Friday, May 08, 2009

No sex please we're British Muslims

Apparently it's true - there are no gay Muslims in Britain. Not even one. Well, either that or this survey "a collaboration between Gallup and the Coexist Foundation" on the attitude of Muslims around the world needs to be examined rather carefully.

For example 77% of Muslims said they strongly identified with the UK - which is far higher than the 50% the rest of the population scored. Does this mean Muslims are more likely to love fish and chips or what?

Well, it could be that the figures are saying, as the Independent, Telegraph and BBC claim, that UK Muslims are more patriotic... or it could be the opposite as the Mail and Al Jazeera claim, although they seem to be using different figures, I do hope they didn't make them up.

Alternatively it could be that Muslims in the UK have been subject to loyalty test after loyalty test over the last decade and so when someone asks them "How strongly do you identify with the UK" they are conditioned to ensure they come across as fully integrated citizens. I suspect this figure tells us more about how pressured UK Muslims feel about national identity than it does about attitudes they might have whilst watching EastEnders.

The big headline however is around homosexuality.

Not one UK Muslim respondent thought that homosexuality was "acceptable" compared to 58% for the the UK as a whole. This may well be related to the fact that only 3% of our sample thought any sex outside of marriage was acceptable (compared to 82%) although none of the papers seem to make this important link.

The way this is reported it makes it sound like gay people are being singled out when in fact 97% of respondents (which is quite a lot) thought that all sex outside of marriage was wrong. They would have to be particularly perverse to approve of homosexuality, which by definition does not involve the sanctity of marriage (yet), and not unmarried straight couples having it away.

This is born out when you consider that French and German Muslims found both sex outside of marriage and homosexuality more acceptable than their UK counterparts. To view the two statistics separately seems to distort the information we're getting, although there is certainly no denying that these are conservative attitudes. To me it looks like an anti-sex stat rather than a specifically anti-gay sex one.

But is it right anyway?

But I want to take issue with 0% anyway. It sounds wrong to me. You take 1,500 people and you'll always find someone who thinks something out of step. Whether they think paedophilia is alright or the economy is recovering you'll always find somebody to express an off message idea. So this makes me question how the data was collected in the first place.

I've had plenty of friends who are Christian evangelicals and their attitude seems quite instructive. These friends have no problem being friends with, even flat mates of gay people, with all the boy/girlfriend ups and downs that this entails. However, if you ask them whether as a Christian they think homosexuality (or sex outside of marriage) is acceptable - they'd say no.

I remember going to a bar with a Muslim guy once who asked for a coke rather than his normal real ale "because it's Eide". I think that sums up how many religious people interact with their faith in everyday life. If you'd asked him whether it was acceptable to drink alcohol as a Muslim he'd say no. If you asked him what he was having he'd have a pint of Old Growler. The yes/no box doesn't give us the nuance that we often require.

This is a roundabout way of asking whether UK Muslims were asked the questions in the same way as those in Europe and whether the sample of respondents was collected in the same way. If you ask people at Mosque what they think I suspect you'll get a very different response than if you ask the same people on the street without referencing their religion.

I'd also say that if you got the respondents via religious institutions you'd get a different response than if you simply asked self identifying Muslims when you came across them as part of a larger survey. I don't think it wouldn't take me long to find a Muslim that finds homosexuality acceptable so if I'd conducted a survey that produced this result I think I'd have been strongly tempted not to release the data whilst I tried to find out what went wrong.

It could simply be that UK Muslims felt more aware that they were representing Muslims and were more conscious of making Islamic responses than Muslims did elsewhere. Whatever the methodological detail (which I've been unable to find) a 0% return is as suspicious as a North Korean election result and we have to be pretty careful when drawing conclusions from it.


Mr Andy C said...

Their sampling or question has to have been seriously flawed.

There are gay muslim groups and organisations in the UK, such as

Laban said...

I imagine it's the same phenomenon that means the BNP vote is always a bit higher than polls predict - they don't want to fess up to the pollster.

Benjamin Solah said...

Yeah, this sounds totally flawed! I've met plenty of Muslims during the war on Palestine and recruited them to my socialist group after discussing the issues of homophobia with them.

And often they make direct links with both Muslims and Gays being oppressed.

Jim Jay said...

I agree Laban, I think if they knew they were being asked as a survey into "what Muslims think" it would have massively skewed the responses.

The more I think about the 0% the more incredulous I become.

Laban said...

No matter whether they were being asked 'as Muslims' or not, I think few would come out. Any more than a sample of 500 Brits would in, say, 1900.