An Ipsos Mori survey of research on Muslims in Britain has presented what the Middle East Eye refers to as “a different picture of British Muslims than you will find in the newspapers and think tank reports”, which it says often portrays Muslims as constituting “an existential threat to the West”[1].

The survey revealed that “The British public hugely overestimates the number of Muslims in the country”, generally thinking that around 1/6 Britons are Muslims, with the correct statistic being 1/20. It also revealed “that the public’s understanding of Islam is very limited”, with only 32% of respondents saying that they have a good understanding of the religion. The general population also tended to have a negative view about the compatibility of Islam with British life. However, the survey reveals that “the views of young people overall tend to be more positive than older people. Similarly, those who personally know someone who is Muslim tend to be more positive in their views”[2].

The survey reveals, “There are a lot of similarities between the views of Muslims and the general public”, with both groups having similar levels of life satisfaction – 82% of Muslims were satisfied about the area where they live, compared with 86% of the general public, and 23% of Muslims are optimistic their local area has improved, compared with 17% of the general public[3].

It also reveals that “Muslims have a strong sense of belonging to Britain”, with 88% of Muslim respondents reporting they feel part of British society. Respondents also demonstrated a strong sense of attachment to British identity. Muslim commonality with other Britons was shown to be higher among Muslim UK graduates[4].

Ipsos Mori notes that wider research points to a decline of religion in British life, although this is disputed within the field of the study of religion. Given this apparent decline, it considers it notable that the survey reveals that Muslims consider religion to be far more important to their sense of identity than others do. Again, results showed that religion is particularly important to Muslims holding a UK degree[5].

The vast majority of Muslims believe they can practice their religion freely in Britain and that being Muslim is compatible with the British way of life. However, the survey revealed that “there are concerns that not enough is being done to protect the rights of Muslims and the review shows that Muslims are more likely to be worried about being a victim of crime because of their religion, ethnicity or skin colour”[6].

In addition, the survey reveals young Muslims, and particularly young Muslim UK graduates, are distinct in their views and outlook, demonstrating “more outward looking and liberal views” and being more likely to be politically active. However, this group also is more likely to report experiences of discrimination and feel that anti-Muslim prejudice is increasing[7].

Kully Kaur-Ballagan, the Research Director at Ipsos Mori said of the results, “This report is an important study as it synthesises many of the surveys that have been done examining the attitude of British Muslims as well as the attitudes of the British public toward Muslims. The report highlights that British Muslims are a diverse group of people – much like the public as a whole. They have a strong sense of British identity and while religion does play a greater role in the lives of Muslims than the general population, the vast majority believe that being Muslim and being British is entirely compatible. Yet, the report indicates that there are increasing concerns that religious prejudice towards Muslims is rising. While the British Muslim population has a younger age profile than the population as a whole, the findings shows that younger Muslims are a distinct group; they are more open in their views and have more diverse social networks – this is particularly the case for those who are graduates[8].

“The findings also show that public opinion towards Muslims is mixed. Muslims make up just under five percent of the population yet the British public think it’s three times this figure. And while the majority think that Islam is peaceful religion, they believe that most people perceive the religion in a negative way. Again, in the general population we also find that the views of young people tend to be more positive and open towards Muslims than other age groups”[9].

[1] Oborne, 2018.

[2] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

[3] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

[4] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

[5] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

[6] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

[7] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

[8] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

[9] Ipsos Mori, 2018.

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Ipsos Mori. (2018) ‘A review of survey research on Muslims in Britain’. [online] 21 March. [Accessed 24 April 2018].

Oborne, P. (2018) ‘Most beliefs about Muslims in Britain are simply false. This poll proves it’. [online] 23 March. [Accessed 24 April 2018].