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Muslims second least-liked group in UK with middle-class more likely to be biased about Islam

25th Feb 2022
Muslims second least-liked group in UK with middle-class more likely to be biased about Islam

Elham Asaad Buaras

Muslims are the second least-liked group in the UK and middle and upper-class people are more likely to have prejudiced opinions about Islam, according to a survey from the University of Birmingham.

Nearly 25 per cent in higher social groups were found to be prejudiced about Muslims, compared with less than a fifth of working-class people

In one of the most detailed surveys conducted on Islamophobia and other forms of racism in modern Britain, data showed 23.2 per cent of people from upper and lower-middle-class social groups harbour prejudiced views about Islamic beliefs compared with 18.4 per cent of people questioned from working-class groups.

The survey, carried out in conjunction with YouGov, found the British public is almost three times more likely to hold prejudiced views of Islam than they are of other religions, with 21.1 per cent of British people wrongly believing Islam teaches its followers that the Qur’an must be read “totally literally”.

“It’s the people from an upper and middle-class background, who presumably are university educated, who feel more confident in their judgments but [are] also more likely to make an incorrect judgment,” said Dr Stephen Jones, the report’s lead author. “It’s almost like because they’re more educated, they’re also more miseducated because that’s the way Islam is presented in our society.”

The findings, presented in a report titled The Dinner Table Prejudice: Islamophobia in Contemporary Britain, were based on interviews with a sample of 1,667 people between July 20 and 21, 2021.

The survey found over one in four people, and nearly half of Conservative and Leave voters, hold conspiratorial views about Sharia “no-go areas”, while Muslims are the UK’s second “least liked” group, after Gypsy and Irish Travellers, with 25.9 per cent of the British public feeling negatively towards Muslims.

The survey also found 18.1 per cent of people support prohibiting all Muslim migration to the UK, a rate 4-6 per cent higher than the same view for other ethnic and religious groups.

The report suggested a lack of public censure for Islamophobia, citing the example of Conservative MP Nadine Dorries supportively tweeting remarks made by anti-Islam activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson), was one reason why prejudice was so widespread.

“There’s a lack of criticism that follows Islamophobia, and that seems to correspond to the way in which Islamophobia is dealt with in public life,” said Jones. “The survey shows quite clearly it’s a very widespread prejudice. But it’s just not given the same kind of seriousness as other forms of prejudice.

“People who work in public office, whether MPs or councillors, who have got away with saying things about Muslims that they simply would not get away with if they were talking about other kinds of minority.

That’s not to say those other issues don’t need to be taken seriously as well, it’s simply to say that this particular form of prejudice doesn’t get due recognition.”

Researchers recommended The government and other public figures publicly acknowledge the lack of criticism of Islamophobia, and how it stands out compared with other forms of bigotry.

The report also suggested civil society organisations and equality bodies should recognise how systemic miseducation about Islam is common in British society and is a key element of Islamophobia. It also called for the introduction of “religious literacy as a component of any large-scale equality and diversity campaign or policy initiative.”

A recommendation was also made for the BBC and other broadcasters to maintain “commitments to religion programming, but with a renewed emphasis on combatting intolerance.”

Jones said: “No one is calling for laws regulating criticism of religion, but we have to recognise that the British public has been systematically mis-educated about Islamic tradition and take steps to remedy this.”

Reacting to the report, Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, “The findings from the University of Birmingham demonstrate how pervasive Islamophobia is in Britain today. As we have seen with the latest revelations of Islamophobia in our ruling party, it exists amongst those who make a difference in our lives.

“Much of the prejudice is underpinned by lack of understanding or willful misrepresentation. We must all redouble our efforts to challenge Islamophobia; that includes Muslim communities continuing to open our hearts and doors to our neighbours and the wider community, to show them what we are all about, and not what divisive figures would have us be.”

A spokesman for Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) told The Muslim News, “This research has exposed Islamophobia as being deeply rooted in upper-class groups, Conservative voters, and Leave (Brexit) voters.

The fact that Muslims are the UK’s second ‘least liked’ group and that the British public are far more likely to hold prejudiced views about Islam compared to other religions highlights the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment. Prejudice towards Muslims based on conspiracies such as Sharia ‘no-go areas’ is particularly divisive and harmful to British society.”

“MEND supports Dr Stephen H. Jones’ call for the Government, civil society organisations, educators, and the media to recognise the need to tackle Islamophobia by breaking misconceptions, educating people about Islam, and tackling damaging media narratives about Muslims. In addition, MEND urges

The government to adopt the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia – Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness – in conjunction with the explanatory guidelines put forward by the Coalition against Islamophobia to ensure that anti-Muslim sentiment is tackled effectively.”

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