A recent poll reveals that a maximum of 4% of British Muslims believe the official narrative of the 9/11 attacks. This is one of the strongest rejections of that story ever recorded. The sponsors of the poll have done their best to link these poll results to extremism and terrorism, but the data offer no support for this interpretation.
The poll was released as both a set of data and an interpretative report on December 2, 2016. The sponsor of the poll was British think tank, Policy Exchange, which had the polling company ICM carry out the survey. Policy Exchange, regarded as a highly influential institution, is known for its relationship to the Conservative Party. The current Chair of its Board of Trustees is well known neo-conservative, David Frum. Policy Exchange has been described by a representative of the Muslim Council of Britain as an “anti-Muslim organization,” a useful observation for readers puzzled by the think tank’s interpretation of the poll.
The question in the poll that most directly addresses the events of September 11, 2001 is: “Who do you think was responsible for 9/11?” Five possible responses are listed, with results as follows (Report, p. 75; data set, p. 802):
|The American Government||31%|
The belief that Al-Qaeda carried out the attacks is an essential component of belief in the official narrative of 9/11. If only 4% regard Al-Qaeda as responsible, then no more than 4% accept the official narrative.
The authors of the interpretive report on the poll (among whom, sadly, is Labour MP, Khalid Mahmood) attempt to make British Muslim respondents look isolated and peculiar for their views on 9/11. But, of course, Muslim populations have been critical of the official account of 9/11 for years.
In 2008 WorldPublicOpinion.org polled over 16,000 people in 17 countries, five of which had a majority Muslim population. Of the total Muslim population represented in the survey (399.6 million people in 2008), only 21.2% assigned guilt to Al-Qaeda.
In short, a very modest percentage of Muslims around the world has accepted the official story. Knowing this makes the recent results for British Muslims look less peculiar. It is true, however, that these recent results show an even greater scepticism than usual among Muslims, and this is fascinating given the location of this Muslim population in the midst of a country where both government and mainstream media routinely recite the official story.
The interpreters of the recent poll support their aim of making British Muslims look peculiar by contrasting their responses to those of a control group included in the ICM survey. This group of about 2000 UK citizens, intended to represent the British population as whole, responded to the above question as follows (Report, p. 76; data set, final page):
|The American Government||10%|
The contrast between 71% and 4% fingering “Al-Qaeda/Muslim terrorists” is, indeed, dramatic. But what Policy Exchange does not tell us is that, if British Muslims are not representative of world opinion, neither is this control group.
The 2008 17-country survey by WorldPublicOpinion.org indicated that only 39% of the total population represented in the survey (2543.2 million people in 2008) said that Al-Qaeda was behind the 9/11 attacks. These results contrast sharply with ICM’s control group. They also let us know that in 2008 a maximum of 39% of the surveyed population, which I believe to have been representative of the population of the world as a whole, supported the official narrative of 9/11 (see endnote 2).
Determined to make British Muslims look not only peculiar but dangerous, Policy Exchange has even engaged in practices that are clearly deceptive in its poll and in its discussion of the poll results.
The authors of the poll report say that some Muslim respondents, within the focus groups held in various locations in the UK, repeated the erroneous claim that no Jews died in the Twin Towers. The authors comment that this is an example of a “belief in conspiracies rooted in anti-Semitic tropes” and they explain that this claim is meant to be a sign that Jews “had foreknowledge of the attack—and were therefore implicated in the crime” (Report, p. 77)
The attempt to criminalize 9/11 dissent, in the UK and elsewhere, has depended in large part on the idea that everyone who questions the official narrative of 9/11 says “the Jews did it.” This allows 9/11 dissent to be regarded as a form of anti-Semitism and attacked by states with all relevant legal apparatus. The notion that 9/11 dissenters are racists plays into the criminalization effort much better, for example, than the notion that 9/11 dissenters are troubled by violations of the laws of physics in the official narrative.
The authors are correct when they say that the claim that no Jews died in the Towers is false. But they do not attempt to quantify this result. How many Muslims referred to this claim? In the only relevant part of the survey that is quantified respondents chose the US government as responsible for the attacks far more often than they chose “Jews.”
And what, precisely, does “Jews” mean in this poll? This option is one of five offered to respondents. Muslims did not choose the wording of this option: the designers of the poll did. To whom is the term pointing? The state of Israel? A group of high-ranking neo-conservative state officials in the US? Jewish teenagers in Montreal? We are not told.
The 2008 poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org asked an open-ended question (“Who do you think was behind the 9/11 attacks?”) and established its categories on the basis of responses given. It ended up with a category called “Israel.” This option has the virtue of clarity—it also has the virtue of plausibility, given the evidence of Israeli foreknowledge of the attacks. But perhaps “Jews” is useful for Policy Exchange precisely because it is not clear? Its generality and vagueness are useful for making the charge of anti-Semitism. Our suspicions about Policy Exchange’s motives are strengthened when we find that the Policy Exchange interpreters use the expression “the Jews” repeatedly in their discussion of poll results. That is, they say 7% of British Muslims blame the 9/11 events on “the Jews” (Report, pp. 9, 75, 77, 86). In this way they imply that the blame is cast on all Jews, on Jews as a collectivity. This is straight misrepresentation. The question in the poll says nothing about “the Jews.”
Conspiracy theory and extremism
In the poll British Muslims were asked this question (data set, p. 767):
From time to time we all come across so-called ‘conspiracy theories,’ which supposedly explain events in a different way to commonly held beliefs. You may have seen or heard about conspiracy theories about, for example, the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements:
Conspiracy theories are started by extremists trying to dupe Muslims into support for their views.
(Further sub-questions then ask about other aspects of belief in “conspiracy theories.”)
Now, the so-called War on Terror utilizes several powerful and slippery terms. “Conspiracy theory” and “extremism” are two of them. Both of these terms are used in the poll, yet neither of them is defined. This shows the extent to which the poll violates basic principles of public polling and veers into propaganda and entrapment.
About the only things clear in the above question are that “conspiracy theories,” whatever they may be, are bad; that extremism, whatever it may be, is also bad; and that conspiracy theories may be connected to extremism. So it is not surprising that many respondents chose to steer clear of these menacing notions: 40% agreed with the statement that extremists dupe Muslims into conspiracy theories.
How frustrated the Policy Exchange interpreters must have been when, having achieved this result, they found that their most despised “conspiracy theory,” the one about 9/11, was strongly supported by respondents! Unwilling to consider the possibility that many Muslims support the claim of US government responsibility because they think it is the hypothesis best supported by evidence, and determined to draw links between 9/11 dissent and “extremism,” the Policy Exchange authors say (Report, p. 80):
In considering the importance of this apparent readiness to see the world through a lens of conspiracy, it is worth noting how far these theories cast Muslims as the victims of nefarious intrigue. This is crucial given the extent to which radical Islamist groups feed on narratives that place a sense of Muslim victimhood at their core. Groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS portray the world as divided between Islam and ‘unbelievers’, with ‘the West’ held up as the primary manifestation of the latter. In that context, they insist that Muslims face an existential threat from the West, which demands a response—and it is this narrative, which is used to justify acts of violence and terrorism across the globe.
The argument seems to go like this: Muslim terrorist groups undertake violent acts because they think Muslims are under deadly assault from the West; the belief that Muslims are under assault is not rational but is an example of victim mentality and political paranoia; the delusional 9/11 “conspiracy theory” supports this irrational belief that Muslims are under assault from the West; therefore, the 9/11 conspiracy theory supports violence and terrorism.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the international political scene has been dominated since 9/11 by a series of extremely violent assaults by the United States and its allies on Muslim countries. Muslims killed, wounded and left homeless are in the millions. Moreover, we know perfectly well that those attacked have been “the victims of nefarious intrigue.” Is Policy Exchange really unaware of the Downing Street memo, for example, which shows high-level members of the British government, including the Prime Minister, meeting to make a secret plan to support what they acknowledge is an illegal assault on Iraq?
And if the belief that Muslims are under attack is a true belief, what is irrational or immoral about saying that this demands a response from Muslims? There is no reason the response need be violent, and British Muslims clearly do not want it to be violent. The survey actually shows that British Muslims are less sympathetic to terrorism and political violence than the control group representing the general population (Report, p. 8). In other words, this 2016 poll shows that British Muslims reject both terrorism and the official story of 9/11 and see no contradiction in this double rejection.
The real goals of Policy Exchange and those in the British government that the think tank supports begin to become clear when we ponder the wording employed in the conspiracy theory question:
Conspiracy theories are started by extremists trying to dupe Muslims into support for their views.
Who are these extremists? The question implies they are not Muslims. Are they members of the 9/11 truth movement? Given that 9/11 dissent is the only “conspiracy theory” given prominence in this poll, who else could be meant?
If it seems absurd that this non-violent social movement should be called “extremist,” we must remember that for some years now the criminalization of 9/11 dissent has been a goal of high-level actors in the British government. Many of us living outside the UK first became aware of this when we listened to then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech to the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2014. In that speech he referred with a show of indignation to the claims “that 9/11 was a Jewish plot or that the 7/7 London attacks were staged.” He said that these ideas were connected to “extremism” and that his government intended to take on all forms of extremism, including “non-violent extremism.”
Mr. Cameron continued to pursue this theme after his UN speech. In a July 2015 speech on extremism in Birmingham, for example, he repeated his 9/11 and 7/7 examples and said that in taking on extremism the government would need to “take its component parts to pieces — the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories.” He reiterated his determination to “tackle both parts of the creed—the non-violent and violent.”
The decision to target “non-violent extremism” had, in fact, already been British government strategy for some years, having been made part of the controversial “Prevent” strategy for countering terrorism. But Cameron was intent on integrating “conspiracy theories” into this target.
There is little doubt that Policy Exchange, which openly supports the Prevent strategy in its discussion of the recent poll (Report, p. 10), wishes both to keep British Muslims on a tight leash and to discredit the global 9/11 truth movement.
Yet, in the face of these aims, the poll responses stubbornly remain. They indicate that British Muslims are aware of major empirical claims made by the 9/11 truth movement (see focus group quotations, Report, p. 76) and they also indicate that respondents distrust mainstream media (Report, pp. 80 ff.).
Here is an interpretation of the poll that is at odds with the Policy Exchange interpretation: the official narrative of 9/11, which has been a minority position among the world’s people for years, is in increasing trouble, fed by growing scepticism toward mainstream media, increasing influence from the movement for 9/11 dissent, and a courageous willingness— demonstrated in this poll by British Muslims—to think independently of Western mainstream ideologues and propagandists.