Deep Thoughts

Articles of Faith

December 17, 2016

Source: Bigstock

The authors would make Armageddon sound boring. And do we really need an immense amount of research and statistical apparatus to tells us that “€œreligion…may determine targets of violence following radicalization”€? Would we have believed them if they had found to the contrary that “€œreligion…cannot determine targets of violence following radicalization”€? By the way, which religion are we talking about?

The whole subject is dealt with in so opaque a fashion that it is difficult not to believe that the authors feared retribution”€”from the politically correct if not from terrorists themselves. They are like those puppies that, being curious, approach a danger, but then retreat, approach again, and retreat again.

The researchers surveyed what they claimed was a representative sample of young men in Britain aged between 18 and 34, 3,679 of them, of whom 1,075 were from so-called ethnic minorities (however defined). The survey was conducted in 2011 when there were still British troops in Afghanistan, and they took an expressed willingness to fight against those troops as the marker of extremist views. They found that 47 of them fell into this category.

What is impossible to deduce from this paper is the proportion of young Muslims specifically who fell into this category. It is a reasonable assumption that the 47 mentioned above were all, or very nearly all, Muslim; and on the assumption that about half of the people surveyed from ethnic minorities were Muslim (a proportion impossible to deduce from the figures given, though obviously one of some interest in this context), nearly 10 percent of young Muslim men claimed to be willing to fight against the British army in Afghanistan and therefore, according to the authors, held extremist views. And this means, if their sampling techniques were correct, that there were tens of thousands of young men in Britain in 2011 who would have been willing, whatever such expressed willingness might mean in practice, to fight against the British army in Afghanistan. This conclusion, if put in plain language, would have drawn much attention to the research, attention that the authors probably did not want. After all, if they were right in their interpretation (especially as they speculate that extremist views would turn inward, against Britain itself, after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan), their paper as a whole might have been taken to prove that Enoch Powell had been right all along.

It is hardly surprising, then, that:

For descriptive purposes, weighted absolute and relative frequencies were reported for binary/polytomous variables and weighted means and standard deviations for variables on interval/ratio level.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!