|The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph both draw attention to early findings from the British Social Attitudes Survey, which is to be published in full later this month. According to the papers:|
- 52 per cent think of people interviewed think Britain is deeply divided along religious lines
- 55 per cent of people said they would be 'bothered' if a large mosque was built in their locality while only 15 per cent said they would have similar concerns about a church being built locally
- Only one in four people in Britain feel positively about Islam
- And less than half of those questioned in the BSA survey, 45 per cent, felt that diversity had brought benefits to the UK.
The findings are both disconcerting and revealing. For example, to what extent do negative sentiments on the building of mosques owe their provenance to disproportionate media coverage of mosque planning applications (think of the hysteria built up around the so called ‘mega-mosque’ in East London) and the ‘No More Mosques’ placards prominently brandished by the English (Welsh and Scottish) Defence League on their marches through local towns? As well as their targeting mosques as sites for demonstration?
And to what extent does the perception of Britain being divided along religious lines and the pervasive negative feelings about Islam owe their stirrings to the media’s obsession with fringe groups which deliberately provoke antagonism between Muslims and others, despite their not representing any significant number of British Muslims?
That only one in four people feels positively about Islam is distressing to say the least and Muslims have much work to do in rectifying this dire state of affairs. But lest it be forgotten, and the blame for this situation laid elsewhere, Muslims should also be working to highlight and rectify the persistent imbalance in coverage given to Muslim fringe groups by media outlets determined to represent Islam as the eternal ‘other’ in British society.
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