Vikram Dodd, Guardian (London), July 26
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have thought about leaving Britain after the London bombings, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll.
The figure illustrates how widespread fears are of an anti-Muslim backlash following the July 7 bombings which were carried out by British born suicide bombers.
The poll also shows that tens of thousands of Muslims have suffered from increased Islamophobia, with one in five saying they or a family member have faced abuse or hostility since the attacks.
Police have recorded more than 1,200 suspected Islamophobic incidents across the country ranging from verbal abuse to one murder in the past three weeks. The poll suggests the headline figure is a large underestimate.
The poll came as British Islamic leaders and police met to try to boost recruitment of Muslim officers, improve efforts to protect Muslims from a backlash, and improve the flow of information from Muslims to the police about suspected terrorist activity.
Nearly two-thirds of Muslims told pollsters that they had thought about their future in Britain after the attacks, with 63% saying they had considered whether they wanted to remain in the UK. Older Muslims were more uneasy about their future, with 67% of those 35 or over having contemplated their future home country compared to 61% among those 34 or under.
Britain’s Muslim population is estimated at 1.6million, with 1.1million over 18, meaning more than half a million may have considered the possibility of leaving.
Three in 10 are pessimistic about their children’s future in Britain, while 56% said they were optimistic.
Nearly eight in 10 Muslims believe Britain’s participation in invading Iraq was a factor leading to the bombings, compared to nearly two-thirds of all Britons surveyed for the Guardian earlier this month. Tony Blair has repeatedly denied such a link.
Muslim clerics’ and leaders’ failure to root out extremists is a factor behind the attacks identified by 57% of Muslims, compared to 68% of all Britons, and nearly two-thirds of Muslims identify racist and Islamophobic behaviour as a cause compared to 57% of all Britons.
The general population and Muslims apportion virtually the same amount of blame to the bombers and their handlers, with eight in 10 or more citing these as factors.
The poll finds a huge rejection of violence by Muslims with nine in 10 believing it has no place in a political struggle. Nearly nine out of 10 said they should help the police tackle extremists in the Islamic communities in Britain.
A small rump, potentially running into thousands, told ICM of their support for the attacks on July 7 which killed 56 and left hundreds wounded — and 5% said that more attacks would be justified. Those findings are troubling for those urgently trying to assess the pool of potential suicide bombers.
One in five polled said Muslim communities had integrated with society too much already, while 40% said more was needed and a third said the level was about right.
More than half wanted foreign Muslim clerics barred or thrown out of Britain, but a very sizeable minority, 38%, opposed that.
Half of Muslims thought that they needed to do more to prevent extremists infiltrating their community.
· ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,005 adults aged 18+ by telephone on July 15-17 2005. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.