At least one in five Brits believe Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were extremists, a recent survey has revealed.
The poll, carried out by ComRes for the Evangelical Alliance earlier this month, asked over 2000 British adults nationwide whether they considered certain figures to be extreme.
It was found that 28 per cent of UK residents considered Jesus an extremist. A quarter of those asked also believed Martin Luther King was an extremist, and 20 per cent thought the same of Mahatma Gandhi.
Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance, commented: “The poll shows the scale of moral confusion in our society with the public having no way of deciding whether something is extreme or not.”
The poll also found that 36 per cent of the public thought it was extreme for the UK to leave the EU, while 30 per cent thought it was extreme to remain in it.
“The willingness to classify political views which should be respected, such as leaving or staying in the EU, as ‘extreme’, shows the danger of focusing the extremism debate on beliefs we may find uncomfortable or disagree with, rather than on actions that threaten lives,” Landrum said.
Other results showed 41 per cent of the British public found it extreme to believe marriage should be between a man and a woman and 37 per cent didn’t think it was extreme for children not to be assigned a gender at birth.
The survey comes after Theresa May announced plans to set up a Commission for Countering Extremism, an idea which she reiterated in a statement at Downing Street last month.
“There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia.
“This is why this government will act to stamp out extremism and hateful ideology, both across society and on the internet,” she said.
A parliamentary report last year revealed ministers ‘struggled to define extremism’ and stated ‘it was far from clear that there is an accepted definition of what constitutes extremism, let alone what legal powers there should be, if any, to combat it.’
Landrum fears this confusion about the definition of extremism could create problems when trying to deal with it.
“Detached from terrorism and incitement to violence, extremism does not work as a litmus test for judging peaceful beliefs and opinions. Indeed, the government have tried and failed over the last two years to define extremism without any precision and this poll shows that the public share that confusion.
“It therefore seems unlikely that a newly established quango, such as extremism commission, will solve such problems. It is not wise to foster a society where volatile public opinion can be used to determine what might be extreme or acceptable views,” he said.