Almost all influential British Muslims consider the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, to be an illegitimate organization. At least, that’s according to a survey released this week by the Muslim news site 5Pillars and circulating online Thursday.
The independent media outlet partnered with Pickersgill Consultancy and Planning to identify and question a group of 150 journalists, scholars, activists, leaders and business owners considered to be Muslim public figures last fall in the United Kingdom. About 95 percent of them agreed with the statement that “ISIS does not represent the mainstream Muslim community and is an illegitimate Islamic state,” while 91 percent concurred with the sentiment that “Islam promotes compassion and justice for all people regardless of religion, social status, race or any other context.”
The goal of the poll was to give readers an idea of what “normative Islam” was like in modern society and “increase the understanding of Islam amongst the British public,” according to the 5Pillars report. The U.K. has a Muslim population of more than 2.7 million people, and their beliefs have been in the spotlight recently amid news reports about ISIS militant attacks worldwide. Discussion spiked last year after the discovery of a British ISIS member nicknamed Jihadi John and tabloid headlines that suggested 20 percent of British Muslims have “sympathy for jihadis [warriors against nonbelievers].”
Editor Roshan Muhammed Salih told RT he wanted the survey results to be seen as an “easy reference point for media and politicians,” which can cause harm when they promote skewed views of the religion. About 5 percent of the general population in the U.K. is Muslim.
“The labeling of Muslims as ‘moderates,’ ‘liberals,’ ‘reformists,’ ‘conservative,’ ‘extremists’ and ‘Islamists’ has become the norm in Britain,” the report read. “Inevitably, this has resulted in division and misunderstandings within the Muslim community, as well as Britain’s non-Muslim public.”
The influential Brits interviewed for the survey seemed to share relatively similar views, with more than 90 percent of respondents agreeing on 11 statements, including “There is no compulsion in religion. No one can be forced to become a Muslim” and “God does not take the form of His creation.” They had low levels of agreement on items like “Jihad, as is mandated in the Quran, is used to maintain or restore order, peace and security or to remove oppression and injustice” and “Islam obligates people to obey and follow their leadership and their community as long as it does not conflict with Islamic morals, principles and values,” according to the report.
The respondents disagreed on tenets like “The segregation of men and women in religious and closed public settings is recommended for the best interest of society and acts as a safeguarding mechanism for the preservation of virtue” and “Opposing established consensus of the companions of the Prophet is impermissible.”
The people surveyed were 80 percent male and 91 percent Sunni. Most of them had some sort of academic degree. The authors and other experts acknowledged the bias in the report and cautioned Brits not to make generalizations based on the data.
“As expected, the results of the survey did not differ significantly from the Islam that had been agreed upon by early Muslims and inherited by successive generations,” Haitham al-Haddad, a judge for the Islamic Sharia Council, told Islam21C. “However it is important to remember that normative Islam is not what is defined by a group of British scholars; it has been defined by the scholars from all over the world throughout history.”