Written by Jack Doyle
Daily Mail, London
11 June 2010
Osama bin Laden: Behind the Prophet Muhammed, he is the person Britons thought best represented Islam
Islam is linked to violent extremism in the minds of most Britons, according to a survey.
The YouGov poll also revealed widespread concern about the impact of the faith on British values.
It found nearly six in ten associate Islam with radical views, and two-thirds believe it encourages the repression of women.
Behind the Prophet Muhammed, the person Britons thought best represented Islam was Osama bin Laden.
Muslim groups disputed the findings, saying they did not think the poll represented the true beliefs of British people.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadan Foundation said: 'I think this is not a fair reflection of the tolerance, diversity and respect people have for Muslims.
'Christians, Jews and people of no faith recognise Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace and they know that people who carry out terrorist attacks do not represent Islam and are not acting in the name of Islam.'
The poll was commissioned by the Exploring Islam Foundation as part of a campaign aimed at improving the image of Muslims.
Posters of Muslim professionals will appear on buses and the London Underground in an attempt to give a positive slant on their contribution to Britain. Each declares why they are, in the campaign's title, 'Inspired by Muhammed'.
It is led by former MTV presented Kristiane Backer, who declares herself to be an 'eco-Muslim'. She said Islam's values were 'universal' and 'sit well with British values'.
But the poll of 2,152 adults found less than one in seven people regard Islam as a peaceful religion and one third see it as actively violent.
Less than one in five believe it has a positive impact on British society and 68 per cent say it encourages the repression of women.
A third of those polled said the Prophet Muhammed best represented Islam, followed by the Al Qaeda leader with 13 per cent.
Just six percent associated Islam with either justice or protecting the environment.
The charity's patron, Labour peer Lord Patel of Blackburn, said the poll caused him 'deep concern'.
'Islam has been a part of British life for generations and British Muslims make an important contribution to the UK’s economic and social well-being, and its rich cultural diversity.
'Yet as this poll demonstrates today there remains a great deal of misunderstanding and distrust at the role of Islam and Muslim in Britain today. As a British Muslim, proud of my faith and my country, this causes me deep concern.'
A spokesman for the Quilliam Foundation, the counter-extremism think tank, said: 'This campaign is important because it can help non-Muslims to better understand the faith that inspires and guides their Muslim friends, neighbours, and colleagues.
'This initiative also helps British Muslims reclaim the Prophet Muhammad as a time-honoured guide for peace, compassion and social justice from those who seek to twist his teachings.'