Few UK Muslims have sympathy for Paris attack motives, most oppose violence: poll

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2015 7:12 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - One in four British Muslims say they have some sympathy with the motives behind the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo but the vast majority think attacks on those who publish images of the Prophet Mohammad are wrong, a poll has found.

Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Jan. 7, including the magazine's editor and several of its prominent cartoonists, in revenge for its publication of satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad.

In a poll of 1,000 Muslims commissioned by the BBC and published on Wednesday, 27 percent of respondents said they agreed with the statement: "I have some sympathy for the motives behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris". Sixty-two percent said they had no sympathy.

Seventy-eight percent felt it was "deeply offensive" personally when images of Mohammad were published and 11 percent felt sympathetic toward people who want to fight against Western interests.

However, 68 percent said acts of violence against those who printed images of Mohammad were never justified, and 85 percent said organizations which published such images did not deserve to be attacked.

Britain has approximately 2.8 million Muslims, who make up just under 5 percent of the population.

Senior politicians have regularly called on the Muslim community to do more to counter violent Islamist extremism in the wake of incidents such as the 2005 London bombings and the murder of a soldier in the capital in 2013, both of which were carried out by young British Muslims.

Many Muslims say they feel they are unfairly targeted as a result and blamed for the actions of a small minority.

The BBC/ComRes survey found that 95 percent of respondents said they felt a loyalty to Britain and 93 percent said they should always obey British laws.

Almost half said they thought prejudice against Islam made it difficult to be a Muslim in Britain, which they felt was becoming less tolerant of Muslims.

Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative politician who as former minister of state for faith and communities was the first Muslim to serve as a cabinet minister in Britain, told BBC Radio more data such as this should be collected.

"One of the problems we have had in relation to good policy-making around our minority communities is that it has become headline driven...and sensationalist and is therefore not dealing with the long-term problem in a calm way," she said.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Angus MacSwan)