Islamophobia: Posh person’s prejudice in UK

Islamophobia: Posh person’s prejudice in UK

Synopsis

University of Birmingham finds public has been systematically miseducated about Islamic tradition, beliefs

Islamophobia: Posh person’s prejudice in UK
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Muslims are the second “least-liked” group in the UK, according to a new study that reveals the shocking extent of Islamophobia in the country, Arab News reported.

The study, by researchers at the University of Birmingham, found that roughly one in four Britons hold negative views of Muslims and Islam, the highest of any group apart from gypsies and Irish travelers.

Over a quarter of people about 25.9 per cent feel negatively towards Muslims, and just under 10 per cent feel “very negative.”

Significantly more Britons hold negative views of Islam in the survey of 1,667 people than they do of other religions.

That translates into much higher support for a hypothetical policy that bars all Muslim migration to Britain.

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Nearly one in five people, about 18.1 per cent support banning all Muslim migration to the UK, and 9.5 per cent “strongly support” that idea.

The study found that Britons are very willing to pass judgment on Islam, but are extremely unlikely to have any real knowledge of the religion.

“British people acknowledge their ignorance of most non-Christian religions, with a majority stating they are ‘not sure’ how Jewish (50.8 per cent) and Sikh (62.7 per cent) scriptures are taught,” the study showed.

“In the case of Islam, however, people feel more confident making a judgment, with only 40.7 per cent being unsure. This is despite the fact that people are much more likely to make the incorrect assumption that Islam is ‘totally’ literalistic.”

This finding that Britons know less about Islam but are more willing to pass judgment on the faith “says something about how prejudice works,” Dr Stephen Jones, author of the study and a researcher focusing on British Muslims, told Arab News.

“We tend to associate prejudice with ignorance, but that’s too simple. Instead, prejudice is a kind of miseducation; many people in this country think they know what Islam is about, and what Muslims believe, in a way that they admit they do not for other non-Christian religions.”

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Islamophobia is so widespread in Britain, Jones said, that it has become socially acceptable. That is why the report dubs it “the dinner table prejudice” because people will openly and freely admit to their anti-Muslim prejudice, in a way that they are unlikely to with other religious or ethnic groups.

“What I think surveys like this into public attitudes tell us is that not only do Muslims suffer discrimination, but that public hostility towards Muslims is on some level publicly accepted. It’s not just that Muslims suffer from Islamophobia, but that this discrimination isn’t publicly recognised,” Jones said.

The research makes a series of policy recommendations to address the prevalence of Islamophobia in the UK, including acknowledging that “systemic miseducation about Islam is common in British society and forms an important element of Islamophobia.”

“Government and other public figures should publicly acknowledge and address the lack of public criticism that Islamophobic discourses and practices trigger,” it added.

The report landed at a sensitive time for the ruling Conservative Party, with former Cabinet Minister Nusrat Ghani announcing that she was removed from her position because her “Muslimness” made her colleagues uncomfortable.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an inquiry into her removal, but he has himself previously faced accusations of Islamophobia, including by comparing women who wear the niqab to “letterboxes.”

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Shaista Aziz, an anti-racism and equalities campaigner, said, “Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism and it has deep-seated and historic roots in the UK. Yet Islamophobia continues to be denied as a form of racism by many across all spheres of society, including in politics, the media and academia.”

“This report provides further nuanced evidence of how pernicious and mainstream Islamophobia is, and how those in power are refusing to recognise this racism.”

“Islamophobia remains one of the most acceptable forms of racism, and one that overwhelmingly remains overlooked, denied and unchallenged,” she added.

Speaking at the report’s launch, Zara Mohammed, the first female secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said Islamophobia was definitely real, contrary to what some people thought, and that it impacted on all aspects of society.

“I think what’s really great about this report and its contribution to the body of evidence is that it shows us not just the pervasive nature of the problem but also that Muslims are some of the least-liked people in the population.

“In my one year so far as the secretary-general of the MCB, what we have seen is unfortunately a very changing landscape for British Muslims and one that is becoming increasingly hostile.”

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“This is the reality of how Muslims are perceived in everyday Britain, and that is in 2022 as well,” she added.

Mohammed pointed out that Islamophobia had a very real knock-on impact on the everyday lives of Muslims, and she welcomed the academic evidence contained in reports such as the latest one written by Stephen Jones and Amy Unsworth.

She noted that it was important to document the problem and share data with policy makers when asking for change.

“In some ways it empowers Muslim communities to say, ‘don’t think it’s in your heads, actually something needs to be done.’

“The government’s own evidence on hate crime found that 40 per cent of all those facing hate crime were Muslims. This is very much a real problem and I’m hoping that on the back of the work that Prof. Jones has done, we will all be able to benefit from it and use it in our campaigns, activism, and conversations.

“Whilst Islamophobia has certainly passed the dinner table test, it’s time for us to be able to move forward and make a real change, and the MCB remains committed to doing that,” Mohammed said.

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With input from Arab News

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