Questions over poll suggesting 46 percent of British Muslims support Hamas

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Questions over poll suggesting 46 percent of British Muslims support Hamas

British Future think tank leader brands poll on Hamas is "a fishing expedition"

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Muslim women walking through Shepherds Bush Market in west London.
Muslim women walking through Shepherds Bush Market in west London.

A major poll has suggested just one in four British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7 – but its findings have been questioned by the director of an influential British Future think tank. 

The poll, released at the weekend, was conducted for the Henry Jackson Society  by JL Partners, over one month between February 14 and March 12. One thousand British Muslims were asked to take part in the survey, which, it was claimed, showed that “only one in four British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7”, and that “almost half of British Muslims say Jews have too much power over UK government policy”.

But Sunder Katwala, in a series of tweets and in an article for Eastern Eye, profoundly disagreed with the poll findings. He took issue with the wording of some of the questions asked, and said that it was unfair to make a binary choice between Israel and Hamas, rather than asking respondents to express support for Israel or Palestine.

In his Eastern Eye column, Katwala wrote: “A recent headline-grabbing opinion poll, conducted by JL Partners for the Henry Jackson Society, contained worrying findings. Four out of ten Muslim respondents said they did not believe Hamas committed atrocities on October 7. Just three per cent of Muslim respondents sympathised with ISIS but attitudes to Hamas were much more ambivalent. Over a quarter (29 per cent) expressed sympathy.

Site of Sderot Police Station, over-run by Hamas terrorists on October 7th.

“Yet, having uncovered genuinely troubling levels of sympathy and fence-sitting, this survey appeared designed to spin-up support for Hamas as high as it could. Asking respondents to choose between Hamas and Israel – mirroring the framing a pro-Islamist propagandist would choose – doubled general public support for Hamas, to generate sensationalised headlines claiming that almost half of British Muslims, rather than a quarter, sympathise with Hamas”

Speaking to Jewish News,  Katwala said he was unsurprised by some of the HJS findings. But, he said: “The 29 per cent finding was worrying enough without making up a fake 45 per cent headline by HJS pro-Hamas sleight of hand”.

Writing on social media, Katwala said that “the proper way” to ask this was to make the “sympathy question Israel and Palestine”, rather than Israel and Hamas, and to test for moderate or extreme views “within” those sympathy groups. He noted, however, that “the finding that too large a minority of Muslim respondents are open to casual anti-Jewish prejudice is credible. This reflects research from highly trusted sources, like CST”.

He added: “I can’t see how a sincere attempt to do this survey properly would omit [whether respondents] support/oppose a two-state solution as one question”. He warned that it was vital to separate Palestine from Hamas, and to have legitimate criticism of Israel while challenging prejudice and extremism.

The HJS survey shows that “only 24 per cent of British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7.  Thirty-nine per cent say Hamas did not, and 38 per cent say they are unsure”. This compares, says the poll, to 62 per cent of the wider population who say Hamas did commit such atrocities.

Other responses showed that “only one in four British Muslims (24 per cent) believe Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish homeland, while half (49 per cent) say it does not. British Muslims, says the poll, are more likely to have a positive than a negative view of Hamas; 29 per cent have a positive view and only 24 per cent have a negative view of Hamas; and 52 per cent of British Muslims “believe the BBC is biased towards Israel, more than double the proportion of the public who say so (23 per cent)”.

Sunder Kutwala wrote in his Eastern Eye column: “If the full poll script reads like a long fishing trip to exaggerate differences between Muslims and their fellow citizens, sometimes bordering on trolling, it frequently failed to land what it was casting its net for.”

He added: “If this Henry Jackson Society poll was an active demonstration of how to frame an argument to inflate support for Hamas in polarised times, its results offer insights for counter-extremism voices who want to marginalise extreme narratives, rather than boost them.

“Rejecting that binary frame, separating the cause of Palestine from Hamas and showing how one can recognise both the horrors of October 7 and of the civilian death toll in Gaza, will all matter if we are to get the boundaries right between politics and prejudice. The stakes are high, especially with young people for whom this conflict may be a formative experience.  But it is vital for our plural society that we get this right”.

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