Afraid to sit next to a Muslim on a bus? Londoners admit that, yes, they are
By Joe Murphy
Evening Standard, 5 September 2006
ONE in six Londoners admits moving seats on the bus or Tube to get away from a passenger they believe may be Muslim. The figure, revealing how people’s fears of terrorism have damaged the city’s community relations, is laid bare in an exclusive Evening Standard/YouGov poll.
More than a third admit that in the past 12 months they have felt nervous or uncomfortable while travelling near a person of Asian or north African appearance. Of these, half say they have moved seats or deliberately sat away from them. Almost 80 per cent confess to such behaviour two, three or more times.
The findings suggest the capital has become a less trusting and more divided city since the 7/7 bombings by Islamist extremists last year.
Londoners back tough measures to catch terrorists. Some 62 per cent endorse police demands for powers to detain suspected terrorists for up to 90 days without charge. Only 26 per cent say the current limit of 28 days is right and just six would revert to the old limit of 14 days. Among nonwhites, support for detentions is only slightly lower at 55 per cent.
Ministers who are planning to put the proposal to a vote will be pleased that the biggest supporters are Conservative – 72 per cent of them – despite leader David Cameron being against 90 days.
Labour’s plans for ID cards get a thumbs-down as Londoners think they would not work in the battle against terrorism. Some 59 per cent say the cards would probably or definitely not help, compared with 35 per cent who think they would.
Most Londoners, however, want to be fair to everybody. Despite long queues at airports since the latest terror alert, they are mostly opposed to special checks only for men who fit the profile of suicide bombers.
Only five per cent would support such a policy. Another 45 per cent back random checks where special attention is paid to men of Asian or north African origin. But the biggest number, 46 per cent, say there should only be random checks.
Q. When travelling on public transport in the last 12 months, have you felt uncomfortable or nervous because a man or woman of Asian or north African appearance has boarded your train or bus?
Yes, I have – 35%
No, I have not – 54%
Not applicable I haven’t used public transport in the last 12 months – 8%
Don’t know – 3%
Q. (To those who felt uncomfortable or nervous) Have you moved away, or deliberately sat away from them, because of how you feel?
Yes, I have – 47%
No, I have never done so – 53%
Q. In the light of the alleged airline plot, do you believe the introduction of identity cards would help to reduce the threat of terrorism?
Yes, they would definitely help – 14%
Yes, they would probably help – 21%
Total: Yes – 35%
No, they would probably not help – 36%
No, they would definitely not help – 23%
Total: No – 59%
Don’t know – 6%
Q. It has been suggested that “profiling” should be carried out at British airports in order to decide which passengers should face special security checks. Which of these policies do you favour?
Random checks should be made of all kinds of passengers – nobody should be singled out because of their background or appearance – 46%
Random checks should be made of all kinds of passengers but with extra attention paid to men who look as if they appear to be of Asian or north African origin – 45%
Special checks should be confined to men who appear to be of Asian or north African origin – 5%
Total in favour of profiling – 50%
Don’t know – 4%
Currently, people suspected of having committed terrorist offences may be held for up to 28 days without charge. It has been suggested that this time be extended to 90 days. Which of these options do you favour most?
The time limit for holding terrorist suspects should be increased to 90 days – 62%
Time limit should be kept at 28 days – 26%
Time limit should be reduced to 14 days – 6%
Don’t know – 5%