The overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world reject violence.They also hold socially conservative views: 90 per cent think homosexuality is wrong, 84 per cent believe sex outside of marriage is a sin, and 77 per cent think abortion is wrong. Yes, the latest Pew Research could be shrunk to a soundbite: Muslims sound like conservative Christians.
It’s an enlightening survey – showing just how varied, because widespread, Islam is. Look at the attitudes to polygamy: five per cent of Nigerians think it wrong while 85 per cent of those living in Bosnia-Herzegovina do. Again, more than 70 per cent of Saudis believe an apostate (someone who leaves their Muslim faith) should be executed while only 13 per cent of those in southeastern Europe do.
Talk of “Muslim” attitudes is tricky: a Muslim living in Beirut will have little in common with the mindset of the Muslim in Jedda. Similarly, a Muslim in Mali may harbour exactly the same hostility to gays as a Christian in Memphis. Every faith (and atheism is no exception) has its dark but deep-rooted prejudices – even in “tolerant” Britain. Mehdi Hasan has written about anti-Semitism among Muslims, while Baroness Warsi spoke out about Islamophobia at dinner parties among the bien-pensants. And we all know what secularists think of Christians.
More recently, in an address to the Board of Deputies a fortnight ago, Lady Warsi challenged the Muslim and Jewish communities to face their “wild” stereotypes about one another. Muslims should stop resenting Jewish success. Jews should stop suspecting that every statement against Israel masks an anti-Semitic attack. “To say so, would be like saying that any criticism of the politics of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was anti-Muslim.”