Demos’ Flawed research Into ‘Islamophobia’ On Twitter


The ‘backlash narrative’ appears to be alive and well in Britain this week. As is common following the mass slaughter of mostly non-Muslims by Muslims in Europe, we are asked to consider just how bad a time this will create for the real victims here – Muslims. This callous self interest is particularly nauseating, given it often begins whilst the bodies are still warm.

It’s especially unpleasant given the greatest threats to British Muslims appear to come from their own communities – murder, ‘honour killings’, FGM, forced marriages, grooming gangs, radicalisation, vote manipulation and so on.

It’s remarkable then, that some ‘think tanks’ and journalists would have us shift our attention away from the impressive Jihadi death toll of the last 2 years to focus on some of the mean things people are saying on the internet instead.

Online abuse is a deeply unpleasant reality of course, and I will always oppose such behaviour. My opposition also holds hands with the notion that were we to collectively develop thicker skin where our digital domains are concerned, trolls and abusers would lose their power.

I’m incredibly suspicious of reports banding about the term ‘Islamophobia’ – and for good reason too. ‘Islamophobia’ is a popular neologism with an elusive definition. Nothing I’ve heard about it has convinced it is anything but a meme to silence criticism of Islam.

I’ve previously reported ‘Tell Mama’s attempt to pull the Islamowool over our eyes with some highly dishonest data in this area. I’ve also reported on the Metropolitan Police’s vague, and frankly bizarre criteria for logging ‘Islamophobic hate crimes’

So, who’s up next to rain on our shoes and tell us it’s pissing?

That would be the ‘think tank’ Demos, which has contributed research to a Channel 4 documentary titled ‘Racist Britain’. Their findings have received vast, unquestioning coverage from the BBC today. You can watch an example of ‘Islamophobia’ in action from a report by BBC’s Catrin Nye on these latest figures:

Islamophobic is one way of describing this ‘meeting of minds’ I suppose. Another may be “Muslim woman confronts and shouts at a man holding different views with zero repercussions whatsoever”. I’m obviously very glad about the latter part, but you do wonder where on earth she may find an Islamic culture that affords her the same freedom and protection of law. But the right to express criticism openly and passionately has become a one way street where the religion of peace is concerned.

Demos released details of their methodology for categorising instances of ‘online Islamophobia’, which you can read in full here. A quick glance reveals some glaring problems almost immediately. Thankfully, Benjamin Jones, Communications officer at the National Secular Society has done a fantastic job of getting to the crux of the problem. I urge you to read his piece in full, but I will reproduce a chunk of it here:

In their report Demos selects some tweets it included in the study, which they presumably think are good examples of their methodology in action. A tweet stating “Morocco deletes a whole section of the Koran from school curriculum as it’s full of jihad incitement and violence The Religion of peace” is treated the same way as a tweet saying “I fucking hate pakis” in their methodology.

One of these tweets criticises an idea. The other is racist. One describes and mocks a belief system, the other (verbally) attacks people. Demos’ methodology treats both of these tweets in the same way.

I have read (an English translation of) the Koran. Saying it contains violence (it does) is in no way comparable to using racist language.

This is an appalling conflation, which creates a false moral equivalence between racism and criticising a set of ideas.

Another tweet Demos offer as an example reads: “Priest killed in #Normandy today by a Radical Islamic Terrorist yet Hillary says that Islam is peaceful! 1274 attacks this year=peaceful? Ok.”

Is asserting that Islam doesn’t seem to be conducive to peace really ‘Islamophobic’?

The BBC apes Demos’ dangerous line, referring not to anti-Muslim, but explicitly to “anti-Islamic” tweets as ‘Islamophobic’.

The Demos research says that anti-Islamic ideas are “possibly socially problematic and damaging.”

Wanting to jail homosexuals might also be “socially problematic”, but pointing out that half of British Muslims do want to criminalise homosexuality and most think it is immoral would have me labelled an ‘Islamophobe’ under Demos’ methodology.

And just what are “anti-Islamic ideas”? For many orthodox Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Muslim states, anti-Islamic ideas include apostasy, equality for women and the right to be gay.

Demos is being foolish in including such a vague concept in their methodology. Under their methodology a Pakistani ex-Muslim living in fear for their life who tweeted in English (for instance) “Islam is oppressive” would be labelled an ‘Islamophobe’.

And how subjective is Demos’ research?

In the methodology section of their paper Demos say “An Islamophobic expression was defined as the illegitimate and prejudicial dislike of Muslims because of their faith.” I would prefer that was labelled ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’, but this alone would be among the least bad definitions of ‘Islamophobia’ you could devise. But Demos go on: “Islamophobia can take on a very large number of different forms, and its identification, especially within Twitter research, was often challenging.”

Here we get to the nub of the Islamophobia con. It is “challenging” to identify and takes a “very large number of different forms” because ‘Islamophobia’ is a nonsense term which accumulates bigotry and threats of violence, with criticism of a religion and a set of ideas; ideas which have no rights whatsoever and which must never be protected in law and ought not to be protected by social convention.

Anti-Muslim bigotry and criticism of Islam are separate phenomenon, they may overlap, there are some who engage in both, but it is methodologically meaningless to consider both of these things in one term. That is why Demos’ researchers found ‘Islamophobia’ “challenging” to define.

What they have produced is therefore subjective, as Demos admit: “Ultimately, this research comes down to the judgement of the researchers involved.”

Demos argue that Islamic terror attacks drive ‘Islamophobic’ tweets. Perhaps challenging Islamism would therefore be a good place to start if you want to cut anti-Muslim bigotry off at the source?

The implications of this term’s use are very unsettling. The moral equivalence that is being drawn, increasingly, between abuse against Muslims, and the robust criticism of an idea (Islam), poses an immense threat to freedom of speech.

Muslims and Islam are not the same thing. Hating all Muslims is bigotry; criticising Islam is not. You can say whatever you like, however sharp, rude or inaccurate about an idea. There is no such thing as libel against an idea.

The National Secular Society was instrumental in abolishing the vestigial blasphemy law in this country, but now I fear that our culture is returning to the legal protection of ideas, and Islam specifically. Ideas have no rights, nor any entitlement to be treated with respect. Yet influenced by American campuses and elite sensitivity to something called ‘Islamophobia’, that is the way our wider culture moves.

I’ve previously condemned increases in racism attributed to the EU Referendum result and I intend to stand in between acts of anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamic theocracy and say I’ll tolerate neither. All this research has done however is blur the line between people and ideas, criticism and bigotry. This is not conducive to an open, progressive society and further fuels public fear.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.


  • Yes, Stephen, Demos defines ‘Islamophobia’ in far too wide a fashion: in fact they specifically conflate anti-Muslim bigotry with criticism of the doctrine. Refreshingly they are open about it, in contrast with CAGE. As you say, there is a clear pattern here if we compare TellMama UK’s similar dishonest attitude to definitions.

    Yet again, we find that the young Muslim woman involved in the fracas on the video, Ms, Ruqaiya Haris, has her own questions to answer. Why does she tweet, in the context of the first Islamic century, her fear of using ‘the J word’? Does she mean Jews or jihad? Either way she seems wary of some central element in her religion. And that is a generous interpretation. Why does she retweet the well-known anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan?

    She takes Islamic Studies at SOAS, like Suliman Gani, the al-Qaeda and Ottoman Caliphate supporter, did. The MA course there (which SG took, but I do not know about Ms. Haris’ level) is merely a translation course and appears to contain no critical or analytical element worthy of a western higher degree. It looks like the SOAS is producing noisy Islamists desperate to get attention at the edges of the political and journalistic debate.

    • SOAS have a reputation for hosting extremists and were even called out by David Cameron for doing so ( A glance at that woman’s Twitter shows she praises CAGE, and makes other idiotic remarks like finding equivalence between Sam Harris and Britain First.

      Genuinely depressing how many of these people get platforms on major news networks to peddle ‘Islamophobia’ virtually always unchallenged without ever having their own beliefs and past history challenged. Someone like Catrin Nye is never going to probe this woman on SOAS’ links to extremism or her praise of Moazzam Begg for instance.

      • Thanks for the link, Madden. I’m moderately proud to note that I came across SOAS’s awful course outlines independently of this when I was researching Suliman Gani.

        Oof, I see that the SOAS Islamic Society had the ubiquitous Prof. David Miller from Bath University to speak. I predict that Craig Considine will be invited by some British Islamic Soc soon.

  • Yet again Catrin Nye does a report connected to Islam in some manner for the BBC Victoria Live program, and comes out with inanity. It seems a mountain has been made out a molehill here.
    But later on LBC radio, Bonnie Greer, on for another subject, loosely connected Nye’s video, and told listeners that the Muslim lady was “racially insulted”. Two things here. Either Greer is privy to something that was said which wasn’t broadcast, or she saw the video everyone else saw, and made it up.
    As for the report as well as the BBC report, is anyone surprised? People talking, shouting having conversations etc have been going on online for a few decades, and nasty stuff does happen, as well as peaks for big news. What Twitter has allowed is a form of easier central stats-collecting, which generally doesn’t surprise anyone. Apart from Catrin Nye of course, who had the deepest frown imaginable.
    The most important thing here, which should be shouted out loud, is the criteria used, the non-definition of “Islamophobia” as well as its far too easy use (as has been the case for years now). The BBC and others have fallen for it. Intellectual inquiry of Islam is very much going to bite the dust and our media will have gone a long way in helping that happen.

  • Just a secondary thought. I’ve watched the whole video and more conversation was had. Nye and the lady then come away, and both refer to the man as an “Islamophobe”, broadcast presumably to the nation. Can he sue for that? I’d say yes, and if it went to court, who defines what it means? What exactly might happen with that?

    • Do you have a link to the fuller video?

      • This is the one I refer to.

        Also had a to and fro with Bonnie Greer on Twit. She stands by saying the lady was racially abused.
        And it seems she thinks that because Catrin Nye called it “Islamophobia” she agrees (without Nye getting involved in the conversation).
        That is really trite and worrying for a lady who has links to education and is used by media for opinion.
        A reporter says it’s Islamophobia, so it is, and not only that, it’s also racial abuse, which the reporter never said.

      • Can I suggest watching the whole discussion on Victoria’s Thursday morning show? Available on BBC iplayer for another 24 days maybe. They were discussing how to deal with Islamophobia : not sure I believe what I heard , being distracted , must check back on it soon.

        • They used, yet again, Ajamal Maroor, whose only purpose is defence of the faith. So he made a few suggestions. 1. Stop referring to “Islamic” extremists as “Islamic” and call them criminals. 2. Stop doing “Islamophobia”, without a definition of course. In fact, it was “Stop everything” with him. Pretty much stop challenge and criticism.
          Victoria did ask the Demos representative what criteria was used to determine an “Islamophobic” tweet. The answer was about setting up and “training” algorithms, ie putting their own definition into artificial intelligence, but that seemed to pass Victoria by, so they moved on. It was accepted too easily.
          Astonishingly, Victoria asked the Demos rep, “Is there a link to the EU referendum vote, or not,” which was basically a leading question for the answer of “yes” which she got. The Demos rep at 1:20:30 said something regarding Islamophobia and legitimate criticism of Islam and what is in people’s minds, that passed me by, even on rewinding and listening three times. Maybe someone can help me out on what he was getting at.
          Finally, Ajmal Masroor insists he is for “full” integration in this society. This from a man who has publicly called secularism “evil” and that “Islam is the answer”. Also, which might sound trite, but is not, has so far this year, via Facebook, told his followers not to get involved in Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and given restrictions on attending birthday parties. The angle he uses is always against Western practices, as well as looking for religious sources in all I mention. If they are there, they are out of bounds. This to me, is not encouraging integration. If people don’t want to bother with eg Valentine’s Day, that is up to them, but to push not getting involved in any way because of a religious angle, is going that one step further that nutty clerics do on Youtube. Sometimes I worry about his self-awareness.

          Overall, once again the Victoria Live program handles something with a huge bias, with hardly any challenge.

  • I don’t think there’s a problem with admitting you have a issues with both the ideology and it’s followers.

    For example, I have a problem with Nazism and Nazis.
    I wouldn’t tolerate a more moderate version of Nazism, nor would I tolerate a moderate Nazi.

    I’m under the impression that most Muslims don’t understand how dangerous and discriminative their religion is, therefore, my problem with them is that they would do anything on earth to defend an idea that they are ignorant of.

    My problem with Muslims who do have good understanding of their religion and how destructive it is (and continue to practice), is that they most likely support the idea of Islam dominating the world.

    Open criticism of Islam, and the way a disproportionate amount of Muslims behave (compared to followers of other ideologies) is key to tackling it.

  • Another great article Steven, it amazes me how far liberal organisations and western liberal media will go to sugarcoat and protect a hateful theocracy. This is the real agenda behind creating this faulshood of Islamophobia.
    Need to release some steam now and watch a Pat Condell responce on Islamophobia.



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