were just brought up that way. They no more chose their “ideology” than they chose their ethnicity.
    Finally, it’s just plain obtuse. It’s like saying that “towel-head” isn’t racist because a turban is a fashion choice, not a race. Do you really believe that most anti-Muslim prejudice is purely ideological and has nothing to do with them being perceived as “foreigners”?

  10. says

    @Schlumbumbi (#2)

    Yes, of course 20-40 percent support for sharia is worrying, but
    a) This isn’t enough that we can use sharia as an anti-Muslim rallying cry, especially given most actively oppose it.
    b) Obvious and considerable disagreement exists among sharia supporters about exactly what it is or how it should work, and polls show large amounts of support for reforming it.
    c) Specifically, almost all supporters of sharia law support it exclusively as a Muslim-specific arbitration system analogous to industrial tribunals, rather than as a totalitarian form of national governance.
    d) So: the real reasons to worry about sharia (human rights abuses within the ‘Muslim community’) are obscured by Condell’s rhetoric and the wider paranoia about ‘Sharia in the UK’ now familiar in the press.

    @Hankstar (#8)

    I think you’ll find I had you at ‘Condell should stop’.

    @Al Dente (#7)

    I’m not actually a fan of using support for gay marriage as a measure of queer friendliness – a sizeable hub of opposition to it from the left exists within the queer population, composed of people (including me, actually) who view gay marriage as an inherently conservative movement – but on the specific comment you cite… yes.

  11. Jenora Feuer says

    I suspect that:

    Supporters of sharia law are not an ‘extremist fringe’ as some have claimed, but are a clear minority, with most surveys showing them at somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of Muslims.

    really needs to be read in light of:

    More and better polling is required on what exactly sharia supporters understand it or its (ideal) function to be in Britain, but advocates almost always desire it as a Muslim-specific legal system within Britain rather than a totalitarian alternative to the country’s current governance.

    I suspect that a lot of ‘sharia law supporters’ really only consider it in terms of things like family and divorce law. (Not that this isn’t bad enough, given its slant against the woman in such cases.) For that matter, I expect that most of the people supporting sharia law have about as much understanding of what sharia law actually entails as most people do over the law in general. Which is to say, many of the broad strokes may be understood, but the details will often be unpleasant surprises.

  12. RJW says

    @Silentbob,

    (1) “it ignores that racism isn’t really about “race”, it’s a form of xenophobia – a dislike of people who look and act differently.” —Even if I accepted your assertion that racism is a category within xenophobia, which by definition, it is not, what relevance does that have to my opinion that Muslims are followers of an ideology. During the Cold War the majority of Communists were Chinese, would you define all anti-communists as racists?

    (2) “it ignores that most Muslims aren’t Muslims for ideological reasons, but for cultural reasons.” –So? Why did you incorporate that in your argument? Explain what qualitative difference that makes, is a “cultural ideology” in some special category? Actually–the ideology is part of the culture, where do you think the ideology comes from, out of thin air?

    (3) “Do you really believe that most anti-Muslim prejudice is purely ideological and has nothing to do with them being perceived as “foreigners”?”

    I’m sure in many cases that’s true, however that’s also irrelevant to my point.You’re conflating anti-Muslim prejudice with opposition to the ideology and making a straw man.

    (4) What is your opinion of Islam, not Muslims, but the ideology itself as practised by Moslems and of the political culture of majority Moslem societies? Would you like that totalitarian ideology to be reproduced in your own country? I’m sure the implications of a “no” answer are obvious.

  13. says

    Pat Condell should stop citing polls he hasn’t read.

    I’m with Hankstar (#8, above). I stopped listening to Condell’s drivel quite a while ago.

    The worst thing famous and semi-famous people do is start believing they can do no wrong. Their egos become so inflated that they think anything they say now will be accepted because people liked some things they said in the past.

  14. Pen says

    I expect that most of the people supporting sharia law have about as much understanding of what sharia law actually entails as most people do over the law in general.

    My understanding is that there isn’t a single definition of sharia law. In theory British muslims could establish one of their own or even several. When you think about that the problems with authority, consent, the right to defect, and limiting factors imposed by other groups, you can start to see what’s wrong with that.

    From a practical point of view, many of us are in a state of coercion with respect to the law anyway, but the participation granted by democracy, our right to protest and our theoretically equal right to become active as law makers, changers or enforcers are very important, actually central to western ideology.

  15. Shatterface says

    I know Muslims in the UK that have no problems with homosexuality. One close (female) Muslim friend is bisexual, for example.
    Don’t generalise.

    Probably best not to dismiss statistical evidence based on a single anecdotal exception either

  16. Shatterface says

    From a practical point of view, many of us are in a state of coercion with respect to the law anyway, but the participation granted by democracy, our right to protest and our theoretically equal right to become active as law makers, changers or enforcers are very important, actually central to western ideology.

    Participation is the crucial thing: I disagree on the criminalisation of drugs, for instance, but I think that eventually the law will grow the fuck up. Human made laws have a tendency towards liberalisation. That’s not true with god-given laws as the Beardy One isn’t answerable to mere humans.

  17. yahweh says

    All these arguments (Condell’s included) are confused because they do not distinguish three different levels which can be referred to as ‘religion’.

    There are believers – whose views are the subject of surveys; religious organisations (churches and states); and bodies of belief.

    It’s as plain as the nose on anyone’s face that the last two are a) not covered by these surveys b) remain important and c) do not necessarily coincide with the personal convictions of their adherents.

    So one interesting question, destined to remain unanswered, is how respondents would have answered if a cleric had been present. And what would people say in less progressive countries than France and Germany?

    It seems to me that Godlessness’ contention that “Islam is as malleable as any religion” can only really be understood as referring to the believers. IMO we should be clear which level of religion we are talking about, not least because faithheads exploit exactly the same confusion to their benefit.

  18. arthur says

    Shatterface: Probably best not to dismiss statistical evidence based on a single anecdotal exception either

    Dismissing what statistical evidence?

    The evidence cited by Alex Gabriel is consistent with my conclusions based on experience: that a significant/large proportion of UK muslims do not have a negative view of homosexuals.

    This evidence, and my own findings, are at odds with Pat Condell’s implications that British Muslims disapproval of homosexuals is universal. Condell cites a poll claiming it is 100%.

  19. says

    Is this the point where we can stop worrying ? When “only” 20-40% percent support sharia ?

    No, this is the point where we start being more careful who we blame, punish and demonize. And it’s also the point where we start looking for potential ALLIES, not just enemies.

  20. Al Dente says

    Al @24

    He cares about a minority so he supports a bunch of racist bigots. That makes perfect sense, if you’re not paying attention to either Condell or the UKIP.

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