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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The extreme social conservatism of British Muslims

There's an interesting thread on this survey over at Gene Expression.

Here are some results for different questions in the survey. For each question, the figures on the left are for the general population and those on the right are for Muslims.

For each question, the top figures are for French (general population then Muslims), middle for Germans (general population then Muslims), bottom for British (general population then Muslims).

% Who say homosexual acts "morally acceptable"
78 ... 35
68 ... 19
58 ... 0

% Who say abortion is "morally acceptable"
78 ... 35
47 ... 19
55 ... 5

% Who say viewing pornography is "morally acceptable"
43 ... 16
58 ... 18
35 ... 1

% Who say sex between an unmarried man and women are "morally acceptable"
90 ... 48
88 ... 27
82 ... 2

% Who say that an affair between married men and women is "morally acceptable"
46 ... 14
24 ... 6
15 ... 2

% Who say that suicide is "morally acceptable"
43 ... 14
29 ... 4
32 ... 2

% Who say that the death penalty is "morally acceptable"
35 ... 24
27 ... 27
50 ... 63

The figures are fascinating, and could entice a lot of speculations, but it would be good to know more. E.g., I'd love to see comparable figures for some Western democracies outside of Europe, such as the US, Australia, and Canada. I'd also like to see the general populations compared to other specific groups, religious or otherwise, as well as Muslims.

It's interesting that Muslims are far more in favour of the death penalty than the general population in Britain, but the reverse is true in France (where support for the death penalty in both groups is much lower than in Britain). With all the other issues, Muslims are far more socially conservative in all countries, but the conservatism of British Muslims looks quite extraordinary, even compared with that of Muslims from France and Germany. Whether this tells us something about the cultures from which the various Muslim populations were derived or something about the cultures of the three countries surveyed, or something else again, is impossible for me to say.


The Jules said...

Ha - our muslims are far more conservative than theirs! In your faces, softy fundies!

Anonymous said...

It'd be interesting to see exactly how the questions were put in each language. That aside, can homosexuality be described as "morally acceptable" or "morally unacceptable"?

Elephant said...

Anonymous has a point.

One of the most striking features of Islam is how prescriptive it is. There's very little middle ground - either you must act in a particular way or you must not. Purely anecdotally, I always found traces of this whenever I had conversations with (British, of Pakistani ancestry) Muslims.

Ask someone with this mindset if X is morally acceptable and there's at least a possibility that what they hear is "is X the correct way to behave". That's going to mess up the stats by exaggerating whatever social conservatism there is.

Steve Zara said...

Russell- you may find the following as "amusing" as I do:

From the UK Guardian's resident apologist, Andrew Brown:

"These polls are not ideal. The sample size, though large in absolute terms (with 500 Muslims and 1000 non-Muslims surveyed in each country) is not large enough to eliminate a large margin of error (5% for the Muslim figures, 3% for the general public) so only the broadest pictures are trustworthy and some results, such as the 0% of British Muslims apparently tolerant of homosexual acts are not to be taken literally."

I feel deeply comforted that there may be only 95% of UK Muslims who feel that my active homosexuality is intolerable.

However, to be honest, I don't trust these figures. What I would really like to know is how many UK Muslims would find it acceptable to admit to tolerating homosexuality.