What do Channel 4, Trevor Phillips and ICM really think about Muslims?

Another survey of British Muslims tarnished by bad intentions and bad methodology

It was billed as a “unique new survey” supported by “ground breaking research, the most comprehensive and revealing examination of what Muslims in Britain really think.

You know, what they really really think behind the dissembling, mealy mouthed, camouflaged sensibility that stutters and chooses words delicately when responding to questions about Sharia law. Directed at Uber drivers who pre-edit their English all too suspiciously up and down the country every day.

Or what they’re really really thinking your exposed lips and cheekbones says about your moral virtue as they walk past with a face veil.

Channel 4’s What Do British Muslims Really Think poll decided the best place to bare the truth about Muslims frustrating non-Muslims with answers about god-fearing piety that don’t compute when checked against what we see and hear in the news, was to question them face to face, in their homes, where they will be least likely to resort to ‘taqiyya’, which, in the crookedly parsed lexicon of the Islamophobe, is the authority for Muslims to lie.

Fair enough.

Where did the commissioned pollsters, ICM, decide to find these Muslims? In Muslims areas where they are more than 20% of the population, of course. Ok, that makes sense, possibly. There’s plenty of these areas to choose from in Britain and it covers just over 50% of the total Muslim population. We’ll send Muslim interviewers too. That’s how we’ll make sure we find out what they really think, what they really really think about Jews, jihad, gays, women, stoning, FGM (The Uber driver’s lying, it’s Islam), forced marriages and Sharia law.


What if the areas selected for the polling are deprived areas where conservative attitudes are disproportionately prevalent that could compromise the title of our survey gaffer?

How would 587 out of the 1081 respondents in the survey being unemployed favour responses founded on ill-informed and benighted refinements of religion Trev? Aah.

What of conservative Muslim respondents from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds whose answers — on whether homosexuality should be legal or not and if they want homosexuals to teach their children- may be compromised by the fact they might fear being judged negatively by the Muslim man or woman interviewing them and thus choose what they perceive are the face-saving safety of strict interpretations?

Are we aware that most Muslims will have a completely different thought route to the one the questions wants them to take when mentioning ‘Sharia’ and ‘Sharia Law’?

Lots of questions about Jews, that’s certain to confirm what we already suspect. In fact, for good measure, a quarter of the question should be about Jews.

Let’s also remember to forget about the responses from the non-Muslim control groups that respond similarly to Muslims or whose answers don’t fit the narrative we want to present on TV, like the 23% of Sikhs who said they support the ‘way in which Islamic State/ ISIS/ ISIL is trying to establish a Caliphate’ or the 15% of Jews supporting the ‘objective to create an Islamic state’. That amounts to 99,000 Sikh and 55,000 Jewish ISIS supporters out there translating hyperbolic Iron Maiden lyrics in Arabic Comic Sans for the coming ISIS invasion.

The control group anomalies above, derived from 8 and 6 respondents respectively, underscore the meaningless utility of this poll as a whole when you consider that the selection criteria for this group did not have a limiting geographical or demographic component. For the opinions of the control group to hold any value, a larger sample of respondents would’ve been required, and further, only once it was established that the net wasn’t cast in concentrations of those ethno-religious populations, would such a poll be anything like representative. And the same applies for the Muslim only poll.

A polling sample that removed the liability of the shortcoming above and representing the missing 49% of Muslims who didn’t live in inner city areas where the Muslim population is more than 20% would almost certainly have presented a picture similar to that seen in countries such as the United States where attitudes towards homosexuals, for instance, are much more enlightened. The argument here is a socio-economic one that the picture in the polling data shows no connection to as it likes and retweets its way to the Katie Hopkins, Kelvin Mackenzie, Richard Littlejohns of this world, despite attracting significant criticism for its compromised methodology.

Compromised or not, there are outcomes for progressive strategies for the Muslims in the areas polled to engage with. One of which is how it is that 41% of Muslims think Islamophobia is more of a problem today than 5 years ago compared to 60% of non-Muslims? (73% of Muslims said ‘religious harassment of Muslims wasn’t a problem’). Muslims are either less exposed to anti-Muslim prejudice today than non-Muslims think they are, or they aren’t aware of Islamophobia as much as non-Muslims are.

The problematic sampling method used by ICM finds oddities like this as anti-Muslim prejudice is less likely to be experienced in concentrated areas of Muslims, and because -in 2016- many Muslims in these deprived parts of Britain are less engaged with what the papers say, the national conversation about Muslims and Richard Dawkins’ Islamophobia.

The choice of questions and the manner in which Trevor Phillips keyed his language to conduct on the basest and most ignorant fears about Islam and Muslims made Channel 4’s What British Muslims Really Think an irresistible feast for the newspapers and the right-wing establishment baying for fodder to address the Muslim ‘problem’.

“A nation within a nation” and a “looming threat to our way of life” were invoked, the equivalent of 100,000 terrorists in the UK sold well on those with capital invested in Islamophobia, and warnings the programme would “shock” innervated the tantalised fibres that captivates our confirmation bias when the Muslim issue is spoken of.

However, the shock that followed was secured by peddling softly the dark arts of journalism to satisfy the affirmation cravings of a metropolitan liberal extremist no stranger to sowing discord for a depreciating gain and whose bare-faced enmity really should’ve merited the programme-makers sticking with the original title of ‘What do Channel 4, Trevor Phillips and ICM really think about Muslims?’.