Britons ‘more suspicious’ of Muslims

London, England/Paris, France - Britons are more suspicious of Muslims than Americans and other Europeans are, according to a poll for the Financial Times.

Only 59 per cent of Britons thought it possible to be both a Muslim and a citizen of their country, a smaller proportion than in France, Germany, Spain, Italy or the US – the other countries polled by Harris Interactive.

British citizens were also the most likely to predict a “major terrorist attack” in their country in the next 12 months; to consider Muslims “a threat to national security”, and to believe Muslims had too much political power in their country.

However, on more personal measures of integration – having Muslim friends and accepting the marriage of their child to a Muslim – Britons showed more enthusiasm than some other countries.

The findings suggest that terrorist plots against the UK, including the London bombings of July 7 2005, have hardened British attitudes towards Muslims. Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain blamed the findings on what he called “a vicious campaign” by the press against the Muslim community,.

Most British respondents – 52 per cent – expected a “major terrorist attack” in their country within a year. Even in Spain where the Basque extremist group Eta has recently abandoned a ceasefire, only 32 per cent predicted a big attack. The numbers fell to 30 per cent in the US and 15 to 18 per cent in France, Italy and Germany.

France emerged as the country most at ease with its Muslim population. The French were most likely to say they had Muslim friends, to accept if their child wanted to marry a Muslim, and to say Muslims in their country had received unjustified criticism and prejudice.

Patrick Weil, political scientist at the University of Paris 1- Sorbonne, said: “In France we are very good at cultural integration. We are very bad in fighting discrimination, especially in high-level jobs. In the UK it is the opposite.”

In the US, which has proportionally fewer Muslim inhabitants than France, Britain or Germany, 21 per cent saw the presence of Muslims as a threat, while 20 per cent said Muslims had too much power.

Harris conducted an online poll between August 1 and 13 of 6,398 adults, broadly split among the six countries surveyed.

The Harris poll data: