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01 September 2010

More Misleading and Pointless Islamist Propaganda

The Islamic Education and Research Agency (iERA) misreport one of the main findings of their study “Perceptions of Islam & Muslims” published last week. They say “75% (of the British non-Muslims surveyed) believed Islam and Muslims had provided a negative contribution to society”

The iERA are an international organisation committed to educating and informing humanity about the truth and noble message of Islam. [see Annex 1]

The finding was seized on by the Guardian who entitled their news report: “Three-quarters of non-Muslims believe Islam negative for Britain”

.... and ENGAGE, an organisation dedicated to promoting greater media awareness and political participation amongst British Muslims, headed its web news item: “New poll reveals 3/4 of UK population believe Islam is negative for Britain”

The finding is based on this table published in the study itself.

What contribution do you think Islam and Muslims have had on British society? - % Who say:
Very NegativeQuite NegativeNo ContributionQuite PositiveVery PositiveNot Stated
1422391924

For a start the English is incorrect. The question should have been either “What contribution do you think Islam and Muslims have made to British society?” or “What impact do you think Islam and Muslims have had on British society?”

The answers are recorded on a five way scale in which conventionally the middle position is neutral, the respondent here saying he/she doesn’t think the contribution has been either negative or positive (neutral in other words). The English goes adrift again as the middle position is labelled “No contribution” (which is not the same as a negative contribution).

The 75 percent headlined by the Guardian and ENGAGE can only be arrived at by including the 39 percent who are in reality neutral on this question (the most frequent answer). Otherwise it is only 36 percent who think Islam has made a negative contribution. Yes, “only”!

Well, a third of Britons thinking British Muslims make a negative contribution to society is better than three quarters thinking so.

The purpose of the research

This careless (and deceitful) approach shows up in other ways and is a sign we are dealing with token research.

The research is irrelevant, the authors have already decided what they want to say. They think their message has greater impact if it is linked to professional research. “We must be right. Here’s the evidence”. “This shows how important and necessary our work is”. That there might be different interpretations of the research, that it might not be adequate, is not on the cards.

Even though the study is entitled “Perceptions on Muslims and Islam: A study of the UK Population”, the executive summary is a statement of the iERA’s worldview. For example, it contains this long-winded statement:

“Only then are we giving people the opportunity to make an informed free choice as how to use that information, and until that point liberty to make profound choices about particular world views will not exist, particularly if all that was known before had negative spin, psychological barriers and bad experiences. Therefore, unless something changes, the current state of affairs will remain as a form of intellectual oppression as it keeps the door to enquiry slammed firmly shut.”

The executive summary says next to nothing about the research itself. There are pages explaining why the research is necessary and even a “theological backdrop” chapter, all this portraying the ideas and objectives of the iERA.

The message is simple. Britain must be invited to Islam. That’s it! This activity, a summons or invitation to Islam, is known as dawah.

You can read (or not) the whole thing here. A word of warning: even though a sophisticated publishing tool has been used to format the study, the publisher had little idea how to create a readable document, going overboard in the use of colours, the lines in the tables changing colour one after another in the manner of a rainbow, repeating identical chapter headings in the same font size from one page to the next, mislabelling tables, and making extensive use of white out of black. There is no contents page, an annoying omission.

Slagging off your rivals

As early as page 5 the study devotes a chapter to criticising the research carried out in June by YouGov on British perceptions of Muslims and Islam on behalf of the Exploring Islam Foundation (EIF) [see Annex 2] claiming that this research is technically and significantly inferior to what the iERA have done.

iERA even go to the trouble of extensively quoting professional research papers extolling face to face interviewing, the method employed by iERA. They really want to impress you.

[A summary of this EIF research is also published here.]

YouGov used self-completion on-line questionnaires completed by members of a panel who have agreed to be surveyed from time to time. Those who send in their questionnaire are not necessarily an accurate representation of the population at large. They are those who take the trouble to respond. They also don’t have the benefit of the presence of an interviewer. YouGov obtained and analysed results from 2152 people.

iERA boast their face-to-face interviews with a random sample chosen on the street makes their results more representative and meaningful. The fieldwork was done by DJS a UK-based market research firm. Someone should point out to the iERA that recruiting at random on the street involves “self selection” just as much as people on panels.

Not everyone is willing to stand on the pavement or in some public place talking to an interviewer, especially for a lot more than a few minutes as it must have been in this case; 24 questions each of which could take between 30 seconds to a minute to read out, consider, and answer carefully. iERA also boast that some questions had open-ended extensions asking “why do you say that” answers to which the interviewer had to record verbatim! It can also be said that someone at home with the time to think might give better considered answers.

iERA don’t make any comment on the size of their sample, 500, which is grossly inferior and hence less reliable compared to YouGov’s 2152 respondents.

The results

The highlights of the results according to iERA are given in the form of 28 bullet points. The first six and more prominently displayed are:

80% have less than very little knowledge about Islam
51% learnt Islam from school
95% had come into contact with the Bible
20% had come into contact with the Qur’an
93% had very little knowledge or no knowledge at all about the Qur’an
40% did not know who Allah is

The 40% result concerning Allah includes 16% who thought he was a Prophet of Islam, not an unreasonable mistake as respondents were asked to pick the correct answer from a list including possibilities such as “a month in the Islamic calendar” (no one chose that!).

A number of the results in this impressive list of 18 show a dislike or suspicion of Islam (though in some cases not as severe as reported by iERA because of their strange way of counting neutral answers).

(only) 2% responded positively concerning perceptions about Islamic 32% believed that Muslims are a major cause of community tension 70% did not disagree with the statement “Muslims preach hatred” 94% did not disagree with the statement “Islam oppresses women” 86% did not disagree with the statement “Islam is outdated”

Annex 3 gives a full analysis of these and other selected results.

The study also has a list of 18 recommendations. The first six are:

Disseminate the results and implement our recommendations Resource and finance existing dawah organisations Disseminate information about the Prophet Muhammad Develop a dawah strategy with student organisations Attend dawah training courses Create a new language by removing overtly religious connotations and building concepts

Further details are given in Annex 4 including what is meant by the amazing recommendation “Create a new language by removing overtly religious connotations and building concepts”

What is the point?

The iERA assume, as does the EIF, that the British dislike and suspicion of Islam is all down to ignorance. All would be well if only the British knew more about Islam, if they had read the Koran, had things explained to them in the right way.

But the British are not stupid. How much do you need to know about something to dislike it or reject it? You can also judge the worth of a thing or an idea by the results it produces. How it affects you or the world you live in. How many Britons read the Communist Manifesto or Das Capital?

We are witness daily to the effects of Islam. Take for a small start these recent news stories.

"Although music is halal, promoting and teaching it is not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic"

“Brazil offers asylum to Iran woman sentenced to stoning”

“Pakistanis overwhelmingly favor killing apostates”

“Claim of 'Islamic veil bus ban' thrown out”

“Sharia creeps into New Jersey courtroom – but gets short shrift on appeal”

“Iran cuts off hands from five thieves”

“Two Muslim women thrown out of pool for wearing 'burkinis'“

“Malaysian first wives and children oppose polygamy”

“Council tells schools to rearrange exams and cancel swimming for Ramadan”

“Morocco Continues to Purge Nation of Foreign Christians”

“Homely Homemaking Homebodies? Why the Quran Commands Muslim Women: “Stay in Your Homes””

For a fuller picture see this summary listing of Islam/Muslim news items over the last few months.

The usual objections are also addressed, namely: (a) The mainstream media is biased, putting the worst light on things and even making up stories. (b) Not all Muslims are the same. (c) The media concentrates on the bad news and ignores the good news.

More to the point

It would do a lot more good for everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, if the thought and effort going into “inviting people to Islam” and “ informing humanity about the truth and noble message of Islam” went into changing the attitudes and practices of Muslims themselves.

It seems reform is a dirty word in Islam – you can’t reform something which is supposed to be perfect – but something like reform is needed. Out of the multitude of faces Islam presents to the world, the multitude of practices and beliefs, Muslims have to decide which are right for the modern age and which will enable good relations with the rest of humanity.

Annex 1 – The iERA

From the iERA website

“iERA is an international dawah organisation committed to educating and informing humanity about the truth and noble message of Islam.

Our work is focused around creating a mass movement in dawah, on a scale that would be unprecedented in modern history. As an academy, we support our work through research led initiatives which are developed as projects or ‘models’. For this reason iERA has a dedicated research department; the first of its kind for a Muslim organisation in the West. These projects have already made a big impression in the community; these include Mission Dawah, Muslim Now, One Reason and The BIG Debates.

In addition to this we have full time Islamic speakers (da’ees) who deliver lectures, seminars and training courses.

iERA looks to dovetail into existing dawah efforts, by enhancing their effectiveness, whilst exploring new and innovative methods to reach different audiences and breakdown barriers.”

The iERA website also gives a list of its Advisors which includes Zakir Naik and Bilal Philips both recently banned from entering the UK by Theresa May, the Home Secretary. See Also The Zakir Naik School of Comparitive Religion

Wiki defines dawah as follows

Da‘wah usually denotes preaching of Islam. Da‘wah means literally "issuing a summons" or "making an invitation", being the active participle of a verb meaning variously "to summon, to invite"

A Muslim who practices da‘wah, either as a religious worker or in a volunteer community effort, is called a da‘i, plural du‘at. A da‘i is thus a person who invites people to understand Islam through a dialogical process, and may be categorized in some cases as the Islamic equivalent of a missionary, as one who invites people to the faith, to the prayer, or to Islamic life.

Annex 2 – The EIF

From the EIF website

The Exploring Islam Foundation (EIF) specialises in authoring, publishing and marketing high quality resources which creatively explore the numerous aspects of Islam.

EIF was established to fulfil the following aims:

Challenge misconceptions surrounding Islam and Muslims Raise awareness about the belief, practice, history, and cultures of Islam Collaborate with organisations on humanitarian issues Highlight the contribution of Muslims to civilisation

Our vision is of establishing a Foundation that challenges the damaging stereotypes about Islam through the medium of creative resources. These information packages will provide a comprehensive insight to the faith. We envisage working across the spectrum of media outlets, from traditional print media to innovative e-media. We expect to build strong coalitions with like-minded organisations and campaigns that are addressing global challenges in which we have a common aim. We cannot possibly ignore issues like child poverty, climate change, third world development, Aids and war; to do so would be to disregard our duty towards one another, as Muslims, as humans.

People

The Foundation is managed by a board of British Muslim professionals from a diverse range of expertise – strategy consultants, magazine editors, journalists, authors, public-relation experts, art directors and marketing executives. The patron is Lord Adam Patel of the House of Lords.

Annex 3 – Selection of results in readable tabular form

How much do you know about
% Who sayIslamThe Qur'an
Don't have any knowledge5573
Have very little knowledge2520
Have basic knowledge177
Am knowledgeable31
Am an expert00

5

How would you best describe your perception of Islamic sharia law? - % Who say:
Very NegativeQuite NegativeNeutralQuite PositiveVery PositiveNot Stated
161464203

6

How would you describe your perception of Muslims in general? - % Who say:
Very NegativeQuite NegativeNeutralQuite PositiveVery PositiveNot Stated
1116551531

7

Do you think Muslims are the major cause of community tensions? - % Who say:
YesNoDon't knowNot stated
32252716

11

"Muslims positively engage in society" - % Who:
Disagree StronglyDisagree SlightlyNeither Agree nor Disagree Agree SlightlyAgree Strongly
181840176

13

"Muslims are terrorists" - % Who:
Disagree StronglyDisagree SlightlyNeither Agree nor Disagree Agree SlightlyAgree Strongly
201739177

14

"Islam oppresses women" % Who:
Disagree StronglyDisagree SlightlyNeither Agree nor Disagree Agree SlightlyAgree Strongly
24352930

15

"The media is negatively biased towards Islam and Muslims" % Who:
Disagree StronglyDisagree SlightlyNeither Agree nor Disagree Agree SlightlyAgree Strongly
91448208

16

"Muslims preach hatred" - % Who:
Disagree StronglyDisagree SlightlyNeither Agree nor Disagree Agree SlightlyAgree Strongly
161438239

17

"Islam is outdated" - % Who:
Disagree StronglyDisagree SlightlyNeither Agree nor Disagree Agree SlightlyAgree Strongly
77501917

22

Would you like to know more about Islam? % Who say:
YesNoDon't knowNot stated
777105

Annex 4 – Amazing Recommendations

These selected recommendations and the passages we have emphasized are perfect examples of the fanatical mind at work.

They also show the Islamist character of the iERA; that Islam is a political and social system as well as a religion.

(7) Create a New Language by Removing Overtly Religious Connotations and Building Concepts

…. in this post-secular society there seems to be no psychological or social drivers to increase an interest in religion, and particularly Islam. We recommend that a strategy needs to be developed to ensure that publications and all relevant messages are captured by the target audience.

This may include couching the language of relevant presentations and publications in a new language that is appealing and engaging. This can be done by removing overtly religious connotations and explaining the uniqueness and comprehensive nature of the message of Islam. [In order to attract attention they propose to hide what they stand for. Good of them to be so frank about their dishonesty. It is also a massive condemnation of what they stand for.]

In addition to this, concepts and messages that attract the intellectual and emotional context of the target audience must be used; with an obvious link to the key message that needs to be delivered.

(8) Promote Religion and Show Islam’s Uniqueness

We also recommend that there should be an overall strategy to show that Islam is not just a religion [Islamism] thereby highlighting the importance and relevance of the Islamic way of life. In addition to this we suggest that religion in general must be shown to have been misconstrued in our post¬secular society, thereby removing the mental obstacles apparent in the wider community.

Regarding showing that Islam is not just a religion, a focus may be required to divorce the apparent view that all religions are the same and that they have experienced the same history. It must be highlighted that Islam must not be viewed through the eyes of European history or understood by fallacious references to Catholic intolerance and coercion in the past.

Rather, Islam and its history must be viewed without a reference to the historical or intellectual baggage that is specific to Europe and Britain. Superimposing a specific negative history to understand another world view is fallacious and only skews understanding.

To really understand Islam, or any other world view for that matter, it must be understood as it intends to be. [So we ignore what Islam has achieved and its effects over the last 1500 years.]

(16) Promote Islamic Civilisation and Islam’s Solutions to Modern Problems

The trends of this research have strongly suggested that the non-Muslim population feel that religion is irrelevant in today’s modern society. [The research did not cover this; the relevance or otherwise of religion in general. (What on earth on the “trends of the research”?) It is what the iERA want you to believe and, of course, it helps justify their programme in their eyes.] Combined with apathy and indifference to religion we recommend the Muslims and subsequently non-Muslims are educated on the significant impact that Islamic civilisation has had on the Western world, its unique worldview in providing political and social solutions, including Islam’s ability to address unprecedented problems facing the modern world.

The issue of global economy is a good example to highlight Islam’s relevancy in the 21st century. Islam addresses the issue of global poverty by dealing with the number one problem in economics: the distribution of resources. This stems from the geo-political view announced by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him). The Prophet stated that human beings have limited essential needs and there are enough resources in the planet to cater for these needs.

This is in contrast to the Western (or capitalist) view that there are unlimited needs and not enough resources. The latter creates excessive competition whereas the Prophetic view facilitates distribution, thereby dealing with the number one economic problem. Although this is not the space to elaborate in detail, it is a useful insight on the applicability of Islam in the modern world.

[This sounds like third-form economic analysis. What about production? Distribution isn’t much use unless there is something to distribute. Regarding a balance between man and nature it would be interesting to know what the iERA think about population growth especially as Islam seems so keen on women staying at home and producing children.]

[We might ask why so many Islamic counties are amongst the most poor and backward, apart from islands of enormous wealth – and not much distribution of that going on - brought about by the West’s need for oil.]

(19) Invite People to the Islamic Worldview

This research has highlighted an important view held by iERA that in order to be successful in dawah, dealing with all the apparent negative perceptions and misconceptions of the non-Muslim community may be counterproductive in wanting to convince them of the truth of the Islamic worldview.

…. A view adopted by iERA is that responding and dealing with each of these perceptions actually contradicts the essence of Islam. Islam fundamentally expounds upon the idea of submission to God and its moral philosophy is driven by the view that God is determinative of what good is, and since he has announced himself to mankind in the form of the Qur’an, then that becomes the anchor for all moral teachings.

Therefore it can be argued that linking all of our actions as Muslims to our worldview will not only show people the truth of the philosophical foundations of the Islamic faith but it will also contextualize and provide the conceptual framework for non-Muslims to understand aspects of Islam they had negative perceptions about, in addition to highlighting the validity and human relevance of our view for life. [This recommendation is utter baloney.]