Are 31% of Londoners bigots?

August 20, 2015 at 11:42 am (Anti-Racism, elections, Islam, islamism)

Guest post by Pink Prosecco

A few days ago it was reported that nearly a third of Londoners –  31% – felt uneasy at the prospect of a Muslim mayor.

Some responded to the poll result with cries of bigotry – others applauded the 31% for being Islamorealists. It seems probable that people who registered unease did so for a range of reasons, and with different degrees of certainty.

It’s useful to compare that 31% figure with the percentage who would be made uncomfortable by the idea of a mayor from an ethnic minority – 13%. Presumably almost all of the 13% were also part of the 31%. Clearly such people are bigots. But what about the 18% who would be happy with a non-white mayor but not with a Muslim one – and indeed the further 13% who didn’t feel able to give a decisive answer when asked how they’d view a Muslim mayor?

You don’t have to be a racist to be an anti-Muslim bigot (though it probably helps). Although white nationalists tend to be anti-Muslim by default, many of the most prominent counterjihadists are non-racist, and of course not all of them are white.

Someone like Ali Sina would never vote for a Muslim mayor. He has said:

“It is time to put an end to the charade of “moderate Islam.” There is no such thing as moderate Muslim. Muslims are either jihadists or dormant jihadists – moderate, they are not.”

Treating Muslims as a monolithic bloc is an obvious marker of bigotry. But some of those who felt they couldn’t unreservedly say they were ‘comfortable’ with the idea of a Muslim mayor might not have meant to imply that under no circumstances would they vote for a Muslim, just that they’d want to know more. With so much debate around Islam and extremism, people are becoming increasingly alert to the sharp differences of opinion within Muslim communities. Television programmes such as The Big Questions return to the topic of religious extremism and conservatism obsessively. Those taking the survey may have felt wary about such illiberal views.

However even those actively anxious about Islamism are likely to have favourable views of Muslims who call for reform or adhere to more liberal interpretations of Islam – I bet a fair few of the 31% would have been more than happy to vote for someone like Maajid Nawaz or Sara Khan. And some of them, at the last election, were probably rooting for Muslim Naz Shah to beat her non-Muslim rival George Galloway.

And there are likely to be similar differences of opinion amongst the 55%, those who said were fully comfortable with the idea of a Muslim mayor. Some may just be easy-going types who would see any Muslim mayor as a positive symbol of multiculturalism and diversity. Others might be more actively politically engaged, perhaps opponents of the Prevent programme and of the comparatively tough approach Cameron is taking towards radicalisation. Would such Londoners welcome a Muslim mayor who disagreed with them on these issues? Probably not. Maajid Nawaz, in particular, would be the last person some Muslims would vote for – and non-Muslims from some sections of the left –Nathan Lean for example – would most likely go along with them.

In other words, at least a few of the 55% are likely to have particular questions for Muslim candidates, questions which relate specifically to their Muslim identity, not simply (as would be the case for any candidate) to their political views. In this they are no different from some of the 31%. Whereas a liberal might want to be reassured that the Muslim candidate shared their secular values (and Muslim liberals will probably be particularly vigilant) others, by contrast, will want to check that the candidate is not a ‘sell out’, an ‘Uncle Tom’. Right across the spectrum, for different reasons, people will want to be sure that a Muslim candidate is the right kind of Muslim – but their definitions of what the ‘right kind’ are will differ.


  1. Mike Killingworth said,

    Well, if all the 31% are White British (and I share your conclusion, PP: the question is so vague as to be meaningless) that’s pretty much one white Londoner in two.

    Perhaps a better question would be “do I trust the recall procedures if Londoners inadvertently elect a Mayor who starts to play radical identity politics?’ – except that I don’t know the answer to that one either.

    An even better question might be “do I think it is time to put an end to the unmerited privileges enjoyed by white Anglophone Londoners – e.g. by following the South African example and having many official languages in London”? FWIW I have no idea of the potential candidates’ view on that one. either.

    All I do feel sure of is that the concepts of “left and “right” only apply to class politics. As such politics are replaced by the politics of identity, so “left” and “right” become terms which obscure more than they explain.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      “do I think it is time to put an end to the unmerited privileges enjoyed by white Anglophone Londoners

      I seriously hope you are not being serious here, as a socialist you should know it’s all about class, not colour. Or have you forgotten even than? What about the unmerited privileges of the capitalist class? To end that you’d have to end capitalism, is that something you even support?

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Could be 69% are bigoted against what is left of the dwindling original English who welcomed ! in johnie foreigner. What has happened to the English have they moved?

  2. Andrew Coates said,

    I would not vote for somebody who stood *as* a *Muslim” candidate anymore than I would vote for somebody who stood *as* a ‘Christian’ candidate, but the *personal faith* of somebody is not relevant if the politics are okay – the opinion poll does not show this distinction.

    • Pink Prosecco said,

      I don’t think the distinction is quite so clear cut. It might be argued that some Muslims may present unexceptionable views to the public and yet have unwelcome links and associations. (Of course this can all get a bit McCarthyite).

      Also Muslims tends to get presented as ‘As-a-Muslim’, both by other Muslims and by non-Muslims, and for a range of reasons – I saw Rabina Khan, for example, being attacked by some Muslims for being supportive of an LGBT project – I don’t think they’d have been so bothered had she been a non-Muslim.

      I would have found it difficult to know quite how to answer the question if I’d been polled – I absolutely wouldn’t be made uncomfortable simply by the fact a mayor was Muslim. I have voted for a Muslim candidate in another context in the past. But I am aware that there are some Muslims who I see as problematic for reasons which are connected to the fact they are Muslims – which makes it a different kind of question to asking if you’d object to a gay candidate. I would probably have wanted to put myself amongst the 55% – which is perhaps in itself a suggestive comment on the whole poll result.

      [Glad to see some comments have been pruned]

  3. Rilke said,

    Agree with Coates, if they stood on a ‘Muslim’ ticket then no way, just as much as if they stood on a Evangelical ticket. I do not vote for poltical religious candidates and neither should any left winger. If I decide to vote against a Christian Fundamentalist in Texas I am a bigot?
    Blair now claims to be a sort of confused Catholic, but that is not the reason he will never get my vote.

  4. Political tourist said,

    What about a Scottish Moslem?
    The bigots would probably jump in the Thames.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      What about a secular socialist? The left would be joining them into the Thames.

      • Political tourist said,

        Socialist, are you allowed to say that in the Labour Party.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      PT, you could jump in the Clyde and come out with a goldfish in yer mooth but you wil still be an nonentity and closet bigot. AYE.

  5. Steven Johnston said,

    Because the secular socialist belives that religion is the opaite of the masses, they would be denounced by the modern left.

  6. David said,

    Replace the word ‘Muslim’ with ‘Jewish’ in your rambling article and you will immediately realise how racist it is. Shame on you (as usual).

    Your article is also subtly aimed against Labour Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan. Thank you, you have made up my mind to vote for him.

    Lastly are you by any chance ‘pruning’ comments again?

  7. SteveH said,

    I must admit I would want to know a Jews opinion on Israel before I voted for them, but hang on, I would want to know a non Jews opinion on Israel also. But maybe I would be correct to suspect a Jew might be more favoured and biased toward the terrorist and racist state and place it higher up their priority list and therefore we might have a supporter of racism and terrorism in a position of political power.

    Yes, I think we should racially profile candidates and have it at the forefront of our minds. Nothing disturbing about all of this.

    I reckon a Muslim mayor might be a closet suicide bomber anyway. So best not to vote for them, just in case. Give me the good old white Oxbridge type. We are safe in their hands.

    But seriously, look away everyone, there is no problem with anti Muslim bigotry. The real issue is the rising tide of anti Semitism. We see it everywhere. I challenge anyone to point out a single utterance of anti Muslim bigotry, anywhere, in the past 10 years.

    Anti Muslim bigotry is NOT A FUCKING PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    But ANTI SEMITISM IS EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mike Killingworth said,

      I take it you are being sarcastic.

  8. SteveH said,

    Incidentally have they done the survey whether Londoners would be comfortable with a Jew as major?

    Mike – bitterly.

  9. SteveH said,

    This site has what i would call a sectarian formulation of racism. Racism becomes a kind of subjective technical formula, so A said X and Y about B but said U and V about C, therefore if we take the intersection of X and Y and U and V and apply that to B and C we can prove that A is in fact racist.

    So the sectarian view of racism doesn’t bother with social trends, what the far right think, immigration policy, economic factors, prison statistics etc etc etc etc but focus on a formula that proves the rival sect is racist.

    This leads Shiraz to downplay a obvious, serious and disconcerting trend in racism directed against Muslims. And in the case of Shiraz, they actually contribute to the racism and are in fact racist themselves. So while the fellow travellers of Shiraz compare Corbyn to the EDL they should look in the mirror for a more valid comparison (though admittedly not that valid!).

    • Jim Denham said,

      “This leads Shiraz to downplay a obvious, serious and disconcerting trend in racism directed against Muslims. And in the case of Shiraz, they actually contribute to the racism and are in fact racist themselves”:

      you, SteveH, are fucking mad and not worth engaging with. Goodbye.

  10. Rilke said,

    Yes SteveH, Muslims are a homogeneous ethnic racial group and there is no basis for judging among right wing, extreme nationalist, left wing, moderate, or liberal Muslims or even between the two historically and theologically defined strands of Islam. To even attempt this is racist and plays into the hands of the BNP. Good job this undifferentiated group has you to project them.
    You are a buffoon SteveH, you use the word ‘Muslims’ in an utterly racist way.

  11. Political tourist said,

    You only have to look at the Scottish Referendum to see the AWL poisition
    Let’s bash the fash but quietly work along side them when the good old UK is threatened.
    The AWL has been a mass of contradictions for decades.
    No wonder the racists and bigots are on here laughing at them.
    Vote Corbyn but…..
    Yeh but no but yeh but sums up the AWL.

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