Murdoch’s Sun slammed for wrongly claiming 1 in 5 Muslims supports ISIS

© Stefan Wermuth
British tabloid newspaper the Sun has wrongly interpreted an opinion poll of British Muslims’ attitudes to Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL), claiming one in five have sympathy with those who travel abroad to join the terrorist group.

The newspaper has come under fire for misrepresenting the results of a poll, which asked British Muslims how they felt “about young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria.”

The Sun appears to have spun the results of the poll to suggest up to 20 percent of Muslims in the UK sympathize with the terror group, despite the fact ISIS has killed tens of thousands of Muslims.

The poll’s publication comes amid soaring Islamophobia in the UK following the Paris attacks, with 115 Muslim women alone suffering hate crimes in the past week.

According to the Survation poll commissioned by the Sun, one-fifth of British Muslims expressed sympathy with young Muslims who travel abroad to join fighters in Syria.

However, the ambiguous nature of the question means it could refer equally to groups fighting against ISIS such as the Kurdish YPG militia. Brits traveling abroad to join anti-ISIS fighters have largely been received positively in the press and on social media.

Pundits have also pointed out the term “sympathy” is broad and can be a way of saying they understand why someone has come to do something, even if they think it is wrong.

It could also mean that those polled feel sorry for young Muslims who have fled to Syria to fight.

Manchester University academic Maria Sobolewska, who has studied polls on social attitudes to extremism, says such surveys are unreliable.

Having studied in depth the public opinion polls of British Muslims following the 2005 bombings in London, and having asked the same questions about support for terrorism among the non-Muslim British public, I can say with certainty that public opinion polls have no value for estimating the number of prospective and likely extremists and terrorists,” she wrote in a blog last year.

The Sun’s misrepresentation of the poll has worrying implications for Muslims in the UK who face rising rates of Islamophobia, according to a report by Tell Mama.

Hate crimes against Muslims jumped by more than 300 percent in the week after the Paris attacks, with the majority of victims being girls and women aged 14 to 45 in tradition Islamic dress. The perpetrators were mainly white males aged 15 to 35.

Many of the victims have suggested that no one came to their assistance or even consoled them, meaning they felt victimized, embarrassed, alone and angry about what had taken place against them,” the report said.

A senior Muslim religious leader has said that a whole generation of young British imams are under huge pressure to develop leadership on social and political issues, while also facing death threats from ISIS.

Imam Qari Asim, of the Makkah masjid in Leeds, told the Guardian that British Muslims are just as much a target for ISIS as anybody else.

To them, ISIS, I am not any different to any other person in this cafe, or in a restaurant in Paris. For them, I am not a Muslim either.”

Qari signed a string of letters from groups of British Muslims condemning ISIS last week. One letter, written by Imam Abdassamad Clarke, explained how Muslims view the terrorist group.

This group has long been known to Muslims as Kharijites, literally “those who have gone out” of the Muslim community. They are nihilists and do not represent the clear teachings of Islam at all.”

They’ve hijacked our faith, they are using the terminology of our faith, and as a result I have to say it has nothing to do with our faith.”