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65% of young British Muslims oppose Israel’s right to exist

A generational gap is emerging among British Muslims. Credit: Getty

April 9, 2024 - 7:00am

Two-thirds of young British Muslims believe Israel should not exist as a Jewish homeland, according to a major new poll.

Based on a survey of 1000 British Muslims, an astonishing 65% of the religious group aged 18-24 said they did not believe Israel has a right to exist. Within the 45-54 demographic, the percentage of those who agree with the statement is almost half that, at 34%. Across all age groups, the proportion who agreed with the statement is 49%.

The J.L. Partners survey also found that 80% of respondents in both the 18-24 and 25-34 brackets believe that Israel is a racist endeavour, compared to 67% in the 55+ age category, suggesting younger British Muslims have far stronger views on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

These results come six months after Hamas’s 7 October attack, where public opinion has gradually hardened against Israel since. As early as February of this year, more Brits sympathised with Palestinians than with each side equally for the first time since the beginning of the war. As of March, 28% of Brits sympathise with Palestine more than Israel, whilst 27% sympathise equally with both sides and only 15% sympathise more with Israel.

According to the JLP poll, more than a third of respondents aged 18-34 said that they view Hamas positively, and over a quarter said they have a favourable view of jihad.

The JLP poll also asked respondents about attitudes toward various social issues including homosexuality, Christianity in public life and the influence of Jewish people in society. The findings show that 36% of Muslims in the 18-24 age group believe that Jews have too much power in the media and financial sectors, while 44% think Jews have excessive influence over government policy.

These findings arrive at a fraught moment in British Muslim relations. Nearly three years on from the Batley Grammar School incident, Dame Sara Khan published a report on the threats to social cohesion in British public life. It found that there was “a climate of fear” being created at some schools as community faith leaders had aggressively interfered in school teaching, while schools had not been given sufficient support to combat the problem.

The JLP data suggests that a substantial number of British Muslims may show similar hardline views. Of Britain’s young Muslims, 59% believe it would be very or somewhat desirable to make showing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed illegal, with 33% saying that implementing Sharia law in the UK would be desirable.

According to the 2021 census, Britain’s Muslim population currently stands at 3.9 million, making up roughly 6.5% of all UK citizens. This was up from a population of 2.7 million in 2011, when the Muslim population made up 5% of British citizens.

After three British aid workers were killed in an airstrike that hit a World Central Kitchen convoy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under increasing pressure to take a tougher line on Israel. He responded to the deaths by calling on Benjamin Netanyahu to look for a humanitarian pause which will lead to a “long-term sustainable ceasefire”.

On Sunday, Netanyahu responded to calls for a ceasefire by suggesting that Israel was “one step away from victory”, and that no truce would be achieved until Hamas has released all hostages.


is UnHerd’s Editorial Trainee.

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Buck Rodgers
Buck Rodgers
1 month ago

Brilliant. Let’s do nothing.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago

Yesterday, we were all enjoying the writing of Lionel Shriver and mooning over the total eclipse (pun intended).
Today we’re reading about how a sizeable chunk of young British muslims think Sharia law would be pretty great.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, one might say.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Am I missing something, but surely you can only have one legal system in a country ?
In that context, shouldn’t any other legal system (whether it’s called “Sharia” or anything else) be explicitly illegal and anyone enforcing a competing legal system prosecuted ? There are probably also historical exemptions and cut-outs that we could usefully clean up while we’re at it (the Post Office being ablet o bring criminal prosecutions for one – are separate Church and miltary courts really necessary ?).

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

That depends on what you mean by a “competing legal system” doesn’t it.
In the UK we’re (technically) free to do anything we like, so long as it doesn’t contravene the law of the relevant UK country/territory.
So if you and your mates voluntarily agree that you’re all going to live by “Peter B law” which says you can’t eat potatoes and must pray to Peter Beardsley 5 times a day, then as long as none of your “laws” involve breaking the actual law, its no-one else’s business.
But at the same time, if you create a Peter B law which says that people called Peter can drive at 140mph on motorways, that doesn’t supersede the actual law which says the speed limit is 70mph for everyone. You’re still going to get points if you’re caught.
This is essentially the status of sharia law in the UK at present. It exists as a voluntary arrangement among some muslims, dealing with civil and religious observance matters. But it doesn’t replace or supersede the actual law. Sharia councils have no rights or authority to adjudicate in criminal cases, for example.
Going back to the survey results, the question which arises is whether 33% of respondents see it as desirable if sharia law was implemented in place of UK law or on some kind of wider voluntary parallel basis as at present.
I suspect most respondents meant “in place of”, but the question as it was posed – below – is open to some interpretation and some respondents may well have meant something like “I personally think it would be a good thing but I don’t expect it to replace UK law”.
“Do you feel that the implementation of the following [sharia law] in the UK in the next 20 years would be desirable or undesirable?”

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Thanks (and most amusingly put).
The sloppy/loose language and reporting about Sharia law in the UK may have misled some of us into a concern that it may have gone further. A more precise question clearly needs to be asked here.
But what you’re describing is arguably something more like mediation than criminal law. Misleading to call it “law” ? Why not “mediation guidelines ?”.
That said, I’m still not keen on this sort of thing. The point about national law is that there is a set of trained professionals who administer it and you can have reasonable confidence in its impartiality and redress if errors are made. And the law itself is made in public (either by Parliament or case law in courts).

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

I think your concerns are perfectly valid and probably should be much more prominent in the minds of politicians and lawmakers than they have been.
Its always been the case that some groups – usually based on religion – will always defer first to a non-state authority as a preference. What must not be allowed to happen is that any informal quasi-judicial system, even if voluntarily entered into, is allowed to operate without proper scrutiny and legal protections for vulnerable members of that group.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago

An illiterate Muslim woman brought from overseas, living in a Muslim community is unlikely to understand that British law supersedes Sharia Law.
There is a massive difference between a wealthy Lebanese Sunni woman educated at a top British public school, The Sorbonne, Oxford, LSE and Harvard who swam for Lebanon and an illiterate poor woman from Pakistan. The Lebanese woman could come from a family where her Great Grandmother was educated at The Sorbonne. and trace her family back hundreds of years. This type of woman would not accept orders fromn a semi-literate mullah from a peasant background.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

An illiterate Muslim woman brought from overseas, living in a Muslim community is unlikely to understand that British law supersedes Sharia Law.

I certainly agree that vulnerable members of any group must have access to and protection of the law of the land. This was one of the main drivers behind the review and recommendations a few years ago to ensure that vulnerable muslim women are not denied their legal rights in divorces sanctioned under sharia law.
I won’t claim to known how effectively those recommendations have been implemented. But it is certainly a recognised problem and I agree it is the state’s job to ensure that UK law is primary.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

I may be wrong but I was under the impression that we already allow Sharia courts to operate informally if both the parties choose to use them. I’m fairly certain that there are also some equivalents operating for orthodox Jews.

I suppose if it didn’t challenge the main legal system, it was just a case of people sorting out their own problems without going to the police or law courts. This would be very difficult to shut down altogether.

Of course, if it starts to pose a serious challenge to the main legal system, that would be a different matter. But you’d have the human rights brigade (aka useful idiots for radical Islamists – see previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams) saying that you were limiting personal choice etc (see trans arguments).

So how much personal freedom and tolerance can you actually have (pace Voltaire) before your ‘tolerant’ society collapses ? This is the problem we are now repeatedly having to face in Western, ‘liberal’ democracies.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 month ago

Maybe we should start planning ahead for when a U.K. Caliphate deems that Anglo Saxons have no right to an independent nation 
. between the Tyne and the sea perhaps.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Partition?

hassan anderson
hassan anderson
1 month ago

“These results come six months after Hamas’s 7 October attack, where public opinion has gradually hardened against Israel since.”

Didn’t feel like mentioning the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel in the 6 months since? That people of every faith, from Islam to Judaism, are still rallying against?

Well then you know exactly what kind of writer is reporting on this so-called survey.

Point of Information
Point of Information
1 month ago

Agreed excluding your last paragraph – it’s not useful to mudsling at individuals on the WWW, but yes a balanced article should include the Palestinian casualties.

The problem with picking sides in a war is that both sides are invariably wrong (in some of their actions) so observers who support either have to lie to themselves to minimise the crimes of their chosen group.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 month ago

Are you going to mention that half of the dead Palestinians are Hamas fighters? And another good chunk probably actively supported Hamas? The level of civilian casualties are remarkably low for intense urban combat.
The US and UK killed more German and Japanese civilians in many 8 hour periods that Israel has killed in 6 months of fighting. If Israel fought this war like we fought WW2 there’d by hundreds of thousands of dead.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Interesting how these people who rally against Israel defending itself never seem to show a fraction of the same interest in any other conflict.

I’m sure that’s just a coincidence though…

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

“while 44% think Jews have excessive influence over government policy”
It would be interesting to know the same figure for “white British” people ? And also whether they think Muslims have excessive influence over government policy.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

In response to your question, from the Henry Jackson Society’s summary of its study:

Almost half of British Muslims say Jews have too much power over UK government policy, with 46% saying so compared to just 16% of the wider public.

(NB: the second figure refers to the ‘wider public’ rather than the ‘white British’.)

Whether the wider public or white British think Muslims have excessive influence over government policy?

Now that’s I question on which I would be interested to see some reliable research.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

What a mess. First they come for the Jews..

L Brady
L Brady
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

We’ve all been buying our heads for too long. 911 was a massive wake up call.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

‘God says we’re better than them. So how come they’re so much more successful than we are? They must be cheating.’

Liakoura
Liakoura
1 month ago

“Of Britain’s young Muslims, 59% believe it would be very or somewhat desirable to make showing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed illegal, with 33% saying that implementing Sharia law in the UK would be desirable”.
Perhaps these young Muslims should read about Banda Aceh, an autonomous province in the north of Sumatra, and the only place in Indonesia – the country with the world’s largest Muslim population – where sharia law is currently implemented.
“March 1st, 2016 – Banda Aceh (Indonesia). A young man, caught spending time alone with his girlfriend, is publicly caned in front of a large crowd in the court yard of a school. Alcohol, gambling, not dressing according to Islamic code, premarital romance, and adultery are outlawed and made punishable by public flogging.”
https://www.thomascristofoletti.com/banda-aceh-youth-under-sharia

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 month ago
Reply to  Liakoura

Islam is horrifying, but what’s more horrifying is that it has so many followers.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Not usually. Having travelled briefly in both Malaysia and Sumatra (not Banda Aceh) thirty years ago, I found it remarkably relaxed and tolerant. And very safe (apart from the driving). Iran wasn’t horrifying either.
There are fundamentalists in most religions (probably excluding Buddhism) who take things to dangerous extremes. Roll back the clock 600 years and we were burning priests at the stake for thought crimes – while people came along to watch.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Roll back the clock 600 years and we were burning priests at the stake for thought crimes
Today, we’re only threatening them with jail and hefty fines for the same ‘crimes.’ Is this really progress or a step toward the old becoming new again?

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

A lot has changed since 1994


Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
1 month ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

It really isn’t. With a few exceptions Islam majority nations are fine and if a bit more socially conservative than the uk they’re not much different than Poland for example (a country I admire and love to visit).
Headlines abound for the most awful excesses in theocratic nightmare states like Iran or failed states like Pakistan. But that’s like judging Christianity by the German holocaust-makers, or the racist churches of the Deep South with their rattlesnakes.

I live amid the Turkish community in London, a very public spirited community that vastly improves the wider society. During the pandemic the mosque organized food deliveries to everyone in need, no questions asked. They also protected the area during the 2011 riots. If women are harassed by drunk blokes the Turkish guys step forward.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

Islam is reverting to a more doctrinaire version which is being ignored. A Tamil said they are increasingly facing restrictions in Malaysia. A Chinese Malay said fourty years ago only mullahs wives wore headscarves, now all Malay women do.
Turkey has been undoing the work of Kemal Ataturk for decades.
The reality is that Muslim countries allowed women far more freedom fifty years ago, the exception being Saudi Arabia. The one good thing about arab nationalism, it allowed far more pluralism in worship. There were far more Christains in power in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in 1973 than today.
The reason why Christian supported Assad and the Baath Party was that they were far more tolerant than the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.
Michel Aflaq was founder of the Baath Party.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

It is not islam. It is the fact that Saudi funded Wahabi Sunni Islam has taken from from the more tolerant versions. In the news reels one see woman wearing mini skirts in Cairo, Beirut and even Kabul in late 1960s early 1970s.
If we take Middle East the highly educated affluent cosmopolitan Levantine Muslim who was fluent in French and English, travelled widely ( men and woman ), say the Omar Sharif, has lost power to the Saudi/Muslim Botherhood/ Salaafi poorly educated mullah and clerk. At period Egypt used to produce many top tennis and squash players.
Cairo and Beirut were more cosmopolitan in the 1930s than today.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Read the Koran. It is Islam.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
1 month ago
Reply to  Liakoura

And where does social media fit with Sharia Law? How many of those surveyed actually understand what Sharia Law means for people especially women. Explain in detail, then survey again. I think the figures would change dramatically. When asked, after a Free Palestine March , a friend’s 2 sons and their friends, were shocked when asked when they were moving to Gaza! “Why”, they cried. “You do not appreciate what you have been given in a secular country. The freedom. The education. The medicine. You want to live in a 3rd world country lving on foreign aid? Where your sisters and wives, will have liitle life?” These young people were shocked. They thought they would have everything they have in the UK if they moved to Gaza or another country such as Iran, My friend was suitably embarassed at the lack of knowledge of her own children.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

This ought to result in automatic deportation.

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago

Cameron’s statements translate as “If you don’t do exactly as Hamas, Qatar and Iran tell you UK will blame you for their actions.”

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
1 month ago

One needs to choose one’s battles with care.

Since we have become a multi ethnic country it seems only sensible to recognise that this has some inevitable consequences. One is that – as in the US – different ethnic groups will retain loyalties to their country or region of origin etc. In the US, no one was surprised when the Irish, Polish or Jewish were vocally supportive of the Irish against the British, the Poles against the Russians or the Israelis against the Arabs. Consequently, I am left unmoved by surveys suggesting British Muslims are unsympathetic to Israel. What else would one expect?

What is entirely different is attempts to change the legal system. Immigrants need to accept that in choosing to live in Britain implies an acceptance of many traditional features of British society. There are nuances to this argument but the basic point seems to me self evident.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

In the US, not one of the groups you cited said the target of their anger should be wiped off the planet.

Chipoko
Chipoko
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Precisely!

Sayantani G
Sayantani G
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I think you are not entirely correct in your first assumption too. Considering that many British Muslims are of South Asian origin does it not point to the same kind of hardline mindset as has afflicted that region’s version of Salafism?
Of course the proportion of the Palestinians who are UK immigrants are not known to me and there you have a point.
The problem in not recognising the legal aspect is eerily reminiscent to me of 1985, when in the name of minority rights protection a Congress Government in India brought in Sharia Law for Indian Muslims, thus creating two layers of legal framework.
I hope the electoral trends in the UK are different .

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago

Islam is going to schism in the West tho.

The inherent contradictions personal to every Muslim I know, virtually guarantee it.

If I raise the coming of this schism, they nod silently.

They know.

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Curious about this schism. Who currently represents the new split?

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Islam is already spilt of course, into Sunni and Shia, but i’ve also spoken with muslims who live “double lives” – one with their family/community and another in their heads or with a few like-minded souls who value greater freedom of thought and action.
Although strict penalties apply to those who openly seek to break the shackles of their community (which itself is a sign of weakness on behalf of those who feel threatened by freedoms), the seeds are there for further schism. How and when this might start to come about is, of course, the great unknown.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

I think there’s a lot of truth in this – I know Muslims and Jews here in South London who are largely irreligious and have been for decades. They drink lager, support their local football club and like their full-English. I find it heartening. I was talking to one of the blokes who runs the MOT place around the corner from where I work – the son of a 1st generation immigrant Muslim Turk – about it. Apropos ethnic/religious/racial divides he merely says ‘life’s too short for that b*ll*cks’.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago
Reply to  Arthur King

I don’t think its decided who will represent it. But under the surface you have huge numbers dissatisfied with : Islam’s incompatibility with women’s choices, there is the simple fact of the *enormous* number of gay Muslim men (and the lives they are forced into.) Another driver may just be the terrible leadership which seems endemic within the culture.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
1 month ago

If we think this makes grim reading, wait until we get this cohort’s view on homosexuality!
This poll is one in the eye to my many liberal friends who foolishly believe that all people of all faiths will in time see the benefits of a secular society.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 month ago

And the Tories are considering giving more power to ‘faith’ schools to get a handful more votes in the next election. You really couldn’t make up the crass, short-termist, stupidity of politicians.

Geoff Mould
Geoff Mould
1 month ago

It is hardly surprising given that the anti-Semitism displayed by a majority of British has never been challenged by either Labour or Conservative governments. Further proof that multiculturalism has failed miserably.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Geoff Mould

What is your evidence for this assertion ?

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

So no evidence then. What a surprise !

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

Who could have possibly predicted this. It’s as if those chants mean exactly what they say. But keep making excuses for the barbarians already inside the gate.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
1 month ago

I imagine that those young British Muslims who were polled are from communities with roots in the subcontinent communities, which are subject to intense Islamism. I would hazard to guess that if young Brits of Turkish or Southeast Asian origin were pulled, they would have said that they object to Israel’s methods, but not to the country itself.
However, I have noticed that younger people tend to be highly critical of Israel, and I think this is because they have never known in Israel which is not very right wing. They see the effects of the far right settler movement and the disproportionate violence of the IDF against civilians
Only the most naive are pro Hamas. Most young folks here they don’t like what they see in terms of Israel’s violence against civilians; the older generation knows more about the history of Israel, and remembers the time when Israel was not like that, but those days are long gone.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

This amounts to saying that the murderous Jew-hatred held by a portion of the Muslim community is really the Jews’ own fault—an ancient argument that has no more merit today than it did in medieval times. If only they were more left-wing! — like the progressive Jews murdered on Oct. 7!

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

Thoughtful comment, don’t know why you are being downvoted.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Feeling the creation of Israel was a wrong step in international developments is not in itself a deployable opinion. There were many anti-Zionist Jews. The issue is is what one can imply from such a response to a specific question. Feels intuitively correct that we should be a little worried, but got to be a little careful here too with how questions are worded and then over-simplified in conclusions. The question most pertinent finished ‘,,,as a Jewish Homeland’. That could be interpreted as a One state solution but with equal rights for Jews/Palestinians or an essentially Apartheid form of permanent Jewish ascendency regardless of the demographic make-up of that One state. I think were it the latter then a bigger proportion of the UK population also would not favour it.
One tackles ignorance though with calm, rational repetitive facts and education. One senses huge ignorance of the history on this subject on all sides. Israel has been losing the battle for public opinion. Some of it’s actions inevitably have weakened it’s own support, and the stance it’s international supporters want to defend too. Hardly a surprise therefore young Muslims views hardened. The plight of the Palestinians is of course much more because of the attitude of Hamas and desire to almost take down it’s own populace cBerlin 45. But Bibi and the IDF are not helping themselves or those of us who support them either.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

deployable or deplorable?

Edwin Blake
Edwin Blake
1 month ago

And in other astonishing news two-thirds of all Israelis oppose even a demiliterised Palistinian state …

Sudo Nim
Sudo Nim
1 month ago

You Brits have really screwed the pooch with admission of so many Muslims. You can lash out with charges of racism at such a statement, but keep it up with the immigration, and watch your country go bye bye. I say this with much the same chagrin as I make the same criticism of us here in the USA, albeit with different makeup of our immigration problem.

Dengie Dave
Dengie Dave
1 month ago

100% of me is very concerned by this.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
1 month ago

If they don’t want to support the basic unalienable rights of their British fellow citizens, they don’t belong in Britain.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 month ago

Many people continue to claim that Islam needs a reformation, similar to Christianity’s Protestant Reformation. But in fact, that is precisely what is happening in Islam right now.
The Reformation represented a return to the roots of Christianity (admittedly it was not 100% successful, and how could it be?) – back to its simple truths and radical doctrines, and away from the more humanistic and hierarchical accretions that had built up over a millennium.
Now Islam is returning to its roots, and away from the secular and humanist traditions that the West has more or less forced upon it over the past 200 years. Hope for a strong Counter-Reformation within the Islamic world.