British Muslims optimistic and proud, survey finds

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

November 21st, 2011

British Muslims are more proud to be British than the population as a whole, and they are significantly more optimistic about the country's future, a new study released Monday reveals.

Religious people in general are more proud to be British than those who call themselves atheists or non-believers, the survey by the think tanks Demos said.

Nearly nine out of 10 Anglicans and Jews, and more than eight out of 10 Muslims said they were "proud to be a British citizen."

Just fewer than eight out of 10 people agreed with the statement nationwide.

"Overall British Muslims are more likely to be both patriotic and optimistic about Britain than are the white British community," says the report, "A Place for Pride."

The head of the Muslim Council of Britain welcomed the findings.

"The message is that we are not Muslim OR British but are British AND Muslim," Farooq Murad told CNN Monday.

"British Muslims have been playing their part in Britain for many generations now, despite being all-too-often condemned to the sidelines by attention-grabbing headlines," he said.

Most of his co-religionists "simply want to get on with their lives, to work and raise families just as everyone else, and to contribute to the continued prosperity of this great island of ours," he said.

The study suggests that, far from there being a conflict between ethnic identity and national pride, the two may reinforce each other.

"People who are proud of their ethnic group - be that white British or black and minority ethnic - are far more likely to say they are proud to be a British citizen," said authors Max Wind-Cowie and Thomas Gregory.

One British Muslim told Demos that being a member of a minority had made him think more about being Muslim.

"I was always having to explain what a Muslim is and what we believe and why I wasn't eating," said the respondent, who is not named in the report. "It was annoying sometimes but it made me confident talking about who I am. And it meant I could express that without having to go over the top or wear something special to prove it."

Demos was looking "to find out what made people proud of modern Britain and why politicians fail to articulate a convincing vision of this," said Beatrice Karol Burks of the think tank.

One survey respondent captured the particular diffidence of British pride in their country.

"It's almost like if you tried to make Britain more patriotic... you'd be being sort of unpatriotic because it would be so un-British," said the unnamed respondent.

More than 50% of British people say they are "very proud" to be citizens of their country, a different survey found in 2008 - higher than Germany, France or Italy, but lower than Norway.

Shakespeare was the icon that British people were proudest of in the Demos survey, slightly ahead of the armed forces and Union Jack flag.

The study was funded by the Pears Foundation, a Jewish family foundation "concerned with positive identity and citizenship."

Demos commissioned pollster YouGov to survey 2,086 British citizens online between May 4 and 9.

Original Article