A THINK-TANK accused of promoting Islamophobia has clashed with the leaders of Scotland's Muslim student associations over claims that a majority of their members believe murdering in the name of religion is justified.

A new study by the controversial Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), which is to be released tomorrow, says that 60% of students in Muslim associations who were questioned believed religious killings were acceptable.

In findings which appear to damn Muslim organisations as potential hotbeds of extremism, the report points out that among all Muslim students, including those not members of Islamic associations, only 32% claim killing to protect religion is acceptable. Support for the introduction of sharia law into British law for Muslims was also stronger with active Muslim student association members than with non-members.

The findings have shocked and outraged Muslim students' leaders in Scotland. They have dismissed the CSC's research as flawed. Adel Daas, president of Strathclyde University Muslim Students' Association, said: "What scares me is how this report is going to be used. It will be used to divide Muslims from non-Muslims.

"This is not working to bring communities together, it is trying to highlight the things that separate us from others, which is wrong. This study is going to cause more pressure, more separation, more issues and more problems."

The Scottish Islamic Foundation also expressed reservations about the findings. Noman Tahir, a Glasgow University student who is also from the foundation, said: "Despite the pleasant name, it has become increasingly apparent over the last few years that this organisation is less concerned about social cohesion and instead more apt at spreading vicious lies and hatred towards Muslims.

"I do not for one minute believe that Muslim students are actively walking around campus thinking about how to implement sharia law or plotting to establish an Islamic political party. From my experience, students are more concerned about promoting a positive image of their faith and living harmoniously with people of different backgrounds."

The figures in the study come from a specially commissioned poll in which 600 Muslim and 800 non-Muslim students responded to an online survey during the recent academic year.

The report also reveals that 59% of those questioned believe it is important for Muslim women to wear the hijab - a belief held more strongly by female Muslim students than men. The report also notes, but fails to highlight, that 68% of Muslim students believe Islam is compatible with western democracy.

One of the authors of the study, Hannah Stuart, said: "I was expecting results like these but not as worrying as the figures show It shows that future leaders involved in Muslim student associations are not representative of all Muslim students."

But Usman Anwar, a member of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies' student affairs committee, said: "You can tell by the language the report uses throughout that it has a specific agenda to paint a bleak picture We meet many students on a regular basis and our findings do not correlate with the findings of this survey.

"This report serves only to vilify Islamic societies and undermine the sincere efforts by mainstream Muslim organisations to tackle the threat of terror which wider society faces."