Do 44% of Muslim high school students believe it is acceptable to take up arms for their religion? No.

This post was originally based on verification work carried out collaboratively by newsrooms in France and the UK through CrossCheck (French | English), a not-for-profit collaboration to combat disinformation online, and is republished as part of a partnership with Global Voices.

French website “Fdesouche” (native F(rench)) shared the results of a CNRS study on radical religious ideas in high schools. According to the website, «in certain high schools, 44% of Muslim students believe it is acceptable to “take up arms for one’s religion”». This figure was taken out of context.

The CNRS study focused on 7000 students in 21 high schools with higher numbers of students from social categories which are «less studied in traditional studies because of the lack of staff resources». As indicated in the report, it refers to «young people from lower classes or migrant backgrounds» for example. The study’s aim is to analyze the radicalization factors amongst young people. But Fdesouche mistakenly deduced that «in certain high schools, 44% of Muslim students believe it is acceptable to take up arms for one’s religion».

This 44% figure doesn’t represent the share of Muslim students in the high schools selected for the study. It refers to another category of students, defined by the CNRS report as students of any religious beliefs who also show «religious absolutism» and «tolerance towards violence». Four percent of the 7000 students have both characteristics. The figure rises to 12% for young Muslims in the study.

“4% of young people of all religious beliefs are in favor of an absolutist vision of religion whilst endorsing radical ideas, whereas this figure rises to 12% among the young Muslims of our poll” – Olivier Galland, sociologist who launched the CNRS study.

In fact, amongst the 4% of high school students exhibiting both characteristics (tolerance towards violence and absolutism), 44% believe it is acceptable, «in some current social situations» to fight for one’s religion. This does not concern solely Muslim students but rather students of all religious beliefs. Hence Fdesouche’s title is doubly misleading.

The CNRS report states that it is the combination of absolutism and tolerance towards violence that increases the possibility of justifying religious violence. For instance, students that combine both characteristics are more likely to declare that it would be acceptable to take up arms for their religion. 44% of those say so, whereas only 11% of the total number of students surveyed said so.

You can read about other fabrications and the French elections here.

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