|Islam in England|
The most striking aspect of this week's More or Less on Radio 4, however, was its treatment of ICM/Channel 4's 'What British Muslims Really Think' survey.
The programme approached it in its usual debunking spirit, and that tone was maintained throughout.
Oddly though, the tone was at odds with its findings. And it felt to me as if that was because the programme was engaging in doublethink. They laid out the facts, yet sounded so sceptical about them as to sound snide and dismissive. They sounded as if they didn't want to believe it.
The three types of poll were laid out and ranked: internet polls, telephone polls and person-to-person interviews. Though all were judged imperfect, the face-to-face ones were judged the best. And this ICM/Channel 4 poll was a face-to-face poll.
Then a polling expert laid out why the ICM/Channel 4 poll might be "skewed" (a word the programme kept using).
He said that, because of costs, ICM/Channel 4 had to go to areas with heavy Muslim populations. To do otherwise would have been ridiculously costly. That, therefore, excluded Muslims who live in areas where they are few other Muslims. And, it was inferred, such Muslims would be more likely to be liberal (as they have to associate far more often with non-Muslim Brits) than the conservative Muslims huddled together in Britain's big towns and cities.
Thus, the survey was "skewed" in that it gave more emphasis to inward-looking, 'conservative', urban-dwelling Muslims. (I wondered just how many isolated, liberal, rural or suburban Muslims there actually are out there.)
It may just be me but I felt More or Less sounded a bit deflated, however, when the expert then went on to say that - despite that - this ICM/Channel 4 poll was the best survey we've ever had on Muslim opinion in the UK (thus - though this wasn't said - putting the BBC's much-touted past polling into question), and that we need to take it seriously.
None of that then stopped More or Less from continuing with a snide, haughty tone about the ICM/Channel 4 poll and implying it overestimated the 'conservative' (i.e. extreme) element in the British Muslim population. and that this should have been made clearer by ICM/Channel 4.
I remain doubtful about that. And for anyone who wondered, quite sensibly I'd have thought, whether the polling was actually "skewed" in the opposite direction - by some British Muslims downplaying their real views because they were talking to an outsider (a pollster) or by some British Muslim engaging in Taqiyya - well, you probably won't be surprised to hear that such thoughts never seemed to have crossed the minds of those nice, liberal-minded, 'impartial' folk at More or Less.
It was all a bit odd really - as much of this kind of hand-wringing BBC Radio 4 treatment of Islam in the UK can so often be. The reality seemed to have been glimpsed but everyone on the programme appeared to want to run away from it.