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Survey: Only one in four UK Muslims believe Hamas committed atrocities

Younger, well-educated Muslims were most likely to deny Hamas's Oct. 7 crimes.

A pro-Palestinian protest in London, a week after Hamas murdered 1,200 people in southern Israel and took more than 250 others hostage into the Gaza Strip, on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
A pro-Palestinian protest in London, a week after Hamas murdered 1,200 people in southern Israel and took more than 250 others hostage into the Gaza Strip, on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: Alisdare Hickson/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.

Only a quarter of British Muslims believe that Hamas committed murder and rape during its Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, a new poll has found.

Thirty-nine percent of British Muslims said Hamas did not commit atrocities on Oct. 7, while 37% said they didn’t know.

The survey, commissioned by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a counter-extremism think tank based in the United Kingdom, came six months after the Hamas attack and was first reported by The Daily Telegraph.

It asked questions of British Muslims as well as of the general public.

Younger, well-educated Muslims were most likely to say Hamas did not commit atrocities (47% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 40% among the university-educated).

Nearly half of British Muslims polled (46%) sympathized with Hamas.

Only 24% of British Muslims agreed that Hamas had committed murder and rape on Oct. 7. In contrast, 62% of the general public understood that Hamas had done so.

A high percentage of British Muslims also subscribe to classic antisemitic tropes. Forty-six percent said Jews have too much power over U.K. government policy, 41% said Jews have too much power in the media and 39% said Jews have too much power over the U.K.’s financial system.

In comparison, only 16% of Britain’s general public said that Jews have too much power over government policy.

The survey also found that one-third of British Muslims (32%) want Sharia law in the United Kingdom. More than half (52%) want it to be illegal to show a picture of the Prophet Mohammed.

Alan Mendoza, executive director of HJS, said the results demonstrate “the failure of counter-extremism policy over the years.”

“What is probably going wrong is an unwillingness to tackle this kind of extremism for fear of being labeled Islamophobic or racist. There is a reluctance to call it out in the same way that people are very happy to call out far-right extremism,” he said.

Fiyaz Mughal, who founded Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, told the newspaper that the findings are “shocking but also not shocking.”

“The findings confirm that a lot of work needs to be done to inform, challenge, and address old antisemitic tropes that are still circulating among some of my co-religionists,” he said.

“The sense that Hamas did not conduct massacres and rapes in Israel is atrocious because it shows a closed-off mentality to anything emanating from Israel,” he added.

“The government has got to provide better guidance for teachers, schools and education establishments. The investment needs to happen as soon as possible because we are at real risk of a social cohesion problem,” he said.

A government spokesperson said, “We have recently set out a series of measures which will promote social cohesion and counter religious hatred. Our plan will tackle division in our communities and ensure that we are protecting our democratic freedoms across the country.”

However, the U.K. government has come under criticism for what some call its tepid response to anti-Israel protests, which have swept the country in the wake of Oct. 7 and in which demonstrators regularly engage in hateful rhetoric toward Israel and Jews.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told police leadership on Feb. 28 that, “There is a growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule. And we’ve got to collectively, all of us, change that urgently.”

British support for Israel also appears to have weakened as the Gaza war progresses. Last month, more than 130 British parliamentarians signed a letter urging London to halt weapons sales to Israel.

And on Saturday, marking six months since the Hamas massacre, Sunak called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the terrorist group.

While acknowledging that the Oct. 7 attacks were the “most appalling” in Israel’s history, he added that “the whole of the U.K. is shocked by the bloodshed, and appalled by the killing of brave British heroes who were bringing food to those in need. This terrible conflict must end.”

He referred to the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers accidentally killed by IDF forces on April 1.

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