Leo McKinstry’s recent column analyses the brutal murder of American journalist James Foley.

He argues that mass immigration and ‘multiculturalism’ helped create this British brand of extremist violence. But upon close inspection, many points do not stand-up to scrutiny.

“There are thought to be more British Muslims in the Islamic State terror network than in our Armed Forces.”

At present, 560 Muslims serve in the British army, which contradicts the above claim if we follow government data.  Ministry of Defence (MoD) estimates also list the number of people in Syria at around the 500 figure and from this MoD data, there are a further 28,430 people who signed up to our armed forces who did not declare their religion, some of whom could be Muslims. So, the accuracy of the statement that there are more British Muslims in the Islamic State than our armed forces cannot be made, since there are no hard and set figures.

Why are so few Muslims in the armed forces? It may not be a viable career path for some as others might reject aspects of British foreign policy. Yet, what is also interesting is that Leo’s column fails to mention the launch of the Armed Forces Muslim Forum, which was launched as recently as the 24th of July 2014 and which was highlighted in the press.

More generally, the armed forces have a problem recruiting in other areas. For example, representation from ethnic minority groups stands at just 7.1 per cent. It is also problematic to frame loyalty and patriotism solely in militaristic terms.

“Open borders have led to a phenomenal expansion in Britain’s Muslim population to almost three million, many of the new arrivals hailing from parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia where Islamic sectarianism is rife.” 

Immigration does help explain a rising Muslim population but it is not the only factor. Census data reveals that just under half of Muslims (47 per cent) were born in the UK – an increase of over half a million from 718,000 to 1.2 million in 2011.

Leo McKinstry then argues that multiculturalism created “division” and “divide” and fractured our sense of national identity:

“It is little wonder that, according to one recent survey, 26 per cent of Muslims here said they feel no loyalty to Britain.”

But what of the other 74 per cent? With no link to the survey, it is impossible to study its methodology. Other research (with the usual caveats) found that a vast majority of Muslims are loyal to Britain.

British Muslims overwhelmingly celebrate their national identity and sense of belonging.

“In predominantly Muslim areas diversity means the triumph of the burka, sharia law, fundamentalism in state schools and a reluctance to speak English.”

There is scant evidence of the burqa triumphing anywhere in Britain. A generous estimate would suggest that a “very low” number of women wear it (as with other parts of Europe).

Sharia law is another shadow upon the wall that spooks middle England with surprising regularity. The number of sharia courts is reportedly at 85 (unchanged from 2009), but that number is difficult to verify. Nor are these courts immune from controversy.

Sharia-complaint wills are another recent example.  Yet, the reality is less sensational than “Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs.”

The Trojan Horse scandal raised questions about the role of religious orthodoxy in education. Hints of violent extremism were unfounded but this orthodoxy overreached and undermined.

Again, in the absence of evidence, a “reluctance” to speak English is hard to substantiate. Certainly, it is possible some struggle, as cuts to ESOL programmes prevent many (Muslims and non-Muslims) from improving their English.

“They have long turned a blind eye towards alien practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy, which is meant to be a serious offence in Britain though there are an estimated 20,000 polygamous Muslim marriages in the UK.”

According to Amnesty International, “FGM predates Islam and is not practiced by the majority of Muslims, but it has acquired a religious dimension.”

Forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage. No major religion advocates the former. Figures from the Forced Marriage Unit found that the highest number of cases took place in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

To imply either is strictly a problem for Muslim communities is disingenuous and undermines the seriousness of these issues.

Polygamy (unlike bigamy) is not a specific offence in criminal law. Yet, you would be unable to form such a marriage in the UK. So many religious ceremonies go unregistered in UK law (which can leave many women vulnerable).

“Self-abasement by our authorities also means that any problems that Muslims face in Britain can always be blamed on racism and so-called Islamophobia.”

Leo McKinstry’s lack of empathy robs victims of anti-Muslim abuse their victimhood by belittling and denigrating their suffering as illegitimate. The evidence of anti-Muslim prejudice is evident in our work within TELL MAMA and with hard data and facts and figures. We suggest that Leo spend some time reading our reports.

“The fact that more than half of all Muslims in Britain are economically inactive is seen as the fault not of their culture but of the Government. This represents a remarkable propaganda victory for the Muslim grievance-mongers.”

Is McKinstry implying Muslims are inherently lazy? The actual causes of this economic inactivity are more complex.

In spite of having the youngest religious age profile, some Muslims were economically inactive due to study commitments or looking after home and family. Others (11 per cent) are inactive on health grounds as a similar percentage is retired. Discrimination (of a racial and religious nature) is another barrier to potential employment.

“From the burka to sharia law they demand separatism and then complain about marginalisation. Their social exclusion is voluntary.”

Data from Gallup contradicts the idea of voluntary exclusion – it found that 82 per cent British Muslims want to live in diverse and mixed areas (compared to 63 per cent of non-Muslim Britons).

Rather than engage with the issue on a meaningful level, Leo McKinstry merely recycles old myths and stereotypes. Concern for extremist violence should not encourage demonisation of ordinary British Muslims.