UK survey at odds with Government over terror

By Robert Verkaik

LONDON - Claims by MI5 and the Government that large numbers of young Muslims support terrorism are countered in a new survey that shows less than 1 per cent of the Islamic community sympathise with the actions of the 7/7 London bombers.

The findings are published in the wake of a speech made by Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, director-general of MI5, in which she said that opinion polls indicated that over 100,000 of British citizens consider the July attacks were justified.

The new survey: Muslim views: Foreign policy and its effects, was carried out across the Muslim community in October and concludes that there is almost no support for terrorism amongst the Muslim community with just 1 per cent of those surveyed supporting the 7/7 London bombings.

Dame Eliza's speech follows on from Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett's comments instructing British Muslims to "stand up and be counted", and are seen as softening up the public in advance of new security measures expected to be announced in the Queen's Speech today.

The 1990 Trust found that surveys by pollsters such as ICM and YouGov are showing artificially high rates of support for extremism because of the way questions are asked.

Karen Chouhan of the 1990 Trust described the misuse of the surveys to present an unrealistic threat as "irresponsible" and designed to create a "moral panic".

She warned " ... [it will] ... pave the way for renewed legislative assaults on civil liberties and can only serve to fuel fears and hostility towards Muslim communities in the UK. More investment should be made in highlighting the positives of Muslim contribution, and reviewing foreign policy - these are the main two measures, which will decrease disaffection. Why is it that the positive stories don't make the news or politicians speeches - because it doesn't suit their agenda of maintaining the foreign policy and deflecting their blame on to Muslims"

Key points in the survey showed 91 per cent of Muslims in Britain disagree with the UK's foreign policy, 82 per cent have become more radicalised in recent times but in the form of attending demonstrations, writing to their MPs etc (46 per cent), and less than 1 per cent of Muslims say they obtain information on the Middle East from mosques and clerics.

Last week Dame Eliza said the security agency had uncovered up to 30 alleged "mass casualty" terror plots in operation in Britain, as well as hundreds of young British Muslims on a path to radicalisation.

In an unprecedented public announcement on Thursday, the head of MI5 revealed that the caseload of the Security Services had risen by 80 per cent since January, and that the counter-terrorism agency was fighting to keep the rapidly growing threat under control

Describing the scale of the home-grown terrorist problem, she said MI5 and the police were tackling 200 groups or networks totalling more than 1600 identified individuals in the UK who were "actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts".

Speaking to an audience at the department of contemporary British history at Queen Mary College in London, Dame Eliza said because of the sheer scale of what MI5 faces, the issue was daunting. "We shan't always make the right choices and we recognise that we shall have 'scare sympathy' if we are unable to prevent one of our targets committing an atrocity."

The nature of the threat was increasing because of the radicalisation of British Muslims, including some as young as 16, and it "will be with us for a generation".

The survey

Muslim views: Foreign policy and its effects concludes there is almost no support for terrorism among the Muslim community.

91 per cent of Muslims in Britain disagree with the UK's foreign policy
82 per cent of Muslims have become more radicalised in recent times but in the form of attending demonstrations, writing to their MPs etc (46 per cent).
1 per cent of those surveyed supported the London bombings.
1 per cent of Muslims say they obtain information on the Middle East from mosques and clerics.

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