The doctrine of multi-culturalism has alienated an entire generation of young Muslims and made them increasingly radical, a report has found.
In stark contrast with their parents, growing numbers sympathise with extreme teachings of Islam, with almost four in ten wanting to live under Sharia law in Britain.
The study identifies significant support for wearing the veil in public, Islamic schools and even punishment by death for Muslims who convert to another religion.
Most alarmingly, 13 per cent of young Muslims said they “admired” organisations such as Al Qaeda which are prepared to “fight the West”.
The poll exposes a fracture between the attitudes of Muslims aged 16 to 24, most of whom were born in Britain, and those of their parents’ generation, who are more likely to have been immigrants.
A report published alongside the poll, commissioned by the Right-wing think tank Policy Exchange and carried out by Populus, said the doctrine of multi-culturalism was at least partly responsible.
A series of Labour ministers have broken recently with the idea that different communities should not be forced to integrate but should be allowed to maintain their own culture and identities.
Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, have also expressed serious doubts about multi-culturalism.
Academic Munira Mirza, lead author of the report, said: “The emergence of a strong Muslim identity in Britain is, in part, a result of multi-cultural policies implemented since the 1980s which have emphasised difference at the expense of shared national identity and divided people along ethnic, religious and cultural lines.”
The poll of 1,000 Muslims, weighted to represent the population across the UK, found that a growing minority of youngsters felt they had less in common with non-Muslims than their parents did.
While only 17 per cent of over-55s said they would prefer to live under Sharia law, that increased to 37 per cent of those aged 16 to 24.
Sharia law, which is practised in large parts of the Middle East, specifies stonings and amputations as routine punishments for crimes.
It also acts as a religious code for living, covering dietary laws and dress codes. Religious police are responsible for bringing suspects before special courts.
The poll found that just 19 per cent of Muslims over 55 would prefer to send their children to Islamic state schools. That increased to 37 per cent of those aged 16 to 24.
If a Muslim converts to another religion, 36 per cent of 16-to-24-year-olds thought this should be punished by death, compared with 19 per cent of 55s and over.
According to the poll, 74 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 prefer Muslim women to wear the veil, compared with only 28 per cent of over 55s.
The report by Miss Mirza, British-born daughter of Pakistani immigrants, concludes that some Muslim groups have exaggerated the problems of “Islamophobic” sentiment among non-Muslim Britons, which has fuelled a sense of victimhood.
The vast majority of Muslims—84 per cent—believed they had been treated fairly in British society.
And just over a quarter—28 per cent—believed that authorities in Britain had gone “over the top” in trying not to offend Muslims.
The Government has been accused of failing to tackle the so-called “preachers of hate”.
No one has convicted under legislation introduced to deal with such figures. One radical cleric, Abu Hamza, was allowed to encourage extremism for years before finally being prosecuted—but under separate laws and only under threat of him being extradited to the U.S.
Muslim Labour MP Shahid Malik said the poll findings were disturbing. “There are evil voices out there and this poll shows some of them are definitely having an impact.
“People are still turning a blind eye and hoping it will all go away. It cannot and it will not of its own accord.
“Of course the Government has a role, but with the Muslim community itself more has to be done to acknowledge that this challenge exists.
“For years, I have argued that the British National Party is a white phenomenon which it is up to the white community to address. Well, extremism exists in the name of Islam and that’s something the Muslim community has to take leadership on.
“It’s my view that the mainstream, umbrella Muslim organisations have not risen to the challenge and don’t accept the depth of the problem that’s facing them.”
Mr Malik said one legal change which could help address radicalisation was to make committees of faith leaders who run mosques legally responsible for inflammatory statements made on their premises.
Baroness Uddin, the only female Muslim peer, said the poll did not reflect her experiences of the views of most members of the community.
But she said many young Muslims who had been born in the UK did have completely different attitudes to their parents and grandparents, who migrated into this country from overseas.
“Whereas we said, ‘This isn’t our home, we have to fit in, we have to contribute’, young people do have a sense that this is now their home and they are prepared to say what they don’t like about it.
“They have asserted their identity and gone deeper into their religion. It would have been unheard of for someone like me, as a 16-year-old, to have complained about England.
“But now, when young people go through difficulties in terms of job opportunities and education, they do make their opinions known.”
Baroness Uddin said she agreed with the “majority view” that British foreign policy had also aggravated Muslim grievances.
The Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, said: “Our young people have been allowed to fall into the hands of fringe organisations who are getting at them at universities, schools, colleges and mosques. They are being manipulated.
“It’s difficult for the Government to prescribe a way forward for the Muslim community. I don’t think it can do that.
“It’s up to the mainstream, national Muslim organisations, who frankly have failed.”
[The report mentioned in the story—entitled “Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism”—can be downloaded here as a PDF file.]