Record complaints about Sun’s ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ headline

24th Dec 2015

More than 2,000 people filed complaints misleading headline published Monday November 23

Elham Asaad Buaras

More than 2,000 people filed complaints over the misleading Sun headline “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis” said the UK’s press regulator IPSO.

The story has become the most complained about since IPSO replaced the Press Complaints Commission in 2014.

The story, which featured on the tabloids front page on November 23, was based on a Survation telephone poll of 1,003 people who identified themselves as Muslims living in the UK.

The Times which repeated the findings issued a correction for “misleading” its readers, granting the poll, “Did not distinguish between those who go to fight for IS and those who join other factions in Syria, and it did not ask about attitudes towards Isis itself.”

“Our headline,” they conceded, “…was misleading in failing to reflect this.”

Pollsters Survation immediately distanced itself from the reporting of its poll insisting they, “do not endorse or support the way in which this poll’s findings have been presented by the Sun newspaper and others. Neither the headline nor the body text of any articles published were shared with or approved by Survation prior to publication.”

Fourteen per cent of respondents said they had “some sympathy” for individuals who had gone to fight with militia groups in Syria, while 5 percent said they had “a lot of sympathy” for them.
The largest group in the poll had no sympathy with anyone who goes to fight with any group in Syria, for any reason.

Some 71.4 percent of respondents said they had “no sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria.”

Chief Executive of polling company Ipsos Mori, Ben Page, said: “The main issue with this poll is the reporting, which made it appear that one in five of those sampled supported ISIS, when in fact they were expressing sympathy with people going to fight in Syria, as I understand it, which could of course include British ex-servicemen fighting against ISIS with the Kurds, or anti-Assad Muslim forces who are also fighting against Isis.”

A spokesman for the Sun said the newspaper is: “surprised at the comments from Survation.” The questions were discussed in full and agreed with them in advance, and the question about ‘sympathy’ was specifically written and suggested by them.

“In any event, it is not for a polling company to endorse or otherwise the editorial interpretation of a survey. the Sun published the poll’s findings clearly and accurately, including the questions in full.

“The spread inside the newspaper reported other newsworthy lines from the survey, including the percentage of British Muslims who support action in Syria and how British Muslims choose to identify themselves. We also made clear that the number of British Muslims who had sympathy or support for IS was lower than a similar survey by Sky News conducted in March.

“The fact remains that a significant minority of Muslims have sympathy for the actions of extremists. That is a subject worthy of discussion and the Sun believes that it must be appropriate for that conversation to take place.”

However, MPs are demanding to meet with the Editor of the Sun newspaper for sanctioning a controversial story.

Ten prominent Parliamentary figures penned a stinging letter to Editor of the Sun Tony Gallagher calling on him to answer for publishing the “flawed and misleading” piece that they claimed could drive up hate-crimes.

Birmingham Ladywood MP, Shabana Mahmood, pushed for a meeting with Gallagher demanding he explain the conflation of sympathies with fighters in Syria with Daesh extremists.

The ten MPs went on to highlight particular areas of concern, including the Sun only using data from November in their story, rather than explain the significant fall in sympathy from March, when a similar survey was conducted.

The MPs also took issue with Gallagher’s decision to focus solely on the answers of Muslim Britons to the question of sympathies with foreign fighters, Mahmood pointing out: “This data suggests that the views of Muslims and non-Muslims are not that different.”

She and her co-signatories finished with a stinging attack on the paper, pointing out that mention of “jihadis” or “Isis” had been omitted from the question put to surveyed Muslims.

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