What some Muslims think of 'what British Muslims really think'

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Image caption Some British Muslims have responded to the poll with typically British humour.

What do British Muslims really think? It's a question that news organisations have repeatedly tried to answer since the terror attacks of 9/11 and 7/7, and one that suggests that maybe the person asking isn't a British Muslim.

Some Muslims have expressed their weariness at these regular enquiries about their opinions, which they believe may be motivated by a desire to demonise them in the eyes of the non-Muslim population or to portray Muslims as a community with a single homogeneous opinion. But others believe these surveys are an important way of raising difficult and important questions about divides within society.

This whole debate has been re-opened by a new poll, but this time some Muslims have chosen to use humour to respond to findings which they feel are not representative of their attitudes.

The poll entitled "What do British Muslims really think?" was commissioned by Channel 4, a British television station, and its results will form part of a documentary to be broadcast on Wednesday. It was conducted by the respected ICM polling company who spoke to 1081 adults between 25 April and 31 May last year. A summary of its conclusions was published in the Sunday Times newspaper over the weekend, and has generated reams of media coverage in response. More than half of those polled disagreed that homosexuality should be legal in Britain, for example. The full results can be downloaded here.

Commenting on the results, Trevor Philips, former head of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, told the newspaper: "I thought Europe's Muslims would gradually blend into Britain's diverse landscape. I should have known better."

But in an apparent attempt to prove him and the poll findings wrong, some British Muslims are taking to Twitter to highlight what they have in common with their countrymen - a sense of the ridiculous, and an appreciation of the banal aspects of everyday life. A Conservative politician, Baroness Warsi, the former Minister of State for Faith and Communities, kicked it off.

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The hashtag #WhatBritishMuslimsReallyThink has been used more than 4,000 times on Twitter and while some are making light of the poll's results, the jokes appear amidst a heated debate on the topic. There has also been robust reaction to Mr Phillips' interpretation of the findings and his name was also trending on Monday after he made several media appearances including on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.


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Mr Phillips, who will present the documentary on Wednesday, wrote in the Sunday Times that the poll illustrated truths that some would find uncomfortable. "Liberal opinion in Britain has, for more than two decades, maintained that most Muslims are just like everyone else... we now know that just isn't how it is," he wrote. His comments were seized on by, among others, the disgraced former leader of the anti-Islamic English Defence League.

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This was the response from the Chair of the Muslim Women's Network UK.

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This isn't the first time a survey about British Muslim's opinions has stirred up controversy on social media. In December 2015 the Sun newspaper published the headline "1 in 5 Brit Muslims' sympathy for jihadis", triggering a huge backlash on Twitter. Its reporting of the results was later deemed "significantly misleading" by the Independent Press Standards Organisation following a slew of complaints.

A different survey commissioned by the BBC in February 2015 found that 93% of Muslims living in Britain believed they should follow British laws. In the same survey, 27% said they had some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Full results of the poll can be downloaded here.

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